As we start to transition from the lockdown period to physically returning to the workplace, it is a good time to reflect on the lessons learned and to plan for the future. There remains a lot of uncertainty, especially with talk of a second lockdown and what that would mean for businesses and the economy as a whole. However, most business owners and managers have now become accustomed to both contingency planning and reacting to circumstances as and when they are presented to them.
How confident are you of your businesses long term success? It may not be an easy question to answer but it is certainly worth asking. When considering your response, it is worth reflecting on how you got to the position that you are now in:
- How did you managed to keep the business ‘open’;
- What were the factors that disrupted the supply chain;
- What changes in demand did you experience from customers;
- How have your products and/or services changed; and
- How has the interaction with suppliers, customers and staff altered?
Businesses that were able to adapt quickly and easily fared much better than those that could not, so positioning your business to be able to adapt is important for ensuring longevity. We have seen a range of strategies applied by businesses during the lockdown period, many being crisis strategies, but in their application, they will benefit the business in the long term too. So, what do these strategies look like? It should be of no surprise, but they can be broadly categorised into simplification and diversification, or keep it simple and manage your risk. These included considerations such as:
- Managing your supply chain
- Having a variety of suppliers both local and global in order to pick up any shortages in times of disruption; and
- Knowing which are reliable in quality, timescales and price.
- Knowing your customer base
- Understanding their issues and concerns and ensuring the ‘customer experience’ remains positive; and
- Knowing how to prioritise your customers when resources are limited.
- Adapting your operations
- Alternative methods of working (remote working or suitably socially distanced); and
- Having the appropriate technology to service both the old and the new.
- Engaging with staff
- Keep people feeling valued and involved;
- Ensure they are kept busy and informed; and
- Having adequate resources and IT.
Understanding your own business is of course key. Knowing and understanding the changes so far in 2020 is only half the story. Business owners will be looking to assess what is permanent or temporary and in doing so, will be able to plan for the longer term. The current demand globally for PPE products has benefitted many businesses but is this sustainable in the long term? If not, do you have a plan for what happens next?
Contingency planning is more important now than ever before. Is it good enough to only have a plan B to fall back on? Mapping how a variety of scenarios look can only benefit the business leaders when making these reactive decisions. Reaction time is a critical factor in the current business world and while we may hope that we do not have to experience another crisis like that of the COVID-19 pandemic, history tells us that we must be prepared. Many business leaders have had to push beyond their own comfort zones and find themselves in places that they would never have thought they would be. In doing so, it has opened up new opportunities that may not have been considered previously, such as:
- Entering regulated markets (certainly in areas like PPE) that were previously a barrier;
- Engaging directly with end users rather than through intermediaries;
- Outsourcing activities that would traditionally be kept in house;
- Scaling up (or down) operations, making sales of £10,000 rather than £10; or
- Accelerating operational plans as the environment dictates.
Disruption does provide opportunity for businesses and that should not be forgotten. Strong businesses can make the most out of the disruption by turning as many negatives into positives as possible, such as:
- Using the business’ traditional processes/technologies/products to meet new customer’s products, demands and requirements;
- Utilising any spare capacity to improve processes, procedures and operations in order to be more efficient; and
- Using the current resource and skill sets to provide complementary ‘add on’ products and services (e.g. can you provide maintenance services to products you manufacture, or consultancy/support services).
Certainly, one of the biggest or at least most noticeable changes in business is the use of IT and remote working. Virtual meetings are now commonplace and while this is unlikely to replace face to face interaction, it has been embraced and the advantages are clear to see. There are real time and cost saving to be had if the right balance for your business can be found.
No one can be expected to predict the future with any degree of certainty, especially in these times. With a positive mindset, adopting a culture to plan and prepare for multiple scenarios and a willingness to change and adapt to circumstances and opportunities as they present themselves, you may very well be able to be confident that your business will continue to succeed in the long term.
For more information on anything mentioned above, or how we can support your #BusinessForTomorrow contact Ryan Hancock at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01242 680000.