(This is a 4-part series of short articles)
There’s no doubt (or argument) that the current health pandemic has put unprecedented strain on businesses all over the world. Most economies are supported by small and medium sized business activity that hires the majority of populations and those are the businesses that have been hit the hardest. Those are also the businesses that usually don’t have large coffers to sustain them for months of drastically reduced or no business activity. So, what happens now? If your business falls in that category, this series of articles is for you. I wanted to explore the areas of impact of this pandemic that I believe are going to affect how we do business going forward. There are some key parallels in how society will be required to function and how businesses need to operate. We all have to decide how we come back from this devastation.
In this article, I’ll introduce the ideas from an overviewing perspective and then delve deeper into each topic in the following articles.
It would be naive of me to assume that there is a one-size-fits-all solution to the crisis that so many [different] businesses are facing. With that in mind, this series of articles is not meant to impose solutions but instead it is meant to spur on innovative thinking; to leave you with questions that will hopefully prompt creative thinking and action.
So, what are the lessons from the pandemic?
- Change and Evolution – The willingness and ability to change or evolve is critical during and after this crisis time. The science of the matter is, until there’s a vaccine for Covid-19, the world will not be able to go back to the old ‘normal’. Unless you have a raft to float through these waters for a significant amount of time, it’s imperative to find a way to swim with the current tide. This may mean actually mean a change in mindset, re-evaluating your business structure, your operations, the product or service and maybe even redefining your customer.
Questions: Are you willing and able to change or evolve your business to ride the tide? Note: Willingness is an internal capacity (self and within the business), Ability is external capacity.
- Digital & Convenient – We’ve all been saying it: “the world is going digital”. Well, the world is not going anymore, it’s arrived, it’s digital NOW! You no longer have the luxury of thinking about a 1-year plan about how your business will incorporate digital and innovative strategies. No, I’m not just talking about creating an e-commerce website. Of course, not every business can simply switch but the key is to identify the parts (functions) that can be converted to digital or at least executed in new efficient non-traditional ways.
Questions: How can your business go digital? What are some of the parts/functions of your business that can be executed via an online platform or that can be automated?
- Health & Safety – Not since 1918, has the entire world been more invested in the issues around health and safety and how they affect all of us as a human race. If there’s one sure learning with this pandemic, it is the way society is connected – whether we like it or not. I’ve been reminded that borders are simply a consequence of politics and commerce. In South Africa, there is philosophical term Ubuntu, translated means, “I am because we are.” The health and safety of your neighbour, colleagues, employees or church members can quite literally affect your own health and safety. I believe this will now become a measure of how people interact with businesses.
Question: What measures have you put in place to ensure the health and safety concerns of your stakeholders: in the production, procurement and delivery of your product or service?
- Community – In the midst of all the fear and anxiety around the pandemic, it’s been amazing to see how communities have come together to collectively participate in acts of kindness for others. From making face masks to donate to hospitals, shopping for seniors to donations for the homeless and less privileged. It has been a reminder of humanity’s capacity to care. It has highlighted the effectiveness and impact of creating a community of people with similar interests working towards common goals.
Questions: How can you create a community around your product or service? How does your business participate (not just give back) in the community and what impact does it have?
- Essential Service – In almost all countries, essential services have been the only businesses allowed to operate during lockdowns. Now, essential from a state/government public health perspective can include very different items from a regular consumers perspective. The State is very much focused on meeting basic needs – food, shelter, water, health and security. From a regular consumers perspective, essential can include a variety of other items depending on their prevailing needs. Those ‘non-basic’ needs can and most often are influenced by external factors. For instance, who knew how ‘essential’ a haircut was that people would protest to be allowed to access that service?
Questions: Who is the consumer who views your business as essential? How can you make it that your product or service becomes ‘essential’ in the mind of your customer?
I encourage you to take some time to sit and think about the answers to the questions I’ve posed. Have a think session by yourself, your employees, a customer or even your family. Innovative ideas (answers) may come from the most unlikely sources.
Look out for the next article in this series next Wednesday. We’ll be delving deeper into the topic of Change & Evolution.