There are many businesses out there that are still finding things tough, but there are also some that are ready to focus on the other side of the ‘COVID-19 curve’.
Is it time to evolve the conversation in business to one of positivity and opportunity?
While remaining sensitive to those not in a position to think too far ahead, I think it is. As someone who speaks to business owners, managers and leaders every single day, there are clearly three different groups of businesses at present.
Those that are focused on surviving, and continue to need support to do so.
Those that are still uncertain about the future and assessing the longer-term impact.
And those that are already transforming part of their offering or are not materially impacted, and ready to scale again and implement their plans for the future.
I was recently lucky enough to interview Glen Richards — Channel Ten Shark Tank panellist, founding and managing director of Greencross and chairman at People Infrastructure — and he suggests it may be time to evolve the conversation but, it’s not going to happen overnight.
The dimmer switch
“The reality is, depending on what industry you are in, it’s going to be how fast those lights start coming back on that matters,” Richards says.
“It’s not just going to turn on overnight, it’s a dimmer switch effect.”
I love the analogy of the dimmer switch for businesses that are starting to think about the other side of the ‘COVID-19 curve’ and the opportunities that will present themselves.
No one knows if it will be a U-shaped or V-shaped curve, but there are already positive signs at the grassroots level of the economy that some industries may rebound quicker than expected.
They are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, but after preparing themselves for worst-case scenarios, some industries are seeing green shoots sooner than expected.
Leaders step up in times of uncertainty
One thing that is certain at the moment is that great leaders make a massive difference in these times, or as Richard says, “leaders step up in times of uncertainty”.
He goes on to say that leaders may not necessarily have all the answers, but those that “work bloody hard” will reassure their team that their job is safe and that they will have their back during these times.
What you need to focus on
Another key thing for business owners, leaders and managers to think about in these times is focus.
The entrepreneurial spirit in many of us loves new ideas, new opportunities and new concepts, but may distract us from focusing on the one thing that is most important for us right now.
Richards’ advice is that your customers and your employees are the ones most likely to direct where your focus should be.
Engage with your customers and employees and they will tell you what you need to “keep doing, stop doing, and start doing” to remain relevant in the marketplace.
Many of us are easily distracted by those bright shiny things that take us away from the area of your business or the opportunity already there for the taking.
Perfection or progress
While focus is important, the leaders within our businesses also need to not let perfection get in the way of progress.
Referring back to Richards’ dimmer switch analogy, for most businesses, it will be more like steadily turning the light back on with a dimmer switch, rather than just flicking the switch back on in one go.
“Give it a go. If you have 70% or 50% of the facts get on with it. Don’t over-analyse things,” Richards says.
Having a strong foundation and strong balance sheet for any business empowers the management team to confidently make the decisions they know they should be making when the opportunities present themselves — and there will be opportunities in the coming weeks, months and years.
Richards still reinforces the importance of a strong balance sheet and the need for various financial models and forecasts to be prepared so that leaders can trust more than their guts to progress down new paths.
“We want our businesses to have strong balance sheets with a good margin of safety ready to pursue opportunities as the lights start coming up,” Richards says.
I quizzed Richards on whether the playbook for rebounding and recovering from COVID-19 was different from the playbook coming out of GFC.
“The playbook has definitely changed,” he says.
“The playbook is now very much about being nimble and having that entrepreneurial mindset, being willing to adapt and being resilient.”
Richards encourages everyone in business to “seek out new ideas right throughout the organisation, not just from the management team”.