CV-19? Flexibility – For the Win!
It turns out you have a lot of time to think when you’re ‘sheltering in place’ and there’s certainly a lot to think about especially when it comes to growing a business and how all of this is going to impact the future.
The first thing I’ve had to wrap my head around is the idea that this is not simply some kind of temporary ‘time out’. Whatever the time frame is for this current phase of the crisis, we’re not suddenly going to go ‘back to normal’. We are fundamentally changing how we live and work. Think about the cultural, societal and political changes that we’ve seen just in the last 4 weeks… That doesn’t mean we won’t (finally) be going back to work or getting re-engaged in the broader marketplace, it just won’t be like it was a few weeks ago.
I had been thinking that this event was unprecedented but then I ran across this great video of Simon Sinek communicating with his team on how this isn’t unprecedented. His point is that businesses have run into game changing events over and over again. The launch of the internet drove a lot of companies out of business when they were unable to adapt to it. Streaming video famously killed off Blockbuster (and others). Kodak chose to not pursue digital photography which eventually led to their end. *Fun fact – Kodak actually created the patents for a lot of the early digital cameras and the revenue from those patents kept them afloat until they expired in 2007 which started the slow decline to bankruptcy.
I agree with Sinek that this kind of thing has happened before – just not this quickly and not this broadly. But the lesson is the same – those who can be flexible and find a way to add value in the future will succeed and those who try to cling to their normal business practices are going to struggle (and likely fail).
Right now there are actually 2 challenges to consider – the short term and what’s next.
Short Term Challenges
I have a client who’s mostly unaffected by the current impacts. His team already works remotely (software and technology consulting), most of his clients are larger businesses who are still up and running and unless things get a lot worse, they are in good shape for the short term.
However, their primary marketing tactic is going to events and trade shows to connect with the right people, which means they are going to need a new approach to marketing and sales. Better situation than most, but still an impact.
In fact, almost everyone is being impacted in some way with this event – if it’s not their business directly, it’s their clients or their suppliers. And for some industries, it’s pretty much game over – at least until things clear up some (travel, hospitality, events, speaking, etc.).
For the short term, depending on your industry and situation, your best bet is to hunker down, make sure you’re doing what you can to protect your cash flow (stay as close to break-even as you can) and wait for things to loosen up.
Congress just passed the CARES act which opens up some new avenues for funding – including some friendly loans and even some grants. Here’s a good summary that you might find helpful:
On top of that your best bet while we’re collectively trying to figure out how this will play out is to stay calm. Things are scary but this is a manageable crisis and we will see improvement and a next phase that’s better than this one – it just may take some time.
The bigger challenge, and the bigger opportunity, is to figure out how to win in the new world that comes after we get the current crisis in hand.
When we come back it’s likely to be a slow climb. We may not be sheltering in place but there will probably be restrictions on travel, larger gatherings and inherently people are going to be reluctant to put themselves at risk. There will continue to be pressure to be able to work from home, even if it’s not legally required anymore.
This is a great opportunity to look at the challenges your clients and customers are facing and find a way to answer them – likely in a different way than you’ve done before.
We’ve probably all seen the local restaurant that has transformed into an efficient take-out and delivery operation. And we’ve also seen those restaurants who can’t or won’t make that change… and they’re going to have a hard time coming back. Some estimates are that 40% of restaurants won’t make it through this next few months.
Think about it this way – if Kodak had been focused on helping their clients make great images (as opposed to selling film, processing, etc.) then they would have likely found a graceful way to make the transformation to digital. Instead they’re just another huge company that couldn’t change.
What problems do you solve? What problems could you solve in this ‘new’ world? What would it take to make that work in your world? Are you ready to pivot?
I was talking to my Mom last week and she said she was amazed at what was going on – in her 79 years she has never seen anything like what we’re seeing now in the world. She said it reminded her of the stories her parents used to tell her about leaving high school at the start of the Great Depression. She said rather than being scared or worried, they looked at all of the changes and impacts as a great adventure – and that made all the difference.
I’m not saying this is going to be a great adventure (although that’s a healthy mindset to adopt if you can), but it is going to be an opportunity. There’s a reason the 1920’s were known as the ‘Roaring 20’s‘ – after the world recovered from the Spanish Flu pandemic, people were thrilled to be alive and they went out and lived, spent money, partied, traveled and things boomed. There’s a pretty good case to be made that something like that could happen again – although hopefully this time around that doesn’t end with the Great Depression and war…
The point is that there will be opportunities to win – and those of us who are able to stay flexible and keep an open mind to change are the ones who will succeed in the long run.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach