As we tentatively emerge from the shadow of the full COVID-19 lockdown, Tony Backhouse evaluates how the rules of business have changed and steps businesses can take to secure their place in the ‘new future’.
It’s just over six months since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown. Most types of businesses are now able to trade again and many are experiencing unprecedented levels of demand. If this lasts, we’ll be ‘back to normal’ in no time, won’t we? If only.
There’s no going back
We know that lots of businesses have seen demand for their products and services dry up completely. On the flip side, we are seeing that lots of our clients and other businesses are frantically busy.
Those which were able to hunker down and survive the ‘pause’ in trade, may be thinking they have dodged a bullet and that this level is demand is the ‘new normal’. Unfortunately for most, it is unsustainable and will not outlast the next government stimulation.
In reality, the business landscape has changed dramatically and will continue to do so, at pace.
What has changed?
We can already anticipate many of the ways that the business landscape will change and start to plan for them. Longer-term trends have accelerated (e.g. the move to online). And whilst they may not stop you doing business altogether, they are affecting your long-term viability.
The three key changes that will have the greatest impact on businesses are:
- The move to conducting business online
- Social distancing in the workplace – and still getting business done
- Working from home – and the challenges of working together well and business culture
Lockdown and furlough have also led many business owners and professionals to re-evaluate their own needs and motivations. Who didn’t enjoy the slower pace, more time with our families, and the realisation that we could live quite frugally if we needed to?
After the initial shock of the lockdown restrictions, many have been able to adapt to create a new model that works, at least for now. But how many will have been bold enough to make the changes that will secure their place in the new future?
Research by global business management consultancy, McKinsey & Company, shows that playing at the edges, instead of making bold changes, leads to changes that are too small to match the speed of change in the market.
The same study also found that firms that invest at times of stress outperform firms that don’t invest. So just cutting jobs and retrenching is not the answer either.
Now is the time to make bold changes – before the future really reveals itself.
Future-fit? Or in terminal decline?
To make a plan and define those bold changes, you must first imagine what your future business will look like. Many businesses will instinctively know that their business has a future, but find it far more difficult to imagine what it will look like and how they get from A to B.
However, there is a chance that, if you are honest with yourself, the picture you see is not one of continued growth and success.
This realisation may make you uncomfortable – no-one wants to think of their businesses as being in decline – but the insight is invaluable, allowing you to take action to make the most of the ‘peak’ and get the cash out at the optimum time and maybe getting back to some of those work/life balance aspirations.
Pivot, adapt or tweak?
If your business has what it takes to survive in the new future, what should you actually be doing to really maximise your chances of success? This will be different for every business, of course. You will have heard many references to businesses ‘pivoting’ to survive and even thrive in lockdown. But you may not need to swing your activity and operations quite so drastically; some adaptations or even small tweaks could reap great returns.
If you are running a smaller business, focus on the most profitable areas of your business: doing more, doing better; automating where possible; ceasing activity that adds little to the bottom-line – even abandoning sub-optimal offerings. Find a way of getting rid of those time-consuming activities that suck out time, energy and positivity. Can they be out-sourced?
You can think about what this means in terms of your PEOPLE, PROCESSES and TECHNOLOGY. These are the three pillars that should form the basis of your strategy for moving forward.
Making positive changes may mean adding new systems, processes, people, products or technology. It may also mean removing the things that the business of the future doesn’t need.
It’s not what you are, it’s what people THINK you are
Finally, perhaps you have an existing product or service that you see great potential in but it has been knocked off track by lockdown. It might be that your brand is perceived by your customers and potential customers in a certain way. Changing the perception of the benefits of your product or service may breathe fresh life into it. You might have been focused on quality when you can equally promote the financial benefits or the time-saving elements.
Engineering a shift in brand perception is not down to changing a logo or your brand colours – it requires you to look at what makes your business tick, what makes you different from your competitors, and striking a chord that resonates with your ideal customer.
The rules of business have changed, haven’t they?
In summary, whilst it might look like business as usual (or even better than usual), the rules have changed and only those who look further into the future and be bold will thrive.
How can we help your business to transform and thrive in the future after COVID-19?
As a first step to getting your business future-fit, an RfM business growth consultant will help you to:
- Understand how these changes affect your business
- Assess what the future will look like for your business
- Evaluate what you want to get out of your future business…
…in order to be able to move forward and develop a viable plan to get you to where you want to be.
SPECIAL OFFER: For a limited time, you can try out our Business Transformation Programme with the first workshop for just £400 + VAT. To find out more and arrange a workshop, please email Tony Backhouse or call 07969 900864.