A Not So Fresh Start

COVID-19 has thrown much of what we’ve always known up in the air, and the business impact of this pandemic has been just as chaotic. Some companies have watched as their business has shriveled up or even disappeared completely. Others have seen acceleration beyond belief, to the point that they’re overwhelmed by the massive uptick in demand. And then there are some that have seen virtually no change at all. But while the business effects have been varied, one common thread unites us all: Our world has changed.

What does the future hold? We know that the good times will come back, but it will take consumer confidence to reignite the economy. And unlike other recent downturns, this one wasn’t caused by a bubble in the market, so we don’t have that precedent to guide us right now. Will it be a U-shaped recovery? V-shaped? A Nike swoosh? Will it take 3 or 6 or 12 or 24 months?

It’s challenging to plan for the future when you’re in the midst of so much uncertainty. But regardless of the position your business is currently in, the planning you do now will determine the position you’ll be in when we get to the other side of this.

Let Uncertainty Be the Catalyst for Change

No one truly knows what the recovery will look like, but it’s very likely that it will be slow and long. That means every business should be prepared for a 24-month haul. If it turns out to be shorter, all the better — but your planning shouldn’t count on it. If you’re too dependent on a shorter term recovery, it could put you at a significant disadvantage.

During this uncertain period, your first priority is to survive, and that means you need to think about what’s going to allow you to survive if it takes 24 months to get through this. Traditional recession survival tactics include things like finding ways to conserve cash where you can, taking advantage of low interest loans, and working with vendors to alter payment terms if you’re able to.

This time, however, we have an additional avenue we can take. We’re now in a situation where everyone has gone through change and is becoming more accommodating to it. We’re practicing social distancing, we’ve moved entire organizations to remote work, telehealth is taking off — these are just a few of the huge changes we made almost immediately, ones that might have seemed unthinkable or unworkable in the past. We’ve all come to accept that there is no “normal” anymore.

With normal out the window, people are also slowly becoming more accepting of the fact that there’s uncertainty in the future. And that means there’s an opportunity for you to reinvent your business. With change all around us, you have a rare opening to make as much change as you want in your business. It will never be easier than it is right now. After all, any options you choose to take wouldn’t really surprise anyone. And everyone is primed for change.

Figuring out what path to take will depend on where you are with your business.

If you have been overrun with customers:

If your processes can’t accommodate the level of demand, you’re probably holding things together with duct tape and baling wire at this point. The surge came on so fast you had no opportunity to prepare for it, so you jury-rigged what you had to keep things running. Most likely, you brought on anyone you could find to fill needed positions, without a lot of long, drawn-out recruitment discussions. You needed to get people on board ASAP. However, now your accountability structure has a rat’s nest in the middle of it.

Now, chaos has likely ensued, and you come in each morning not with a plan but with an asbestos suit to fight fires. Watch out — firefighting can become habitual. Communication is probably breaking down between people and departments because everyone is stressed out and doing work outside the limit of what they can do.

You need to clean this up before it becomes the norm going forward. If people start settling into this pace, you’re going to find yourself trapped by all these limiting conditions. You’ll hit a ceiling and won’t be able to keep growing.

If your revenue has not been affected:

If you’re continuing to hum along, you still have an opportunity because of the change everyone is going through. Now’s the time to consider the shortfalls in your business that existed before the pandemic. For example:

  • Is your leadership team a force for driving change throughout the business?
  • Do have a strong scorecard in place that truly tells you how your business is doing? Keep in mind, just because you haven’t been affected at this point, it doesn’t mean you won’t feel it eventually. The collateral damage of other industries’ struggles could be passed down to you.
  • Are you getting the most out of your core processes? Any quality or efficiency savings go straight to your bottom line.
  • Are you attracting and hiring the right people for your company? Do you find that in 3-6 months there often is not a good fit?
  • Have you been running your business, or has it been running you?

If you have been knocked down hard:

If you’ve been through layoffs, the one positive you can take from this experience is that your remaining team of employees is made up of the best of the best. The same should be true for your leadership team, which means you have a rock-solid group to work with. This should give you some hope, because if anyone can turn things around for your company, it’s the team you have left.

As you’re thinking about where to begin, here are a few key areas to focus on:

  • Get problems resolved right the first time: You’re going to be facing tons of issues, probably daily. Your ability to knock them down once and for all is going to be paramount. You can’t afford to be wasting time getting obstacles out of your way.
  • Start over with your organizational structure: You’re left with the all-stars; now you need to implement the right organizational structure that gets the most out of them.
  • Create a compelling vision: You need a vision that the organization can rally around. Give people a sense of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there so you can create some momentum. This is leadership’s job.
  • Make sure you can execute on your plans: All of this will be for naught if you can’t execute and make the plans a reality as quickly as possible.

Optimizing Your Business’s Operating System

What we’re really talking about is getting your business in shape to operate at peak performance, regardless of which position your business is in right now — or at any time. This is work that needs to be done in any environment, but even more so today.

All businesses have an operating system that drives how their business operates. A well-tuned operating system enables you to:

  • Visualize and plan for the future with a 3-year picture and 1-year goals.
  • Gain traction by executing on every quarter those things that will get you one step closer to your annual goals.
  • Choose where to apply resources to get the highest levels of performance.
  • Determine how to work together to produce greater value for your customers.
  • Have a collaborative leadership team that helps you lead your company through the day-to-day fires and into the future.

Whether you call it an operating system or not, your business performs all of those things to some degree or another and at various levels of quality and effectiveness. The operating system is there. But is it the best it can be?

To take advantage of the situation you find yourself in right now, you need to pay attention to that operating system and adjust it to get it just right for your company. The Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) is ideal because it’s an operating system that is intentional, well thought-out and time-tested. It includes:

  • A model comprised of six key components that, when strengthened in a business, lead to greater success
  • Simple practical processes and tools that seamlessly bring everything together to deliver desired outcomes
  • An implementation process that is time-spaced oriented and delivers best-in-class results again and again

Now is the Time

Resistance to change is what keeps us committed to the status quo, as anyone who’s ever tried to implement change in an organization knows. But right now, your employees are accustomed to change. They expect it. And that means the world is your playground in terms of what you want to get done in your business.

Look at this as your chance for a not-so-fresh start: You weren’t seeking it out, and it’s anchored in the pandemic and all the uncertainty around it, but it’s there for you. All you need are the right operating system and a willingness to seize this rare opportunity.