Covid-19 is upending every business in every industry, with many doing everything they can just to survive each week. As a strategic business coach, I've been logging long days on video calls with CEOs dealing with operational fires, right-sizing expenditures, and finding new, quick revenue streams to keep businesses afloat.
And while this is all-consuming and at times completely overwhelming, now is the time to start thinking about what the world will look like post-pandemic. Even if it's just a few hours a week, taking the time to develop a strategic plan will give you a better map to make smarter decisions in the short term.
Here are the questions that I've seen future industry leaders are asking themselves. Use these to kickstart your strategic planning process and create a plan for a quick recovery.
1. How will life change for your customers?
If you're going to be successful in business, you need to deliver value to your customers. COVID-19 will change many businesses' and people's lives for a significant period of time. Understanding how these changes will re-shape your customer's needs, desires, and decision-making criteria will be key. Anticipating how you need to change your products and services, or create new ones, to deliver value will be key to your success.
2. What will happen to your current competition?
Your competitors will make changes to survive as well. Make educated guesses about what kind of financial position they will be in, what resources they will have or not have, and what strategic moves they are likely to make. While you won't know for sure, you want to steer towards the open ocean and away from bloody waters.
3. Who might be your new competition?
While you need to assess what might happen to your current competitors, you'll also need to consider who might choose to pivot into your space. And if you're thinking of making a pivot yourself, you'll need to assess who's already in your new market. Everyone will be making moves and you'll need to strategize to see all the moves.
4. Where will you get new talent?
With around 17 million filing for unemployment, this crisis has been one of the largest talent shakeups in the last fifty years. Many good people with amazing talent have found themselves without jobs. If you've shed your workforce and will need to rebuild, have a plan for getting the best people quickly before everyone else starts snapping them up.
5. What will your supply chain look like?
If you are dependent on suppliers to run your business, you'll need to take a hard and careful look at your supply chain. And don't stop just with your provider, you'll need to look back several layers to assess what's working and what's not. While some parts of the system might take time to recover, others will change altogether. Have a plan that will strategically support your recovery and future growth.
6. What specific things will set you apart in the new market?
Once you have a plan for refocusing your core customer and core product or service, you'll need to reassess how you're going to win in your market. The best companies have a unique and valuable differentiation strategy that sets them apart from their competitors. Otherwise, you'll be competing on price, and that's an ugly business place to be. Identify the two to three factors that will make you stand out to your best customers.
7. What specific things will you need to stop doing or let go of?
If you're adjusting your product or services or if you're making a pivot, you'll also need to figure out what capabilities you need to stop doing. These are the things that may have served you well before but are not going to be an asset in the new world. The sooner you identify and stop doing these things, and the sooner you redeploy your resources to new strategic capabilities, the better. Holding on to these will only drain your finances and dilute your focus.
8. What are your new monthly forecasts and key milestones?
Once you have a new positioning and key capabilities, you'll need to forecast the next twelve to twenty-four months of key metrics and operational targets. You'll also need to set key milestones for implementing any business changes and capacity building. These will be key for your leadership planning sessions and establishing your priorities.
Working through a crisis is not easy, and can be harrowing for many. But the sooner you stabilize your current situation and start focusing on what the world will look like in the new world, you will not only have a better chance at future success, you will have the confidence and motivation to keep going today.