“When the COVID-19 crisis is over, we want to be back in business more fully!” This is a common assertion by many business owners, but it is a flawed business approach. Business owners and leaders who understand that the current economic and societal challenges are not going away in the next couple of months are more likely to adapt, pivot and prepare for success.
After speaking with our current clients, it’s clear that owners who are crafting a path forward are those adhering to the 4A’s for leading through business change.
These owners are not waiting for events to change, they have embraced the current realities and are taking decisive action to make permanent change – they are agile business leaders. “This is our new normal!” as one business owner told me. These owners realize that “hope” is not a strategy.
Let’s take a dive into each of these elements, which include thought-provoking questions:
Assess: Observe and learn! This first phase is driven through a series of knowledge-acquiring questions about your market. Ask yourself:
Once you assess the market, determine your internal strengths and weaknesses. Ask:
The Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said more than two thousand years ago: “Know yourself, know the enemy, and know the terrain.” This has never been more applicable.
Accept – This is where the emotional component of business leadership comes in play. Yes, emotional! Acceptance is a powerful and necessary behavior to lead yourself and your company through change. All change in business and in our personal lives happens when we first recognize the need for change and see the value in making specific positive change. Through acceptance change is possible and perhaps even motivating.
Adapt – Now that you’re emotionally on-board with change, ask yourself: How do we adapt to make business change possible? Address these powerful questions: What do we need to change within operations, marketing, sales and financial management? Be specific! As I like to say: Stop doing, do differently and start doing. Engage your staff in this exercise, so they can contribute and own the path forward.
Last, consider the tradeoffs of your decisions for short- and long-term.
Act – Now it is time to decide and act. As an owner or business leader, ask yourself: What will we commit to doing? How do we prepare our people and clients for a new sales and operational model? Apply “Fail-Fast” practices learned from other industries and disciplines. For business owners this means, setting up your new initiatives with early measurement and fail-safe design. This will allow you to check progress and adjust quickly from lessons learned or to new possibilities – or simply to stay the course.
Let’s take a look at three agile companies that applied the 4 A’s, starting with a California business with $6 million in yearly revenue. By staying close to the market, the CEO learned about three competitors who either closed or left the market. He wasted no time in putting a plan in motion. His team assessed the customer base for each of these competitors and then decided how to approach these clients to share the value of their business. The staff’s market knowledge and the CEO’s decisiveness has fostered opportunity. The lesson: Know your market and respond to new opportunities quickly.
The next story is about a retail shoe store that specializes in sneakers for serious runners. The owner realized that the business environment was not going to change in the near future, so, he decided to accept and adapt his business model to function as if the current environment held for at least the next year. This is where the discipline of capturing client data through his loyalty reward program paid off. He was able to reach out to his clientele and communicate the new “by appointment or call-in” approach to re-opening the store. Knowing he had a loyal clientele, he connected with them to ensure they were aware of the changes and knew how to adapt to store policy. The owner estimates capturing at least 80% of his pre-COVID business – far ahead of his competitors. The owner shared his personal business lesson: Adapt quickly and show great appreciation to your customers.
The last story marries the use of technology with a marketplace change. A middle market home health client recognized opportunity by staying on top of regulatory change that favored the use of remote patient monitoring. By using tele-health technology, they were able to connect doctors to their patients in need of home health care services. They addressed head-on, the shelter-in-place orders and found a way to continue with business. Now that the business environment is opening in their geography, they have built customer loyalty and trust earning the right to ask to treat more patients. In fact, the tele-health process is a permanent component of their new go-to-market strategy. This is a strong example of staying close to customers and the marketplace to match organizational strengths to opportunity.
The theme of this article is functioning as if the current crisis is not ending soon. As we move from containment to recovery and renewal, avoid temporary business fixes. Move decisively for the long-term. If conditions change, you can then easily go to your previous business model – or perhaps, you have found a new and sustainable path forward.
Let me know about how you’re accepting, adapting and taking action for a new normal business model.
About the Author:
Larry Prince is the CEO of PrinceLeadershipTM, a New Jersey-based business consultancy that works with middle market companies to create growth and sustainability. Contact: Mobile: 973.670.6304 firstname.lastname@example.org
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