Are we out of the COVID-19 woods yet? Who knows. But no sooner do we start to think we’ve battled our way through one crisis, the world walks straight into another. So much for the stability and continuity we all crave as business owners.
There is still a lot of fallout from the pandemic for businesses to deal with. Especially in terms of the economic hangover, some of the biggest challenges intersect directly with other destabilising factors, be that post-Brexit trade arrangements, soaring energy prices or now the threat of the war in Ukraine.
But if there’s one thing the experience of the past couple of years has taught us, it’s how to be resilient, agile and dynamic about the way we embrace the future.
Tens of thousands of businesses have had to completely overhaul their staffing arrangements, their customer engagement strategies, their supply chains, their business plans and more in response to COVID-19.
Business owners usually view change on such a scale like kryptonite. But riding out the turbulence thus far can actually be seen as a positive. It stands companies in good stead not just for surviving but thriving in what continues to be an unpredictable world.
One thing’s for sure, no one in business is happy treading water for too long. Growth is what we do. Here are some starters on how to plan for a return to growth in a post-pandemic world.
Embrace the unpredictable
If the world you do business in is unpredictable and fluid, why struggle against it? As we’ve noted, businesses tend to prefer consistency and predictability. But change management consultants have spent years arguing that business leaders need to be more flexible and adaptable in their thinking. And they may just have a point.
The truth is, you never know what’s around the corner. The most successful businesses in the long term are those that roll with the tides of change. Those that stick with the “well this is how we’ve always done things” mentality tend to be the ones that fall by the wayside.
Preparing your business to be ready for the unpredictable is about culture, people and organisation. Celebrate and encourage innovative, dynamic thinking from the ground up. Make everyone in your business feel that they can make a difference and that their ideas count. Invest in continuous skills development to support in being more agile and adaptable, which in turn will make your business more resilient.
At the same time, now is a good time to look at your organisational structure. Throw out anything that leads to silos in knowledge and information. Aim for an open, collegiate culture and harness digital technology to ensure data from across your business is visible and properly utilised.
Diversify your business strategy
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen countless examples of businesses keeping on track and even enjoying success by diversifying their business model – branching out into new products and services, finding new and novel ways to make money when their old model was under threat.
This is something businesses can arry forward post-pandemic. At the end of the day, what’s most important to you – making money and being successful, or the nature of the business you pursue to make money? You can maintain the same brand identity and values but still monetize your operations in many different ways. Again, it comes back to innovation and creative thinking.
At the same time, if you accept uncertainty as a condition of the environment you are trading in, then it makes little sense to rely on just a single business plan. War game a variety of scenarios and come up with a Plan A, B, C and D, or however many you feel.
Double down on customer relationships
We all know that it’s cheaper to keep hold of existing customers than it is to find new ones. In times of uncertainty when margins come under pressure, that in itself is reason to really focus on customer engagement.
But increasingly, people are looking for more than just a good product or service at a good price when they decide who to spend money with. They make their choices based on the quality of the overall experience they get. They want a personal level of service, they want convenience, they want choice, they want added value.
There’s a phrase that’s popular with marketers these days that you have to add value before you extract value. In other words, give something back. That ‘something’ is often your online content, your social media channels, your digital services, your loyalty programmes. Treat you relationships with customers as a dialogue, listen, engage and respond, and you improve your chances of locking in their loyalty.