COVID-19 has moved from being a business disruption to establishing itself as kind of the new normal. Now is the time for businesses to switch from reactive mode to a proactive approach aimed at defining the future in which they wish to participate.
Commerce throughout the world has maintained a pulse during the initial months of the pandemic. It will now begin to revive, gain strength and grow again.
The winners in this economy will be those who are focused on the future now—those who have a plan in place to move forward within the new normal.
Businesses that are flatfooted and have remained focused on the initial impact of this event will pay a price for being late to the revival that is just now beginning.
While this is certainly not the time to throw caution to the wind, it is the time to begin anew and to move forward within a new economic reality. The winners in this economy will be those who are focused on the future now—those who have a plan in place to move forward within the new normal.
A New Strategy for a New Future
Bob Zukis, a contributor to Forbes.com, discusses strategic planning for CEOs in his March 30 article, “A CEO Cheatsheet for Business Strategy after COVID-19.” Much of this messaging will be useful for anyone who is involved in strategic planning.
I think this is important in that before a company can adequately embark on a future strategy, the executive level must identify and clearly establish what goals the enterprise is aiming for.
Individuals, well-meaning and creative, are not going to steer the enterprise into a different heading without the guidance and participation of the executive suite.
Redefining the enterprise and redirecting it toward a new normal must start with the managerial hierarchy of the company. Specific actions should include the following:
- Executives, directors and managerial teams must understand the causes, effects and ongoing systemic risks associated with COVID-19. A shared understanding must be embraced with unanimity based on the realities of the phenomenon.This is not the place for speculation, conspiracy theories or blame. Regardless of cause, we are where we are, and that is the reality that must be dealt with.
- All decision-making processes must include consideration of this new reality and the risks that come with it, and all levels of management must embrace this.
- An immediate and thorough examination of existing areas, processes and programs should be re-evaluated for risk exposure.
- Supervisors, knowledge workers and staff (essentially all employees) must be educated with regard to risk and avoidance of risk within the context of COVID-19. Everyone should evaluate and report on working conditions, interpersonal etiquette and day-to-day business protocols that carry potential risk.
- Feedback loops must be established for employees to efficiently and effectively report findings and make suggestions.
- Identifying new opportunities for the enterprise. This should be a constant, ongoing process. All employees should be encouraged to offer suggestions and ideas with regard to future potential revenue sources.
Specific Actions for Adapting to the New Normal
On a more tactical level, there are specific actions companies should be taking to help identify and establish a plan of action, as they adapt for the new normal. There were doubtless many initiatives and programs underway prior to the advent of the pandemic. Additionally, future plans were likely to have been in development for coming years.
It is important to understand that much of what was understood, believed and embraced only months in the past is simply no longer valid. This is the time to imagine a new future with new rules and new goals.
Review all existing programs, initiatives, business relationships and plans using traditional business evaluation tools and metrics. Much of the data gathered during these reviews will differ greatly from the data that set these processes into motion originally. The world has changed.
What and how are your top 20 percent of customers doing? How are your suppliers moving to continue providing products and supplies to your enterprise? How do your existing products and services fit into the future plans for your customers, your suppliers and your business plan?
What was once true may now be false. What was good may now be bad. This review should seek to identify those activities that should cease and those activities that should be extended.
Get Digital Now
It should be obvious by now that the need to be digitally connected to your suppliers, markets and buyers is much more than a good idea; it is a business requirement.
Embrace the digital economy, and enable your enterprise to thrive within it. This can be accomplished with just a few tools. If you do not have the expertise onboard to move this forward, hire someone who can lead this effort.
This does not necessarily mean a complete overhaul of your IT infrastructure. A few tools applied within your marketing, sales, order-entry and production processes can get you in the game quickly.
Identify New Business Opportunities
COVID-19 has left gaping holes in most companies’ business plans. Look for ways your enterprise can help fill those holes in other companies. If there was ever a time to think beyond your comfort zone, it is now when no one is in their comfort zones.
No one has claimed the title of most “recovered” business or market leader in the post COVID-19 world. There are huge opportunities that are waiting to be found. Get your team’s focus externalized, and start the whole process of identifying prospects and potential buyers.
Move Quickly and Maximize for Effectiveness
Move quickly and deliberately. This is not a time for hesitation; it is a time for action. Move, monitor and modify your actions and tactics as needed to maximize their effectiveness and positive effect.
Being Adapatable is Human Nature
COVID-19 is not the first challenge that humanity has faced, and it certainly will not be the last. Moving forward now should mean that we are open to more ideas, not fewer; open to change, not fearful of it; and ready to embrace a future that is full of potential opportunity, not a wasteland of failure.
We are an adaptable species. If we weren’t, we would not still be living on this planet.