COVID-19 is a reality now; we can be angry about it, we can be scared of it, we can feel bad about it, but the fact is – the coronavirus is a Black Swan, it is a game-changer. It is changing the way we do business and I think the impact of it will last for a long time after it is gone (personally I think we will struggle with pandemic at least a year – two).

My point is: an event which affects 60-80% of the population and modifies our behaviours, has to change how we do our business. Soon or after we might observe that old, well-performing solutions don’t work anymore (I’m talking about all levels: strategies, business models, processes, management systems, relations – every single element of the business can be affected and will need an adaptation).

As entrepreneurs, business owners and specialists, we are responsible for maintaining the economy. This is the time for action. We cant hibernate, we can’t wait. We all have very important assets which need to be used now – these are our brains, our creativity, our ability to create and deliver value to our customers 

Time for agile strategy and transformation

I believe we need to use the approaches, tools, methods and paradigms which can help us observe, learn and change better and faster. There are a few of my thoughts about how you can secure your business:

Invest in relations: with customers, employees and partners

a) More than always, we need to understand our customers, we need to understand their worries and their world. Be with them, speak with them, ask how can you add value to their plans. Ask what else could you do to help them better. Ask what is the biggest obstacle which prevents them to use our services – and resolve it. Adapt your company to serve them better.
b) Talk with them, involve them in the decision-making processes, engage them in brainstorming about strategy, allow them to take initiatives to improve your company, appreciate and reward (you can do this not only in a financial way) all efforts made to be better. Give them the business framework (explain the business boundaries), let them define the problem and solve it. Coach them to help them to be more responsive to emerging situations.
c) Speak with your partners – understand what is your impact on their businesses and their impact on yours. Try to figure out if there is any point of optimisation. Check the relations regularly and focus on creating a win-win deal.

Adapt your current business

Re-think how you can produce and deliver value to your customers. If you are in an industry which can’t go fully online (for examples many manufacturers have to physically produce things; they need to organise people to produce goods) and if there is still a great demand for what you offer, think how can you adapt your operation to fit the new reality. It might be about special procedures, about wearing protective equipment or about sanitizing. It might be about rearranging your workstations or manufacturing hall (for example to maintain the proper distance between people) or it might be about digitalisation to minimize the need to work in the company.
Let’s brainstorm with your employees how to do it. This ensures that they can impact the way you generate your value. Ensure they are reassured or comfortable with safety measures.
Is it easy? Not exactly. Is it cheap? There will probably be some cost. Your company may not be as efficient as before. You might make less money – But you will generate value and make some money.

Pivot to a new business model

This is a great occasion to think about how you can do business differently. It is a great time to create a new business.

  • Can you make a pivot and start to serve new customer segments? 
  • Can you change what you offer to your customers? Can you build a new value proposition? 
  • Can you find a new channel to reach your customers? 
  • Can you develop the new kind of relationship which you need to maintain to serve your customers? 
  • Do you have any specific assets which can be used differently? 
  • Do you have partners? Might be this is about how to cooperate with them in a new, innovative way? 
  • Cost side: any ideas here? Can you build a new business model based on this area? 
  • What about financial streams? For example, Can you develop different pricing mechanisms? 
  • What about your business environment?– do you see any particular need which your company could satisfy? 

There are plenty of opportunities, we call it “epicentres of innovation”– you can really start a new journey from any point.

Invest in organisational culture

he right culture is like a vaccine against problems. It’s like the immune system. Talk honestly to see potential issues as quickly as possible, build a culture which will help your employees to see the reality as it is, cooperate for creating and delivering the value and promote being responsible for your own actions.

An adaptive approach to the business 

In the strategy world, in the world of agile approaches, we have a saying: “performance is more important that excellence”. Think. Act. Measure. Assess. Learn. Build a better version. Act again. Survive. 

I think there is one more threat: the epidemic can atomise us and disintegrate the social capital. We can’t be selfish, we have to pull together if we want to overcome it. 

If you would like to have a chat about your business, discuss how to transform it to prepare for the Black Swan you can use free COVID-19 Brainstorm session.

Prepared by Witold Wisniewski.