Back to the future - returning to work after lockdown
13th May 2020
In recent weeks, my conversations with business owners and leaders have been dominated by their plans to return to work and I have started to refer to this next phase of the pandemic as “Going Back to the Future”. I believe this accurately describes what is ahead of us as we go back to a vastly different working environment that is frequently referred to as the “new normal”.
Everything I am hearing tells me that the rate of change in business will speed up and future developments that may have taken years to implement will be delivered by agile companies in a matter of months and in some cases weeks.
Shaping your business for the future
indications of this. The winners will be the business owners and leaders who have a can-do attitude, a clear vision, a strategic plan to better shape their business for the future and a workforce that can move at pace.
The businesses who cannot do this will find the next 18 months incredibly challenging and sadly significant numbers will fail along the way – so the stakes are high!
Many business owners and leaders that I am engaged with are already demonstrating these winning characteristics and below I have summarised some of the statements they have made to me over the past few days:
“I’ve known I needed to make changes in my business for a while and now I am going to get on and do it”
“There is no going back”
“I have a blueprint for the future of my business and now I’m going to deliver it”
“There will be no disruption to our service”
“We will come out of this crisis with a leaner and more operationally efficient business”
“Embracing technology will no longer be an option in my business”
“I can have meaningful business conversations that achieve positive outcomes without spending most of my time travelling from place to place”
“I know now who I can rely on and who I can’t and that will help me to restructure my team to get us through this”
“Changes in our business often took months and sometimes years to deliver, going forwards important changes will be delivered in weeks”
These statements are an early indicator of future success so long as this intent is accompanied by an overarching framework for turning plans into reality.
The four cornerstones for future business success
This framework should be made up of the four cornerstones that I have highlighted below:
1. Vision and strategy. Start by conducting a SWOT analysis and then set out your new vision for the next 18 months. Once this is done, create a one-page business plan.
2. Financial management and reporting. Strengthen your financial monitoring and reporting systems. Understand your cash flow perfectly (no delegation). Constantly monitor your profit and loss performance and set clear and unequivocal key performance targets that you expect everyone to strive to achieve.
3. Sales and marketing. Be clear about your target market(s). Define how your business will convert opportunities into sales and make sure that you can pivot quickly.
4. Leadership and management. Be positive in all of your dealings and constantly strive to communicate brilliantly with your people, customers and suppliers.
Let’s look at these four cornerstones in a little more detail and explore their component parts.
1. Vision and strategy:
Review your current position, forecast future trends and compile a new SWOT analysis for your business.
The world has changed and therefore you may well need to revisit and reset your vision – in some cases the change to your vision will be modest and in others it will be seismic.
Set out what you want to accomplish by the 31st December 2021 – I recommend that you identify your top four objectives.
Document how you are going to turn your new vision into reality – set out your blueprint for success (six questions you need to answer to set the vision for your business and one-page business plan)
Identify and document the key results that you will need to achieve on a monthly and/or quarterly basis to stay on track.
Meet with your leadership team on a regular basis to review your progress and keep your people fully informed.
2. Financial management and reporting:
Set new monthly revenue and profit targets for the next 18 months – know what the new “good” looks like.
Refocus your teams on achieving these new targets.
Monitor cash flow more closely than you ever have before – having enough cash is the only way your business will get through this.
Review your profit and loss report at least monthly – if you are off-track know why and take action quickly and decisively.
Recognise and reward good performance.
3. Sales and marketing:
Reassess your target market(s) – decide if it remains unchanged or if you will pursue new markets.
Be clear how you will obtain your leads – does your pre-pandemic lead generation model still work or will you focus on new sources?
Review your lead conversion process – make sure that you attract the right type of leads and maximise every opportunity
Know exactly how you are going to transact business e.g. traditional face to face sales may be challenging.
Be ready to pivot quickly – some doors will close and others will open and businesses who can adapt quickly are far more likely to survive and then prosper.
4. Leadership and management:
Lead from the front – do your job with the energy and enthusiasm of a start-up entrepreneur.
Constantly strive to make your business leaner and more operationally efficient.
Surround yourself with people who can act quickly.
Monitor, discuss and manage performance proactively.
Listen more diligently than ever before to your people and your customers.
Make time to laugh and smile.
Going back to the future in these circumstances is not what any of us would have chosen. Nevertheless, as business owners and leaders the best way we can make a difference is to do everything we can to make sure that our businesses survive and then emerge stronger than before. In doing so you will protect the livelihoods of the people who work for you and provide a platform for economic recovery for everyone.
If I can assist you in any way with the creation of your re-start plan, please get in touch and I will be ready to offer my help and support.
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