It’s Always Time To Consider What’s Next
Most companies are likely in one of three modes right now: crisis, unbelievably busy, or surprisingly close to status quo. For those who are surprisingly close to status quo the dominant conversation point is “so what does this mean for us long term?” Those in crisis they are trying to figure out how to survive next week or next month, and in surprisingly busy companies there is rarely discussion beyond “all hands on deck!”
It makes sense that those who are close to status quo have the time and ability to discuss what is next. But what is next? How will our businesses change? It also makes perfect sense that those in crisis mode or are busy haven’t given much time or thought to what is next because they obviously have immediate problems. No matter the mode you’re in, it’s important we all take stock now in how our world is likely changing and how it will impact our businesses. It is time to begin to transition to what is next.
In this post I’m going to go through some of my experiences and highlight how a company in each of these scenarios should look at the future, and why now is the critical time to look and plan ahead.
Status Quo Companies
The dominant conversation I’ve been having over the past few weeks with leaders whose companies are in “status quo mode” have all been about what they think will be next and I’m glad they are thinking ahead.
When your company is getting by and maintaining the status quo, it’s a dangerous place to be. This isn’t just during a pandemic. Anytime your business environment is changing and you are doing what you’ve always done, you risk two likely outcomes: you figure out how to capitalize on the opportunity or someone else will.
Don’t believe me? Ask Taxi companies how the status quo was when Uber started. Or small chains when the big boxes moved in. This isn’t just a question for sophisticated businesses. It’s true for any business.
Survival mode is always interesting in the way it makes us act. By nature we become singularly focused. It can make pragmatic and logical people become emotional. On a macro scale it fuels the have/have not divide in our country, and beyond. It is that powerful.
You have to deal with the situation. Your business won’t survive if you don’t. This can mean tough decisions. Many businesses in this current pandemic have already had to make those tough choices. Others have tried to hold on, and the reality that this won’t be measured in days or even weeks, but months and likely years, is settling in.
As business owners though you must put crisis in a box. You must dedicate time to dealing with your current situation. But you have to manage your time accordingly. Find time each day to put it down and figure out strategically where you are going next. If needed, this is a great opportunity to delegate.
During the 2008 financial crisis at company I was at shrunk to 20% of it’s peak size. During the fall and the associated layoffs I wasn’t even sure if we were going to survive. But, as we reached the peak of decline the leadership team got together. We built a high level outline that focused on just three things: What customers we still had, what they had in common and the trend of what others like them were buying. We focused aggressively on a single area. The next year we regrew 120%.
You plan doesn’t need to be a fancy either. Where is your industry going? When will it get there? How do you begin to pivot your business to what is next?
A crystal ball would make it easy, but for now you’ll need to talk to your customers, your team, your peers and listen to other experts. Here, at the peak of the crisis and your problem, is exactly the time for this. If you wait too long your business may never survive. Your industry may change. Your business may be sidelined too long. You may be too late and your competition beat you to what is next. Now is the time.
Unbelievably Busy Companies
This is the position I’d least like to be in right now. Sure, on paper it feels great. You see other companies doing layoffs or wondering what is next. You? You get revel in your busyness. You are seeing better margins than ever before. You feel like a hero because you get to post for hire positions.
The problem is for most businesses this won’t last. For some it will end in a matter of weeks as life slowly starts to transition to (a likely different version of) normal. For others it will be months. Some may even benefit for years. But in the end the markets will return to some kind of normal. And for those that don’t, new competitors will see the opportunity to join you.
You are probably busier than you ever been. Even small businesses like liquor stores. However, the environment is changing. For example, states that previously did not allow alcohol delivery are likely to pass laws that allow it, as a way to save restaurants. Liquor stores are often excluded. If that were the case in your state, not actively advocating for your business or not adopting to this change could mean a huge loss of revenue down the road.
Masks? Everyone will likely need to wear them for the coming months. But literally dozens of new companies are starting up to fill the need. But in a year or two, where is your market? How much will you need to invest? Cam you recoup that investment in time? Who will your buyer be? How long do you really think American’s will wear masks in public?
What Can I Do?
- Make your tough choices now. If you can only survive three more weeks but you are on the tail end of a return to normalcy – don’t wait the final weeks to make the tough choices.
- Make time to consider what is next. Put the status quo, crisis or fortunate opportunity down for a few hours a day (or as much time as you can make).
- Consider how a staged return to normalcy impacts your current situation. Are you changing quickly or slowly? On the front end or the tail end?
- Make time for the small opportunities, but don’t make it your everything.
- Focus on your strategic opportunities in your core business. If you can’t survive, find a way to survive or decide you need a new core business.
- Begin making a pivot to what is next for your business and industry. Don’t wait until the recovery. Do it within the means you have. If you are barely surviving you have to be realistic about your ability to invest. But you can do a lot with perception or by leveraging existing tools. Curbside pickup for example can be implemented relatively inexpensively for small businesses. It just takes some logistics and customer experience focus to get it right.
- Take advantage of forgivable loans that are available. For example, the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program gives you 8 weeks of a loan that will be forgiven if used in accordance with the program. There is no better opportunity to pivot your business since you have the ability to maintain payroll and headcount. Be cautious of taking on non-forgiven loans. You should do you due diligence and final assessments prior to taking on any loan, even forgiven ones.
- Re-finance your existing debt. If you are in a solid financial situation don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of low interest rates and government backed business loans to convert some high interest debt (loans, credit lines, credit cards) into lower cost debt.
So What Is Next?
I obviously don’t know for certain what the future holds but it will be interesting to come back to this blog post in a few months or even a few years and see how right or wrong I am. You’ll need to figure out for yourself what the new normal will be but here are some of my thoughts.
- Work from home will increase 10-20% – people have gotten too much of a taste for it not to. However, don’t assume it will stay at the level it is currently.
- Delivery will go up 20+% for restaurants, grocery stores, alcohol and retail purchases. This will be a new regular for a lot of people who are experiencing the convenience for the first time.
- Digital Transformation will not just be selling online but it will need to enable delivery, logistics and consideration.
- Augmented Reality will become a lot more prevalent as people learn new ways to buy things
- It will accelerate the change in retail from “shopping” to “experience/pickup”.
- It will speed the transition to lease/subscription model for “essentials”