As I write this in mid-May 2020, we’re all experiencing a sort of “Groundhog Day” existence. The 1993 film starring Bill Murray is a classic study of a man doomed to repeat the same day, over and over, indefinitely, until he learns a lesson he doesn't know he needs to learn. In the end, it’s the story of a cursed man who eventually gains redemption through his trials.
We are all on “economic trial” right now. We’re in the middle of the Great Depression of 2020, with 15% unemployment, heading higher to north of 20%, and with unknown long-term impacts on our economy and our daily lives. And like the first Great Depression of the 1930’s, this will have a very “uneven” impact. Most will thrive and be unscathed, while many will simply have to re-invent new businesses or careers, and a lot of us will fall somewhere in between.
We’re already seeing who the early winners are: e-commerce marketplaces, pharmaceuticals, logistics/delivery, video conferencing, streaming entertainment, companies that offer outsourcing or automation, executive virtual assistants, and smaller companies that support these industries.
The early losers are clear, too: anything related to travel/tourism, oil & gas, traditional retail, spectator sports event, theaters, and smaller companies that support these industries.
Then there are the “in-betweeners” who could go either way, depending on their strategic response -- banking, healthcare, manufacturing, education, and smaller companies that support these industries.
For the small-to-medium companies I typically work with (roughly 10-250 employees), there will be plenty of losers; closed businesses and permanently reduced industries. But there will be winners, too, and that’s what I’m focusing on in this post.
Certainly, it’s too soon to know for sure, but trends are appearing. Putting these current trends together with what we can learn from past economic disruptions, we can be fairly sure that that successful companies will have at least four critical characteristics.
A resilient mindset is rooted in Latin meaning “to rebound or recoil.” It’s the mental ability to recover quickly from misfortune. Agile people have a tendency to constantly seek improvements and to consider information that is at odds with preconceived notions. If this is an area where you could use some improvement, the articles I've linked to in this paragraph with help you with adjusting your mindset.
The best many companies could do these last 8 weeks is to simply hold onto the customers they already had. The resulting closeness that has developed between business owners and fewer, more target-market customers, will pay off for both parties, provided they help reinforce the value in the mutual relationship. If you need to get closer with your customers, consider adopting these relationship-focused strategies.
Large numbers of entry-level or frontline workers are vulnerable to permanent changes that will be forced on businesses. It may seem contradictory to deepening connections with customers, but organizations who harness the power of automation to serve their customers will be more resilient than those who don’t.
You can no longer afford to assume that the way you’ve always run things will be good enough for the future. Businesses who take a “make it up as we go” approach to how they operate don’t have enough of a grasp on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it be resilient and agile.
Those who adopt a standard, enterprise-wide collection of disciplines and processes that involve everyone from the top brass to the receptionist in a cooperative pursuit of a shared vision find it easiest to pivot in a crisis and have the greatest chance of outlasting it. Among the in-betweeners, they are the ones who will endure because they don’t suffer from the confusion, disorder, and inconsistency that paralyzes companies and prevents them from responding strategically to economic conditions, and doing it quickly enough to stay in the game.
If you’re still lucky enough to be in business and you don’t have an operating system, I urge you to start using one immediately. If you’re doing well, it will help you scale your results. If you’re not doing so well, it’s a great way to implement a turnaround, if you act in time.
I teach companies to use EOS® because I tried everything else and was unsatisfied enough that I was actually inventing my own (the “DeWitt Continuous Improvement Process”) when I discovered that Gino Wickman had already given the world a system that did everything I knew it should. You don’t have to choose EOS, but if you do, I’d love to help you drive it deep into the core of your culture. If you’ve got questions about what that would look like or how you can do it on your own, I’d love to answer them. But don’t delay; do it now.
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