This article, by The Triple Chasm's Shailendra Vyakarnam, sets out why you need to checklist your way out of this crisis.
Businesses are in deep crisis at the moment. There have been crises before; oil price rocketing up in the 1970s; distant wars; financial crashes and political uncertainties from changes of policy direction or leadership in powerful countries. Local and regional conflicts, terrorism threats; epidemics and floods and fires. We have seen or heard about almost all of them from time to time and endure press and TV coverage if we are far away or find coping mechanisms if we are in the middle of it.
Probably for the first time since the ripple effects of a world wars, are we now having to figure out how to cope with the crisis created by the Corona Virus.
It is truly confusing, worrying on so many levels and getting us to think about what matters most. Having said that, there are still enough people in denial about the seriousness of the pandemic that they are themselves allowing the dangers to persist.
In such a scenario what might we, as Founders, Leaders and Managers do to cope, survive and come out safe and in a position to rebuild our businesses?
The idea, in this article is simple. Think in terms of 100 days and 1000 days. Because if you cannot get through 100 days as a business the likelihood of reaching a 1000 days is remote. And assuming you to make it through the 100 days – where next – what is the driver for the future? What keeps our mojo alive? What gives our business purpose as we reimagine the future?
What can you do in the next 100 days to ensure the safety of your staff, be flexible and manage your cash flows?
Here are some tips and suggestions that are doing the rounds:
Do a video call every morning with your team – just a social thing – keep the morale up. Maybe even set trivial challenges like calorie counting or completing puzzles or whatever.
Share positive news from your business/industry – however trivial
Of course – you need to check your cash flow – how long have you got before you run out?
Check all the sources of advice and help – jump on as many helpful webinars as you can on the furlough arrangements, bank loans, HMRC rules etc., etc., There has never been a more urgent time than now to tap into every source of help and advice you can get.
You probably have to do some reflection on the talent within your company – how will you keep them – of course there are support mechanisms – but your approach and what you say/do will mean much more to retain talent after the storm. Communication is going to be key.
Prudent and generous at the same time!
As co-author of the Scale Up Manual one of the ideas we have to help you navigate both the stormy seas in the heavy fog is to use some kind of checklist approach. Now you need to think like pilots in a plane (or more precisely as medical teams in ICU). You need a check list – otherwise you risk a journey without any sense of comfort about how you are getting through.
As it happens the framework we have developed for building innovation based growth can be adapted to the very short term needs for survival.
Looking at your markets: The base line at the moment is likely to be that everything is flat on its face! But there are always ways to think about where else your core products or services can be applied that can help you to create new customers and markets. This is both urgent and long term.
Customers: You know your existing customers. Have you talked to them at a human level and asked them what they are doing? They may still have needs and I have found in conversations that anything that can help to cut costs is really attractive at the moment. But have you searched you database for lost, potential and new customers to find out what they need.
Your proposition: It may well be time to refresh what you think is the core value proposition you offer. The risk right now is that what you offer is a discretionary spend for your customers. How do you become a necessity? There may well be pricing issues at the moment – but that should not be a default argument.
Your channels to market: This is really interesting at the moment. The disruption is complete due to the need for physical distancing that almost in every sector companies are rethinking how they will serve customers. For example I have been offered boxes of oranges from Spain; another business is developing customer self-help installation of quite complex systems by looking at cutting out the channels. I cannot reveal any more on this at the moment.
When you have looked at your markets/customers and created checklists of what needs doing, who is doing what and by when – you can also turn to your internal resources and think about what you should do there to align with both the 100 days needs and the longer term 1000 days future.
Here is a starter list:
Cash is king: You will look at everything to do with your financials. Obviously, cash flow and runways are critical. But take a deep look at your margins and order books. This is much easier said than done. Good for businesses that have a formal and sophisticated finance function. Much harder for smaller firms that are trying to spin plates all at the same time and without the clarity of what numbers to focus on.
Talent: Another critical resource. How do you hold on to the talent in the company and ensure the team remains “with you” through the crisis? What do we do to retain loyalty and a culture that says we value you? All around us there is evidence of tough decisions being made of companies and Universities letting people go just when they are at their most vulnerable. You may not have much choice in the end – but everything must be done to come out smelling of roses rather than of fertiliser – your customers will remember.
Manufacturing/operations and deployment: Obviously at this point in the crisis – this is both a real issue – and something you can barely do anything about! If you cannot make and sell you cannot collect cash. One of the companies I know is looking at working with clients on a self-help basis – for them to send installation and inspecting instructions out and conducing video calls to assist them with the final stages. Call centres may have to become more technical video call centres.
Product/Service synthesis: Take a look at how you deliver and what you deliver as well as the balance between your products and services. In a service only business, there may still be ways in which you are augmenting what you do for your clients and so it would be helpful to take a second look. It may be you can do nothing about this int eh short term – but the radical times we live in may well cause you to rethink the way forward in the 1000 day scenario.
There are other elements to the check list as well - such as your business model and your business strategy. These have long term implications and we can return to them in more detail in a second piece on how to tackle the 1000-day agenda.
For now – we focus on getting through the 100 days. We encourage you to develop your check list. And to help you with this we have the following three webinars – free of charge to set out some ideas and have you exchange ideas with other leaders, managers and entrepreneurs.