With organisations looking to re-open their doors now is the time to reassess strategy and operations and prepare for the new normal
Every business in the United Kingdom has had to adapt quickly to new working practices in an enforced period of lockdown. Now, for the first time since mid-March, the government has begun to outline plans to enable certain sectors in England to return to work, although employees who are able to work from home are advised to continue doing so.
While these plans evolve over the coming weeks, questions and uncertainty will remain. But during this period, every business should take advantage of the opportunity it provides to reassess strategy and operations, be as agile as possible, and in turn, ensure the best chance of future growth and success.
Business leaders need to plan now for what is likely going to be a staged return to the workplace over prolonged periods.
So, here follow seven steps that decisive businesses can take to combat uncertainty in the market and prepare for the “new normal”.
1. Thoroughly assess your business model
The first action is a comprehensive situational analysis of your business, with a focus on the elements that have withstood the shock and those that have been adversely affected. Assess and re-evaluate KPIs, as these will not only measure your current state but also help to inform decisions on what to do next.
Determining which customer segments are buying and still actively engaged is crucial. Given the damage done to certain sectors – such as hospitality, travel and leisure – businesses should focus on those that are able to spend versus those in survival mode. Assess your sales channels, and, if possible, shift resources to the best performing sectors.
2. Scrutinise your finances (and keep doing so)
Clearly, managing cashflow is always a high priority for businesses, but the current backdrop has elevated its importance. Your “cash runway” – the length of time in which the company will remain solvent – should be considered using several different scenarios from the best through to the gloomiest.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to run additional scenarios that factor in seasonality and customer concentration. The economy may bounce back in the second half of the year, and if so you can adjust accordingly. However, if you do not proactively adjust early, your business may struggle to survive.
3. Overcome new health and safety challenges
The current circumstances have changed the way in which every business operates. They must now tackle new health, safety and legal issues that arise with coming back to the workplace, opening up for customers and engaging with suppliers and partners.
To reassure and help to build confidence, businesses should create new health and safety policies for employees and customers in line with new government regulations. These should include posting physical signs and notices within premises and developing communications to guide people through new rules on physical interactions and hygiene. Now is also the time to make sure every possible outcome is mapped out if an employee does develop the virus.
4. Plan now for every possible eventuality
Forecasting is challenging at the best of times, but in this environment, it is understandably even more difficult.
For many product-based companies, supply-chain disruptions have been problematic. Factor into your plans continued interruptions and potentially increased costs, which will require testing alternative scenarios and associated costs and delays.
Make sure your planning also includes building in further risks, including employees getting sick, loyal customers going out of business and even secondary health outbreaks. Your models are only as realistic as your risk assessment.
5. Go above and beyond for your customers
While it may be difficult, every organisation needs to focus on retaining existing customers, whether you are selling a product or a service. This also may be your best source of revenue, since you already have an established relationship.
Talk to your customers and prospects. Listen to their concerns, challenges and priorities. Show how you are able to help and consider the uncertainty they may be feeling. Demonstrating care and support in tough times can help foster stronger bonds and boost future loyalty.
6. Look at the three Ps: packaging, pricing and payments
With so much disruption to business, taking a fresh look at your product or service packaging, pricing and payment terms is a useful exercise. For example, are you better off bundling more into your offering or does it make sense to separate product lines?
All options should be on the table as a catalyst for sales. Be responsive but disciplined in your discounting. If you do offer a concession, ask for something in return, such as an extended contract term. Rather than simply cutting prices, consider bundling value-adds to increase loyalty, while protecting margins and customer lifetime value.
7. Focus, focus, focus
Once you have gone through your checklist of actions, the last but most important step is to focus the business. Ambiguity and uncertainty about the future is to be expected, but your organisation can have clarity in its strategy, tactics and objectives.
Make sure you communicate frequently with your employees and present a clear vision externally to both customers and partners. Confidence, inspiration and transparency matter. You can have all those and still be apprehensive about the near future.
Remember that fortune favours the bold. Every business has the capability to plan now for future growth. By following these steps, business leaders can be confident that they are taking action to get through the current uncertainty and prepare for the new normal, whatever it may look like.