During the last two months, we have spoken about the qualities business leaders must show during these unprecedented times and the safety precautions one must think about when re-opening.  As restrictions are gradually being lifted, what now?

In the article “How CEOs See Today’s Coronavirus World -The leaders of Disney, Tesla and Microsoft, among others, discuss the changes occurring during the Covid-19 pandemic” published in the online edition of The Wall Street Journal of May 7 2020, these were the comments of some CEOs:

“I believe that investing in culture right now and making sure that your team members feel safe during these times is a corporate responsibility, and I also believe it’s a great investment,” Mr. Maddox said. “What I know is when we do reopen, in whatever state that is, in Las Vegas and in Massachusetts, that I want our team members to have smiles on their face. It’ll be underneath a mask, but it’ll still radiate through because we’re in the business of making people happy. And only if our customers–and our customers will only be happy if our employees felt like they were part of the family. So that’s been my focus, is to really make sure that we’re doing this as a family and to think about the future, because you can quickly disrupt a culture that takes years and years to build.” – Wynn Resorts Ltd. CEO Matthew Maddox

people hands with tattoes

Illustration 1: Company culture will be your guiding star

“The exact trajectory of our recovery is highly uncertain,” Mr. Kempczinski said. “The world is going to look different coming out of this crisis, and we expect that many of those changes are going to be enduring.” – McDonald’s Corp. CEO Chris Kempczinski

“Overall, I think during a period like this, there are a lot of new things that need to get built,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “And I think it’s important that rather than slamming on the brakes now, as I think a lot of companies may, that it’s important to keep on building and keep on investing and building for the new needs that people have, and especially to make up for some of the stuff that other companies would pull back on. In some ways, that’s an opportunity; in other ways, I think it’s a responsibility to keep on investing in the economic recovery.” Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Having read these three statements, what should your next step be as a business leader?  The simple answer is that there is no one size fits all solution. However, the following might give you some ideas how to go forward.

During the period that restrictions were in place, we all wanted to do something that made us stand out and that helped our customers and clients. We innovated and during this period, we acted with more urgency. In her Entrepreneur business magazine article “What If The Normal Is Better?”, Shannon Litton makes a valid point by asking if our sense of responsibility, our call to innovate and our understanding of urgency will disappear. Will the new normal be a step backwards?

surrealism photography of person reading news paper in fire while sitting on stool

Illustration 2: Do we go back to the old normal?

When resuming your business activities, Graham Winfrey recommends in his Inc. business magazine

article “The Reopening Challenge: 5 Tips for Getting Back to Business”, to cut costs wisely, to bring to employees back, to revisit your business model, to consider new vendors and to tap into local programs. Whilst some of these tips are difficult to implement due to legislation and cash flow issues, I would like to stand still by the third tip regarding the revisiting of your business model. 

The questions that need to be asked in this respect, according to Winfrey, are: What should your business model be when you come out of this? Is your current business model viable? If so, can you hang on until it is viable again? Are there ways you can pivot all of your expertise into a better revenue stream?  

When thinking about these questions, I immediately thought of the Ansoff matrix, which looks like this:

Business & Economics: Ansoff Matrix

Illustration 3: The Ansoff Matrix

The classic example of market penetration is getting customers to also eat cereal as a midnight snack.

Thomas Ritter and Carsten Lund Pederson, in their Harvard Business Review magazine article “Assessing Coronavirus’s Impact on Your Business Model”, mention four dimensions you need to look at to assess your business model.  Citing the authors, these dimensions raise various questions. The first dimension is to assess what the crisis means for customer demand.  Will customers use your products or services more

or less? Do you need to come up with a new way to interact with your customers? Are there any new customers groups to consider?  What safety concerns are there when dealing with your customers?  

The second dimension is that you need to think how this crisis affects your value proposition.  How can you create value for your customers that are financially strained? How can you still mean something for your customers under the current circumstances?  How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors? 

The third dimension looks at the value demonstration. The way your distribution channel works and the manner in which you interacted with your clients will continue to change.  How can you still have a meaningful interaction with your customers? 

The fourth dimension looks at capabilities. As Ritter and Pederson once again correctly state, capabilities are the fuel that drives the engine, allowing firms to create value for customers.  In these unprecedented times, certain capabilities may be more needed than others may. However, in the end, all capabilities that have made you successful in the past, must be adjusted, reorganized and redeployed to deal with the challenges ahead.  The authors end their article with some sound advice: One lesson from previous downturns is that companies that are proactive and growth oriented, even as they shore up their vulnerabilities, will have an edge coming out of the crisis.

black and silver laptop computer on brown wooden table

Illustration 4: Is video conferencing the new norm?

You have a lot to think about when going forward. Matt Higgins raises some interesting points in his Inc. business magazine article “The One Question Every Founder Should Ask Before Rebuilding Their Business. Before asking yourself how you can rebuild your business as fast as possible, you should pause and really ask yourself, if you were staring your business today from scratch, what business would you build?  Higgins

states that now is the time all leaders should resist the reflex to preserve the status quo. Every business was built for the time before COVID-19. If you do not act intentionally, you could end up rebuilding a business that is actually a relic.  The bottom line here is that you need to ask yourself if you were happy with your business prior to the current crisis and if you were not, what you need to do, to change this.

Whatever you do, and as Desmond Lim correctly states in his Entrepreneur magazine article “5 Steps to Help Your Business Emerge Stronger From the Health Crisis, you must talk to your customers and listen to them.   Ask your customers what their needs are right now and how you can help them fulfill those needs.   As a business leader, you need to stay alert for business opportunities and pursue these. How many companies have adapted to produce face shields and masks, something they never thought about producing 8 weeks ago?

As a business leader, you cannot go down this road alone. The key ingredient is your employees. As Nancy Duarte points out in her Harvard Business Review magazine article “Good Leadership Is About Communicating ‘Why’”, clear communication is more important and more difficult than when things seem normal. When talking about “a new business model” or “how you as a company will be going forward”, Duarte suggests that, you explain to your employees “why” you have to do things in a certain way from now forward.  If the employees do not know why, they will not be motivated to help you.

three men sitting while using laptops and watching man beside whiteboard

Illustration 5: Communicate and communicate

These are just some insights that can help you go forward.  If you would like to talk about this further, or if we can help you, please let us know.