Written by Elizabeth Dunn Andreini, President of Accelerate Marketing
If you’ve been thinking about how to help your business thrive (or at least survive) during the next phase of this COVID-19 global pandemic you aren’t alone. A “New Normal” will take a long time to arrive, likely years, and we all need to plan accordingly. Whether our economic recovery is “U” shaped or “W” shaped remains to be seen, but it is unlikely we will see a short “V” shaped economic recovery. Instead, we need to take a new approach in our businesses, embedding a willingness to make continual adjustments coupled with the agility to make changes, an approach I call “Resilient Reinvention™”.
As the economy slowly restarts, employees return and companies reopen, it won’t be business as usual. There is broad consensus that as businesses reopen and the level of interaction increases, we will see a resurgence of COVID-19. We may need to pull back again creating a pattern of fits and starts for many businesses in a variety of regions. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, indicates he expects another outbreak of coronavirus in the fall, “In my mind, it’s inevitable that we will have a return of the virus, or maybe even that it never went away.” Supply chains will continue to be inconsistent and erratic, especially if multiple countries are involved. So rather than plan for a “New Normal” that may not occur for several years, businesses should plan for continued change and erratic phases in this post COVID-19 world by deliberately building in the resilience capabilities needed to better enable their company’s success.
What are the characteristics of Resilient Reinvention™? Businesses that adopt this approach focus on how to rapidly respond to the period of revolutionary (transformational) change we are in, rather than the world of evolutionary (incremental) change we are used to. Adopting this approach impacts business strategy, planning and operations in multiple ways. There are five critical areas that businesses need to realign to build more resilience into their business and adapt to a more rapid pace of change.
1. Rebuild Organizational Structures to Emphasize Employee Resilience
Companies need to proactively develop scenarios with differing structures and numbers of employees based on changing business needs and evolving go-to-market strategies. Existing employees should be assessed to gain an understanding of their attitudes, aptitudes, and skills. With the right attitude and the aptitude needed to gain new expertise, the skills an employee starts with are less relevant as long as they can adapt and grow. All new hiring should prioritize a high tolerance for change and an aptitude for learning in addition to desired skills. Companies should emphasize training and cross training more than ever.
2. Create Resilience in Go-to-Market Strategies and Product Offerings
Being able to quickly pivot in the face of unexpected challenges and shift their marketing and sales’ focus positions a business to better take advantage of changing revenue opportunities and gain market share while other businesses are still desperately trying to adjust. To enhance resilience, companies should proactively evaluate current/future products and services solutions, considering what else could be offered and how it might be sold. Evaluate which products could be sold, how and to which additional audiences to look at ways your offerings might be reinvented. Consider alternatives if services are unavailable or products can’t be produced or distributed through typical sales channels. Taking a closer look at non-traditional distribution choices adds additional flexibility.
3. Develop Deeper Financial Resilience
Building a more resilient business model and capital structure is another key component of Resilience Reinvention™. As businesses shuttered to slow the spread of COVID-19, many companies gained a renewed understanding that “cash is king”. Cash flow, debt structure, lines of credit, Accounts Payable length, equipment leasing, rent or mortgage terms and payroll costs are some of the financial aspects that should be evaluated with scenarios developed for increased flexibility. Ensure executives understand which financial levers might need to be pulled and their impact on providing financial maneuvering room. It’s will be helpful to model potential downsizing scenarios such as when pay and benefit cuts or employee furloughs might need to be made.
4. Strengthening Corporate Systems for Improved Resilience and Responsiveness
Delivering metrics and key performance indicators to executives and managers consistently is crucial. Ensuring timely, accurate data to uncover trends needing to make strategic shifts may require some companies to overhaul their systems, integrate disparate systems, and prioritize data hygiene but that effort will be well worth it. A business might need to change a product offering, pivot to nearshoring or onshoring rather than offshoring, shift to different market segments or develop new distribution strategies. Having effective communication systems with up-to-date contact information, to reach employees and contractors as well as customers and vendors should also be prioritized.
5. Planning for Business Disaster Resilience
If there is one overarching lesson the COVID-19 global pandemic has highlighted it is that companies should preemptively discuss specific disaster planning scenarios and develop robust playbooks on how to respond rapidly to such events. Aligning on mitigation scenarios in advance could make all the difference to a company’s survival. Disasters such as cyber hacking for ransom, a massive earthquake at headquarters, manufacturing facilities or distribution centers, global contagion, terrorist attack, mass shooting, and simultaneous death or disability of multiple executives (particularly in the case of family-owned businesses) are just some examples of disasters that could cause profound impacts with business-ending results.
Companies must fundamentally change how their businesses are structured and managed to adapt to a world that will see continued economic disruptions over the next several years. With the global coronavirus pandemic likely to last for years, businesses can’t reply on the return of a “New Normal” anytime soon. Businesses should start now to refine and rework their infrastructure, hiring, product offerings and go-to-market strategies to build more agility into their business. By using the Resilience Reinvention™ approach highlighted in this article to build in the assumption of continuing change and consider in advance how to overcome, mitigate, as well as take advantage of new opportunities and market changes, businesses will become more nimble, respond more quickly with coordinated plans and not just survive, but thrive, even in the uncertain times we find ourselves in now.
Further information about Dr Fauci’s comments about coronavirus returning in the fall can be found here: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/28/fauci-warns-us-could-be-in-for-a-bad-fall-if-coronavirus-treatments-dont-work.html
As the President of Accelerate Marketing, LLC, Elizabeth is the “secret weapon” CEOs turn to at key growth points when they need to transform marketing and product management to grow their customer base, increase revenue and scale their business. Elizabeth is a pragmatic strategist, experienced at working with rapidly growing companies and driving high impact change.
In addition to providing experienced executive insight and guidance, Elizabeth often works as an interim CMO or VP to provide the hands-on leadership needed to re-architect marketing and product management and improve execution from the inside. With a talent for building and leading teams, Elizabeth effectively builds the foundations needed for growth.
As an experienced entrepreneur, Elizabeth’s background includes over 25 years of experience globally in marketing and product management, business development and international sales. She has experience in a variety of diverse industries, from healthcare to technology to a franchise restaurant.
Prior to founding Accelerate Marketing in 2006, she worked in both corporate and early stage environments; her career includes executive and senior marketing positions with companies such as AMS/Vertafore, UniSite Software, NetReflector and Captura, among others. Elizabeth has an MBA in Marketing and International Business from the University of Washington and a BA degree in economics from Claremont McKenna College.