Quick question- when faced with a challenge that you could not have anticipated, and don’t particularly enjoy solving, what is your first response?
If ‘avoidance’ is the first word that comes to mind, you are, like over seven billion of us, human. The fight or flight response is a primal, evolutionary process that simply does not care about things like the economy, political unrest, or a pandemic. When faced with something we don’t quite know how to face, we run.
And yet, for leaders, the need is to chalk out a way forward in times of uncertainty. When the whole world is in limbo, leaders have no choice but to decide, one way or another. We often see costly mistakes being made because leaders with decision-making authority could not, or did not, make a decision at all.
During the pandemic itself, we have witnessed examples of what happens when world leaders deny that a problem exists at all, or when business leaders choose reactionary tactics that do more harm than good.
A classic example of this is Subway replicating Burger King’s campaign asking people to order from their nearest local fast food restaurant to support them during this time. In hindsight, it seems almost comical that businesses with agencies and million-dollar ad budgets would gravitate towards choosing to do the exact same campaign as their competitor. However, it also begets the question- how many of these mistakes are we making ourselves?
In this article, we outline the steps to take to chalk out a business strategy in times of great uncertainty. Before you begin, it may be worthwhile to complete the SWOT analysis outlined here.
Steps To A Business Strategy
Acceptance: Just as the pandemic-induced lockdowns began globally, the CEO of the Mariott group came out of a long period of personal illness to reassure employees and stakeholders that they acknowledge the problem and are working to solve it. How many business leaders have we seen being able to do this? In how many instances have we had acknowledgment that Houston, we indeed have a problem? At the same time, several business owners have also demonstrated amazing levels of pragmatism and foresight, and it all stems from acceptance. Within our circles, we too know of leaders who have terminated rental leases to pay their employees, or given employees with children that extra runway to adjust to the new circumstance. Acceptance is a sign of strength, and every long term strategy begins with the humble realisation that the world as we know it has changed. For small businesses, it is worth taking the time out to make a list of the mountains that cannot be moved immediately.
Building a pipeline: Just because people aren’t buying now does not mean they won’t ever buy from businesses again.
Businesses that use this time to offer relevant, care-driven value to their customers set themselves up for success in this long haul. Often, pipeline building is not considered a tangible outcome because it does not directly translate into monetary value. However, such is the nature of the times that the value of a good pipeline cannot be ignored.
However, a pipeline isn’t simply a list of twenty companies whose visiting cards we have access to. A pipeline, as the name suggests, moves people and businesses through it. A strong lead-scoring system that identifies where each prospect is placed, how soon they are likely to convert, what their major deterrents are, etc. is the way to go.
Know that transformation is inevitable: If like us, you cannot resist a good Marvel superhero movie, there’s a good reason why. MCU’s most dreaded supervillain isn’t scary only because of his power, he is scary because he is driven by purpose, and that makes him harder to beat.
Much like our purple supervillain, change now is inevitable.
Experts predict that as the world continues to become warmer, pandemics will become the norm rather than an aberration. This, in turn, is driving larger businesses to rethink their global supply chains. This shift opens up opportunities for several small businesses even in geographies not typically considered business-friendly.
For leaders, in particular, this is a chance to demonstrate their business acumen and pursue opportunities that would have seemed far-fetched even a year ago. In business, the old adage that you never get the opportunity you didn’t ask for stands true even now. Go ahead, ask for that opportunity, pitch to that new client that seems so out of reach, ask your ecosystem for favors to tide you out, in other words, in a world that looks different, do one thing differently every day. In a year, you would have discovered 365 ways to do things differently.
What is your greatest business fear during this time? How far ahead are you planning to look? We’d love to hear more about your specific challenges and address them. Please leave a comment here, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.