This year has changed the face of business for us all, and as we face additional uncertainty on the path toward our new normal, more and more of us are asking, “how will I survive and thrive in the times ahead”?
The answer is that it depends on how management has approached the pandemic. Those who have used the past several months to take stock in their business, review future market opportunities, and discover how (and if) they can pivot to succeed in the coming years will fare better than those who continue to follow their old business plan with the hope that things will return to normal.
Let’s be clear: hope is not a strategy. Merely controlling spending or making other reactive changes is not enough. Weathering bad times requires a formal planning process and fully developed plan that addresses opportunities and challenges the business might face in the years ahead. This evaluation and planning process is critical to a successful future and, for almost all businesses, now is the exact right time to do it.
A good starting point for management’s assessment and forward-looking planning process includes the following framework of questions:
How has my market changed? We all know that the current environment has affected business, but there may still be opportunities. Have we thoroughly reviewed the market for such opportunities? Should certain markets be avoided due to low success or profitability?
How do my customers want to buy, today? Understanding changes in buying behavior requires management to look though the lens of the customer, not through a historical perspective.
How can I run a profitable business given the changes in the market and buyer behavior? What efficiencies can I create or products can I add or delete? Said differently, what specifically needs to change?
Do I have it in me? Do I want to pivot? Changing a business model isn’t easy. Is management up to the task or is it really necessary?
What is my business worth? Understanding the value of the business is key to unlocking options for the future. This information is critical to determining what are—as well as what are not—possible exit or investment strategies are available.
Does my technology work for my business? The 2020 pandemic has caused people and businesses to embrace technology at a rapid, even uncomfortable, pace. Hit pause and ask, “is technology helping me meet my business needs”? If you can’t answer yes with certainty, it’s time to evaluate.
What is my succession plan? Most owners do not have a formal plan in place that deals with the inevitability that they will not work forever. Having a plan in place will not only provide a level of comfort, it can be used as a plan for the future.
Answering these questions can be a very personal and difficult to address process for management, especially for some business owners. As difficult as it may be, answering these questions in a candid, objective and thoughtful manner will begin to build the core foundation for what comes next. If necessary, bring in a management team, key family members, and business advisors to help design an honest and objective go-forward plan.
Regardless of the business, what worked yesterday may not work as effectively tomorrow. But we know for certain that there will be a tomorrow and there will be changes ahead. Now is the opportune time to plan and make necessary changes to better succeed in the times ahead.