Businesses have had to change a lot to adapt to their immediate situations – especially those businesses that have been around for some time now. In the past 100 days – or more for some others – the pandemic forced many companies to make such rapid, unprecedented changes. The uncertainty can be crippling to many business processes. It could also force a few brands to go out of business. However, this situation can also be leveraged to change (read: improve) the business process for better. Speaking to some of the brands that we work with, we have curated the pivotal decisions they have made to steer their ships towards sustained growth.
What Companies Have Made It Happen?
Tested and trusted strategies for growth, development and survival is at the heart of every business model right now. This is no time to take uncalculated risks and uneducated guesses as they could draw your brand further into the red zones. Already, how a business needs to account for uncertainties is the elephant in the room for some. Many long-standing brands have done so, though. Some brands were even born of existing brands in the race to drive the transformation to meet the demands of the current market landscape. We have researched a couple of such brands to draw inspiration from.
1. General Aviation
Established in 1892, General Electric is one of the businesses that anyone should hope to emulate. Not because of their duration in the industry, but how they have pulled out of numerous crises. After the events of 9/11, it was only natural that stocks in the aviation industry would start travelling south. This was precisely what happened, and GA – the aviation arm of GE – suffered the same fate. After all, the worth of that company is based on the services offered to players in the aviation industry. When every other business provider would have closed shop or paused activities, though, GA identified this as an opportunity. Stocks might be going down, sure, but the market is only to be appropriately evaluated in the long run anyway. Thus, they invested in the long game. This is no small investment either, spanning billions of dollars in R&D. By the time business started picking up in the aviation industry again, GA had become a force to be reckoned with. They seemed to be the only ones with the solutions that aviation companies and airliners were looking for at that time. Offering a variety of solutions that allowed these clients to reduce costs while maximizing profits, they flocked to GA in droves.
When talking about major e-commerce platforms in China, Alibaba is the name that comes up first. Not far behind is Taobao. Not many people know that these two platforms were cut from the same cloth. Those who know that might not know the story behind how the latter platform came to be either. When the SARS outbreak started sweeping through China, a lockdown of this sort was also imposed. People preferred to stay home rather than go out and risk contracting the disease. At that time, though, Alibaba was running as a B2B company. To meet the needs of the population now at home, the company launched Taobao. By the time that the outbreak would have subsided, people had already been treated to the convenience of online shopping. The rest, they say, is history.
What the winners are doing right?
Numbers from the Department of Commerce show that 40% of companies do not survive a crisis. For the small businesses that survive, 70% of them usually go out of business within a year. Generally, 60% of businesses will close within two years of the crisis. That is not for the lack of resources, but specific business acumen. This also tells you that you should not just plan to survive in the short term, but prepare for the long haul. To make that happen, we will give you a sneak peek into how we, and the other businesses that are transforming right now, are doing it right.
Set up a Crisis Panel
If you do not already have a crisis management team, now is the best time to build one. If you already have one, engage and spur them to act now. Note that this team is not one that you need for now only. A crisis management team will always be essential in solving different kinds of issues that may arise from time to time. Their presence also frees up to management to focus on other transformation tasks while not being burdened by the crises at hand. That said, the crisis management team should include players from critical parts of your company. The fact that you are a tech company, for example, doesn’t mean this team should contain only the tech guys. Not at all. Make sure there is a general representation of other departments – from finance to marketing and more – in that room too. While minimal is better, make sure the minimum number is all-encompassing of the different departments. Always remember that it takes all parts of the company working together for a transformation to happen.
A lot has to be done in very little time – and becoming agile is how to get there. A McKinsey report shows that the pandemic has driven five years’ worth of digital growth in a matter of eight weeks alone. Wondering whether the existing systems and infrastructure will handle such a fast pace is debatable, but it is happening. That is the goal of agile processes. Prioritize the changes and developments that need to be made now in their order of descending importance. Create sprints with clear-cut goals on what should be achieved, and by when. Your agile processes should be focused on the consumer needs for the quickest results. There must be internal needs for the business too, but that would most likely take some time to flesh out. Remember that it does not have to be perfect the first time. As long as the solution is actionable, it can be deployed. Leveraging user experiences and feedback, the proceeds from your agile processes can be better developed in record time.
Review What Works
This pandemic is allowing businesses from all around the world to run exercises that would have been deemed costly on standard days. For example, this is about the most massive work-from-home experiment that we have ever seen. Internally, we believe that you might have implemented some policies to adjust your workflow around the limitations and measures too. It would be shortsighted to think of these implementations of yours as just something for now. How about you start seeing how that can change the future of how you work? Look at your new marketing channels and how effective they are. Gauge how active your managers are at leading a remote team. See if you need that many branches and office infrastructure – or you can let your people work from anywhere in the world. Make a note of these – and more. When everything gets back to normal, you will have had a template for how to build your business for the future. That puts you in a better place to accommodate other crises of this magnitude, should it happen.
Manage your People
One of our recent pieces discussed the relationship between workplace culture and strategy. The truth is that your business culture will eat up any strategy you have if not managed well. A mistake that you should not make is seeing culture as something independent of the workforce. The workforce is culture. This is yet another reason to make sure the crisis management team is an embodiment of all the people in your books. That way, representatives of individual departments will better communicate with their team members and work towards the common goal. That way, you can shift the mindset of the people to supplying essential services without being made to feel like they are giving up their culture. It also seems less like they are being made to work out of routine. Instead, they are now part of a bigger plan to keep the company alive – and much better than when they even started with it.
Rising to the Occasion
The pandemic has proven to be the test of fire for many business models. We also believe the current business atmosphere to be the ideal ground for most founders to learn growth strategies, adaptation, flexibility and speed – all that is needed to create a business that will stand the test of time. Launching the right processes with the right hands on deck, you become an example of needed transformation within your current industry.
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