As the end of September looms, there’s a growing feeling of dread about what the future holds for businesses when government stimulus ends.
The recent COVID-19 outbreaks in Melbourne are only heightening this sense of doom and, as a result, causing increased levels of anxiety potentially leading to procrastination or inaction about the future.
We must not let that take hold. We need to rise above this (hopefully) short-term challenge and have trust that the health crisis will be brought under control.
It’s more than time for all business leaders to lift their eyes and plan the road to recovery.
To do that I believe it is worth looking at that road in three stages: review, reset and regrow.
Take a look at the changes you have implemented to cope with COVID-19.
What have you learned about your customers, your people, your processes and your competitive advantage?
What (and who) do you want to carry forward, what do you want to leave behind and what can you leverage for future success?
Think through each aspect of your strategy, your business model, your operating platform to deeply consider what will make sense in a changed environment.
Retail will not be the same; digital will grow both in terms of how we buy, but also how we run our businesses; consumers will, for at least a period, be more frugal and will seek experiences that enable them to reconnect.
Look outside your own business, and industry, to seek to understand how your customer segments have been impacted and how that may play out.
Read more about the six shifts I am seeing that could affect future success here.
This is a really opportune time to refine (or completely overhaul) your strategy and your capability to deliver.
How do you go to market? What will make you successful in the future? Consider the strategic choices that will set you up for success in the future. What will be your competitive advantage? What should your key customer segments be in the future? What value will you deliver for them?
Given those choices, it’s time to reset your operating model.
How will each of the components that enable you to deliver value best work together in the future — activities, resources, partners, people and, of course, your revenue drivers and cost base?
A critical question for all businesses is the role technology will play in your go-to-market delivery and the configuration of your operating platform.
Retailers, such as Bunnings and the supermarkets, are already changing how they go to market given the digital delivery and contactless success they experienced over the last few months.
In the short term, it will require you to rebase your costs once the JobKeeper payments cease.
This may well be painful, in terms of having to let people go, but achieving a sustainable cost base as soon as possible is key for future viability.
Cash is king so you need to ensure you have adequate cash to trade over at least the next six months is critical
Given a refreshed strategy, and a fit-for-purpose operating model to support that, it is critical that growth is your focus.
How will you drive product and market development to deliver your future growth trajectory?
But you need to think innovatively based on a deep understanding of your customer segments and their needs.
But don’t stop there. Develop a marketing strategy that supports future sales growth. There is empirical evidence that brands that invest in marketing during recessions grow market share.
It’s time to be bold! Look to reinvest a portion of any additional revenue you earn above your base level to create a positive momentum.
However, at this point, you need to have a reality check.
Are you able to implement the changes needed to grow? Do you have the capability to drive change — both organisationally, and from a people perspective? Are the leadership team aligned, and have the energy and motivation to step forward and truly lead in challenging times?
These questions need to be asked and answered.
And then, action. I suggest developing a simple one-page plan for the next 90 days.
Identify the key actions that enable you to listen and understand the market and customer signals, reset the key elements of your strategy and business model and, of course, implement your marketing and sales plans.
While it may, for some businesses, feel like you’re still in the eye of the COVID-19 storm, it is definitely time to look ahead to the road to recovery.
Many companies are already taking action. Yours should be one of them too.