All businesses are faced (always) with learning from their past, thriving within their present and planning for their future. COVID just made that a lot harder.
Business leaders and CEOs are having to make critical decisions, while standing on shifting sand. Things that we have known to be true and ways of working that have always delivered our desired results can no longer be counted on. Businesses that will win at the end of the day now are those which are great at not simply following the normal forecasting and strategic planning models, but rather those who have the flexibility and self-confidence to chart new ways of being and growing. . . and sometimes to do it on the fly.
We have seen CEO’s “risk the farm” this past year in order to introduce brand new ways of doing business (sometimes succeeding and sometimes not). We have seen amazing ingenuity, fearless transitioning, and yes, paralyzing fear during 2020. Adaptability has become a top criteria for CEO decision-making and success.
As a small business ourselves and as a counselor to other businesses of various sizes and shapes, following are some of our key learnings:
1. Clear and truthful communications has risen to the top of the heap of what organizations much focus on in order to navigate our current realities and challenges. Our internal and external audiences need honesty, frequency and an appropriate level of detail, couched within an open, caring and flexible context and tone.
2. Businesses have to stay on top of their numbers. Even if yours is a very small business without a sophisticated internal financial system, you must pay attention to cash flow, expenditures, accounts receivable, and revenue pipelines. If you need help in putting a more rigorous financial system in place, now is the time to seek it. Critical information must be organized, tracked and at your fingertips – in real time.
3. Forging ahead right now requires courage, conviction and confidence. I have always said that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted, and that is especially true now. If you don’t believe in yourself and your appeal to the marketplace, you can no longer hide behind a strong economy or a past record of success. This new reality is separating “the boys from the men and the girls from the women.”
4. We used to do deep-dive strategic planning annually – for ourselves and for our clients. Now we have to do some version of it almost monthly. Otherwise, we may miss important clues as to when to expand and when to sit tight, when to recognize that a new need for your customers has arisen, and when you need to shift financial and marketing resources in a different direction.
As tired as we all have become of the word “pivot,” it does express the critical importance of quickly recognizing and addressing those “make or break” times when business leaders throwout old premises and ways of behaving and embrace how their companies can reposition and take advantage of the new needs and realities of the marketplace.