The recent world-wide health pandemic has highlighted again how fast things can and do change in the environment today, and it's up to you to make sure your business can survive and thrive in this new world.
In my role as a business advisor, I still find a pervasive dog-eat-dog and 'me' mentality, rather than a more collaborative shared responsibility to work together, and improve all our futures, including business as well as health, environmental, and cultural. I was happy to see some good guidance on this business transformation in a new book, "Lead With We," by Simon Mainwaring.
From his experience as a consultant with major brands, and as a Top 50 Keynote Speaker in the World, Simon outlines six key steps in moving your company to this new reality. I will paraphrase his guidance here, combined with my own experience:
1. Elevate health and wellness of people and planet first.
Customers are looking for a differentiator today. The evidence is clear that companies that help people in need, and the environment, are paid back in revenue by the rest of us. Purpose-driven companies like Airbnb, Patagonia, and TOMS, have shown increased returns by up to 400 percent.
The sock company Bombas is known for donating more than forty million pairs of socks to homeless people (one for every pair purchased) because "everyone deserves to put on clean clothes that make them feel good about themselves."
2. Retool how your company works and operates today.
I recently saw that many companies were slow in adopting pandemic required virtual workplaces, plexiglass barriers, and restaurant tables outside. Some of these companies no longer exist. Make sure your hiring practices include diversity, inclusion, and equity. Practice your agility.
If you haven't changed for several years the way you do common processes, like customer satisfaction surveys, lead generation, and marketing, it's time to look at the new remote apps and social media platforms for more effective and relevant alternatives.
3. Re-purpose product and services for emergent needs.
Plan ahead to quickly and efficiently implement changes to your business processes in response to quality-of-life needs. Examples include cosmetic plants (Dior, Guerlain, and Givenchy) who were able to quickly produce large quantities of hand sanitizer for free use in public hospitals.
These emergent needs can indeed become major opportunities for your business. For example, many large military contractors today owe their success to some long-ago early war supplies that they volunteered to produce because of emergency shortages.
4. Partner in new ways to scale your impact.
Dog-eat-dog negotiations can easily come back to bite you. Leverage partnerships that you have built along the way, to adapt quickly when things suddenly change. When you treat people and companies right, you build social capital that allows you to call on other businesses when you need them most.
For example, Daymond John, owner of FUBU and known for his appearances on Shark Tank, found that good manufacturing and distribution partnerships were required to scale his clothing lines, despite the fact that many of these early-on were his competitors.
5. Innovate in real time to protect your business.
In my experience, many companies today still eschew innovation in the ranks, and count on fixed ways of doing things to squeeze out costs. Innovating only after the crisis is too late and too slow today. Practice by fostering regular experiments, rewarding creativity, and training for brainstorming.
6. "Future proof" your business by thinking long-term.
Skip the shortcuts you may be taking to get an edge on your competitors at the expense of quality or customer service. Make sure every decision you implement is consistent with company values, your strategic direction, and customer loyalty. Stay current with world trends and cultures.
In summary, business collaboration and "lead with we" is more than a new mindset. It is a new leadership paradigm that will inspire, educate, and equip you to realize a more responsible, sustainable, and equitable way of doing business.
With it, you can respond more effectively today to rapidly changing needs, as well as prepare and preserve the future for all of us.