It has been the most challenging times for businesses in living memory, however, it is important for firms to stay nimble and adapt to the coming lockdown
Firms have already experienced the most challenging times in living memory when the nation shut down for three months at the end of March. And now business leaders are faced with yet another hurdle to overcome. For small businesses, in particular, Thursday ushers in a very bleak month for trading - especially detrimental in the run-up to Christmas, when many small traders make the most of their money.
With this in mind, The Future Strategy Club – a lean and transparent co-agency with access to the finest freelancer talent – has called on its highly skilled members to produce a COVID-19 Survival Guide for businesses, to ensure as many firms as possible come through this period as possible.
Five of the most experienced businessmen and women have contributed to this guide. Here is what each has to say about what businesses can focus on to get a head start on overcoming lockdown.
Karl Weaver, former CEO of UK Data at the Publicis Spine Group
“A clear focus on what the business is there to do and how it delivers value is important. Right now, it is a great time to concentrate on what you excel at by digging deep into the DNA of the business. Some sort of pivot may be necessary, but the focus has to be there.
“Ask yourself what was the business set up to do, by who, and why? Make sure you understand how the core of the business behaves under pressure. For example, if you were under pressure to make a big investment decision, then understand what would make the business decide to go one way or another. You have to be clear about what you do and how the business behaves and then examine the forces that are impacting you positively and negatively.”
Hema Bakhshi, former director of the Future of Work at Santander
“I have spent a lot of time looking at what businesses do, and I am struck by the way companies are facing lots of things we’ve never experienced before and our unrelenting capability to think creatively. One thing that is super important is for firms to create the headspace to operate with clarity in order to think and respond. The second most important thing to consider is that organisations and firms need to think about being more human and holistic in their approach. Lines between work and home life are becoming increasingly blurry. Firms will need to navigate their processes to ensure the business becomes more human and take ownership of this change. The key isn’t to purely focus on the change and opportunity ahead, but to focus on the mindset and resilience we need to continue to develop in order to equip us for an ever-changing world.”
Gurtej Sandhu, former digital director at The Times
“Brands need to understand the importance of privacy, GDPR and first-party data. Until now, firms had not been effectively harnessing first-party customer data because they had been using advertising platforms. Subscription organisations already use this data – such as Netflix recommending a film or TV show to watch – but even registration captures can help a business understand their customers, and potential customers, more roundly.
“Customer experience drives this data more than companies fully realise. Customers that have a positive experience will give over their details, meaning the data will be more powerful. For media companies, this can come in the form of a paywall if you consume two or three pages of content; it is strict. If a business can recognise that by offering one additional free article at a specific point in their customers’ journey, or even two or three, then this heightens the chances of them converting into a paid customer. This data is absolutely crucial to business growth. More companies are moving to a subscription model and starting to get to grips with first-party data in a more complex and effective way than ever before.”
Gareth Tennant, former head of intelligence at the Royal Marines
“One of the key lessons that we need to take away from this is not ‘how to deal with pandemics’, it’s how to be prepared for the unknown. Businesses need to understand that shocks, in general, happen and not that one particular type of shock may happen. In normal life, it becomes comfortable for leaders to use data to plan, but in complexity, no one can be omnipotent about what will happen. I would suggest looking at the scope of possibility and from there devising a range of best-case to worst-case scenarios and plan for these. This, in turn, will create the confidence for teams to talk about what they would do in these hypothetical situations, without having to deal with the baggage and stress that would come from actually being in these situations.”
Laurence Shorter, executive coach and author
“The pandemic has highlighted the need for workers and leaders to have the capacity to be comfortable with uncertainty. This notion requires some support and nurturing because it has not quite developed yet. Improvisation as a mindset is becoming more important and has encouraged people to not be afraid of what is next.”