Every business wants to ensure it recaptures consumers’ confidence coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even if a business did not suffer, the impact on the pandemic for consumers is significant. Consumers are loyal to companies less and less, and with the recent economic uncertainty fueled by the pandemic, a lot of firms in most industries faced struggles of all proportions ranging from severe — such as closing, cutting salaries and laying off workers — to lesser impact like smaller profits and decreased productivity.
As the leader of a business, I believe thought must go into how to provide an environment for a turnaround or, at the very least, how to deal with the new normal and the fact that things will be different. Periods of downturn or crisis have happened before, and many firms got through and flourished on the other side. The 2008 economic crisis is a great example where prudent financial and strategic tactics allowed many companies to weather the storm and come out ready to thrive and prosper.
Below I detail three ways in which a business can prepare for life in the new world order and be ready for whatever comes next.
Challenge your own plan.
Organizations should always be reviewing their operating plans; that is without question. However, what I mean here is that you can use this time of uncertainty to take a few steps back and force yourself to evaluate and even criticize your model of success, whether that be investments or operations. If your goal is to minimize stress, continue operations and allow for your company to grow, then your plans must be robust but flexible at the same time.
Look at where you are as a firm using the traditional financial model and targets. Then, look at where you are compared to your industry and competitors. You should be moving with — or outpacing — the rest of your industry, and if you are not, this is the time to make a change, as your plan may be out-of-date.
Have a hard look and use the outside world’s situation to challenge your plan and make harsh and difficult changes. The market will understand big changes at or near these times of uncertainty.
Keep cash considerations in mind.
Cash is king, and with periods of uncertainty, that is truer than ever. Bring your business back to the basic elements of success, defined by you. Are you burning more cash and truly treating this as a crisis? Or are you conserving cash and saving it for a rainy day? Is that even possible? What about investments? This is what we talk to our clients about all the time. Are your investments still generating cash and increasing in value?
To be clear, you can still spend money. For instance, if your delivery business is booming, then it is probably OK to invest in more trucks, but maybe the complete overhaul of your internal software system can wait. Ensure management is focused on cash and not just looking at the complex models of earnings and returns on investment that do not include uses of cash. These complex models and numbers are always important, but it is a great idea to focus on cash when surprises are possible and even prevalent.
Get a public relations win (or two).
Do not be afraid to be public and talk about what is going on with your business and inside your industry. In my experience, people are often interested in all sorts of stories and human interest matters during trying times. When there is light at the end of the tunnel, build some power for the new normal and what comes next with a couple of quick wins. I believe positive PR and storytelling is important now more than ever.
It is easy to trim down and streamline resources and actions in crisis situations and then manage that when the economy turns. Whatever your strategy to emerge from the pandemic with all forces running smoothly, there should be a few PR wins to gain traction with consumers and connect back to the industry.
In my company, for instance, we were happy to run a program celebrating people who went above and beyond to help others during the worst of the pandemic. It was a program that was not intended for PR; rather, we simply wanted to highlight these people. However, it became a PR win, which had an added bonus of improving employee morale. Consider making a policy change your employees will enjoy, announce a new initiative that aligns with your values or just start talking about the future and be positive.
Inevitably, your business will look and act differently in the next few years compared to pre-pandemic. These changes could be major, such as new product offerings or an e-commerce strategy or just simply managing the business with fewer resources.
However, get back to your basic sales and revenue considerations before you plan out the next five or 10 years. Many business processes face change and will need to adapt to new conditions. The goal is to lead the business through and out of the pandemic with a keen sense of responsibility. Take the steps above to ensure you’re ready for whatever the future holds.