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Adapt your business and thrive in the future

5 minute read

Phillippa Hurrell

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’ (Charles Darwin)

The future is not what it used to be. Are you ready to adapt your business for the new world post COVID-19? Businesses that can pivot, spot opportunities, streamline, focus and that really understand their customers are the ones that are giving themselves the best chance to not only survive but thrive.

The temptation is to watch and wait to see what happens. While you watch and wait, other businesses are gathering insight, planning and adapting.

It’s a scary time and there is a lot of uncertainty for many businesses, but using your time to build resilience and productively prepare for the changing economy will give your business the best chance of survival. Here are some key elements to consider as your business prepares for the new normal, from mindsets to business and industry analysis. 

Four mindsets that can help you handle the VUCA world

VUCA has become a buzzword to define the world we live in, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. What we are going through right now feels like VUCA on steroids

You and your business have successfully adapted to change so many times over the years, what makes this time any different? The COVID-19 virus provides two types of disruption in succession, firstly health and isolation and secondly an economic and societal disruption. How will your customers’ needs change and what will this mean to your industry? Your business needs to be able to respond to both in conjunction.

There are four mindsets that can help you understand and respond to these disruptions:

1. The more volatile the situation the more flexible you need to be

Your ability to be flexible is critical. To flex your offer, your ways of working, marketing, workforce and cost base. You need the ability to let go of how things were and put your energy into how they could be. There are many different ways of operating and bringing value to your customers.

2. Coping with uncertainty takes courage and insight

A common reaction to uncertainty is fear. Everyone feels fear, some people let it paralyse them while others choose to be proactive and productive.

One of the best ways to get over fear is to start taking action, these small ‘experiments’ enable you to learn and gather insight. This stage can feel uncomfortable. Remember, there is no rule book for handling COVID-19 for businesses, everyone is in the same boat therefore we are all starting at the same point.

3. Become even more focused and connected through complexity

The global implications of COVID-19 bring a great deal of complexity and this makes it easy to become overwhelmed.

Come up with a phased approach to support your business and then break these phases down into simple steps. What needs to happen next month, the month after and what do you need to be ready for when we are out of isolation?

Connect with your customers and potential customers more than ever. Get creative and try and brainstorm different ways to reach and engage with them, perhaps through social media, email marketing or webinars. Connect with others in your industry and see what’s happening in other industries too.

4. Address ambiguity with a clear compelling purpose

Develop a vision that accounts for both stages of the COVID-19 virus. Align what you do back to your purpose. Operating with trust, making decisions on your values and in line with your purpose is going to be more important than ever.

Assess your business and your industry

Alongside the four mindsets above, it’s important to assess your business and industry so you can identify the opportunities available to help your business adapt to the current climate and thrive in the future.  

Carry out a SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is a simple tool that can help you to analyse your business and can be very valuable to help you identify threats from COVID-19 and brainstorm opportunities for your small business. SWOT stands for internal strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats.  

Questions to consider when completing your SWOT:

Strengths:

  • What does your business do well? What is it about what you do that your customers really value?
  • What unique resources, capabilities, networks, unique selling points and ways of working can you draw on?

Weaknesses:

  • What can the competition do better than you?
  • What resources do you lack?
  • What’s the main area you need to improve on immediately?

Opportunities:

  • Can you reduce your cost base?
  • How is the market changing?
  • What are the new customer needs?
  • What would be the ideal opportunity for you?
  • What is the competition ignoring that you can play in your favour?
  • What new opportunities are there for you to connect with customers remotely?

Threats:

  • How is the market and industry changing?
  • Are customers buying less in your industry? Why?
  • What supply and resource challenges do we face?
  • How will your supply chain be impacted?
  • How is COVID-19 impacting your staff, customers and home/work balance?

Create a flexible business plan  

Having a business plan provides a sense of control, purpose, momentum and helps you access more opportunities. When you start to write your new business plan, or adapt your current one, remember to be flexible and aim for progress not perfection. You might want to consider these seven areas:

1. Elevator pitch

An elevator pitch is a 30 second summary of what your business does, how it adds value, and why people should choose you. It focuses your mind and it helps you get a clear picture on your marketplace and your value added.

The more you can pitch what you do in a compelling way the more opportunities you are opening up, plus by revisiting your elevator pitch you can start to identify what unique opportunities there are for your business during COVID-19.

Your pitch should summarise the main points from your plan:

  • What insight have you got on the future needs (from technology to service)? How are your industry and customer needs changing?
  • Articulation of the problem. What is the problem (desire, want or need) your business is solving? People buy to meet an unmet need.
  • Provide the solution. How does what you do meet these needs better than others, is it performance based, cost based or ease?

2. Mission statement 

A mission statement is a punchy statement of what your company is trying to achieve. The more compelling the better.

The mission statement reflects every facet of your business from the range and nature of the products you offer to pricing, quality, service, marketplace position and relationships with your customers, employees, suppliers, competitors and the community.

3. Industry analysis

Industry analysis does not have to be exhaustive but it needs to cover what is happening in your market (is it growing or shrinking?), how it has been impacted by COVID-19 and what might happen in the next 18 months.

4. Customer analysis

Who are your target customers? What do they want and need in the new world? How will they want to buy from you? How are they currently connecting with businesses? How much insight have you gathered?

5. Competitor analysis

Who are your key competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are your current and future competitive advances? How could you further develop a competitive advantage over them?

6. Goals

Setting achievable goals is key. Spend some time getting really clear on what you want your business to look like two years from now. Once you’re clear on this, break the vision down into concrete goals and targets.

In periods of uncertainty, you may want to adjust your targets to provide focus and keep short term goals centered around what you can control.

7. Operating plan

There have been many examples of businesses failing to respond quickly enough to the recent disruptions and changes. How can you prepare your business now? How will you effectively deliver value to your customers in the new world?

In these unprecedented times, it’s important to remember that all businesses are going through a stage of uncertainty, and each new day brings changes, worries and challenges.

Unprecedented times need actions. Taking the time now to identify and evaluate your current position, plans and actions will help you take advantage of any opportunities and prepare for the future.

Phillippa's focus is on helping people and businesses transform. Having been Head of Department in her 20’s and Company Director in her 30’s, Phillippa now consults with senior boards and leadership teams whilst still running two businesses day-to-day. Phillippa's specialism is supporting individuals and organisations that want to make a step change in performance.

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