We’re not talking about a ‘minor inconvenience’ to an organization such as having a bad month when costs outrun your plan or when you lose a significant client.
No, we’re referring to a major event that can and will kill your business unless you do something about it NOW.
COVID-19 is a good example where public health restrictions had a devastating impact on, among others, the hospitality and travel sectors of the economy. Restaurants shut down and planes stopped flying. Existing business models were destroyed in an instant.
What is the appropriate response when a business is hit by a catastrophic event? It’s one thing to say they need to adapt, but the decoration is hollow unless it is followed up with how to do it.
Intent, without action to transform it into results, is not helpful at all
But let’s recognize that there’s no prescription that will fit every type of business exactly; each one is unique in its own way, be it in the type of leader they have or in its risk profile. So a universal solution is not just impractical, it’s downright dangerous to suggest.
That said, however, there are a number of ‘possibilities’ that should be considered by leadership because there’s no such thing as a bad idea, it’s just that some are better than others.
So in no particular order, here is a list of possibilities that you may wish to consider if your world gets rocked.
1. Define your special sauce
Everyone’s an entrepreneur, you just need to find the spirit in you and unleash it. Your success up to this point hasn’t been serendipitous; it’s resulted because you have something special going on.
It’s possible that you’ve never thought about it up to now because your business has been doing ok and you’ve never met surprises of the cataclysmic variety.
Well, now the time to really think about what’s worked for you in the past and what your ‘special sauce’ (1040) is that customers love about you and that your competitors don’t have.
It’s critical that your special sauce forms the platform of how you adapt to the body blow you’re absorbing. Without understanding it, you don’t have any context to determine the possible entrepreneurial actions you can take.
2. Chunk your business
Rather than look at your business holistically, break it down into its component parts and explore each piece for nuggets that can be exploited in these devastating times.
A helpful method to do this might be to construct a process flow chart that isolates in detail how you deliver your product or service to a customer. This simple process defines everything from what the customer engagement moment(s) look like to how their request is satisfied.
Look for ‘chunks’ that you believe contain your special sauce and that could be leveraged as new sources of income. You may discover, for example, that how you fulfill customer orders is effective because of the unique way you do it, and that other businesses might be interested in it as a solution.
You might decide that your marketing or manufacturing capabilities are special and can be deployed into new markets. Or, you might decide to go into the order delivery business until the storm passes.
The point is to look at every element of your business as a stand alone opportunity to generate sales.
3. Make the call
Now is the time to ‘rub shoulders’ with the people who have shown you loyalty and have contributed to your success (I trust you know who they are and that you have been connecting with them regularly).
It could be a ‘digital Zoom rub’ required in a pandemic or a physical face-to-face rub in normal times, it really doesn’t matter the method used.
The important thing is that you reach out and ask your loyalists how you can help them and whether they have any suggestions for you to improve your business, and use the input you receive as fodder for your response.
Adaptation in a crisis needs a healthy dose of reality which customers can candidly provide
Also involve your current suppliers or other business partners in your ‘rub’ deliberations. Ideas for your possibilities funnel lie everywhere so spread your web and spread it fast.
4. Put everyone on the frontline
When you think about your new business form, think about it as a frontline organization where the role of every employee is to deliver services to customers.
You don’t have the luxury of support or supervisory staff; you need everyone, everyday out taking care of customers and earning new sales.
As the leader, you need to assume the entire back end of your organization; a one-person show who does nothing but keep the lights on and support your customer facing team.
5. Think @home
The good news (always look for the pony that created the CRAP) is that there is much that can be done with technology to enable organizations to function in different ways.
We’ve witnessed ‘virtual everything’ during the pandemic and it foreshadows well the type of pivots that will work going forward.
In fact the predominant view seems to be that we will never return to the pre-pandemic office model; working from home will be the new normal.
And the @home model will extend more deeply in other life activities such as entertainment, shopping and where necessary family engagement.
To the budding entrepreneur this is extremely promising: changing customer behaviour around @home enabled by technology that will only get better.
So think about what you can do in the @home environment in cataclysmic times. Explore how you can exploit one of your ‘chunk’ opportunities by assuming your customer will want to do it from their home. “How can I deliver my service flawlessly if my customer wants to get from @home?” should be the relevant question you pose yourself.
And brush up on your technology expertise because you are going to need it.
As leaders, I believe we need to be vigilant in the face of random events that impose their will upon us.
We need to take the position that the unexpected force will be catastrophic and take the desired response rather than assume the unwanted intruder will inflict only minor pain on us and react therefore incrementally.
You’re much better off to plan for the worst and have a more modest plan as your backup if the assumed disaster doesn’t occur. Assuming the best is a risky and deadly position to take.