James Matthews, Principal Consultant
18th May 2020
Everything has changed, you don’t need anyone to tell you that. It’s quite amazing how many things that seemed ‘stable’ are on shakier ground in a shorter amount of time that you might have imagined possible. High Street retailers like Primark made NO money, Twitter put their workforce on permanent WFH and on your own high street there’s a chance your local might not survive as businesses grapple with the unknown consequences of the lockdown and the impending economic downturn.
Organisations seem to be responding in one of a few ways:
Mothball: They have cut; costs, operations, communications and they’ll ride it out in a (publicly) dormant state and see what manifests at the other end.
Adapt: A reduced service. Often cutting prices and the offering to create a minimum survival revenue. A lot of pubs and cafes can be seen providing a small range of cost-effective meals and drinks as they struggle to compete with takeaway and supermarket offers and prices.
Evolve: Some organisations have embraced change wholesale, innovating and optimising for the circumstances around them. This isn’t just a strategy reserved for big business. For every garden centre that has closed, one has started an entirely new mail order service. For every Michelin star restaurant who has mothballed, there’s one exceeding expectation doing take out.
All of these ways of getting to the next stage have their merits and pitfalls and every business that survives deserves recognition. However, for those who are adapting and evolving – are they really paying attention to what might be happening under their nose? Are they gathering insight for a new business model or just desperate to get back to business as usual?
Is every evolution a new business model?
Not everything that happens now will be relevant forever, that’s clear (what does forever actually look like anyway?). What is true is that many business leaders will have a slightly different view on what constitutes stability and ‘long term’ after Covid-19.
There are opportunities in all of this. Not just opportunities to survive and thrive but opportunities to look at customers, employees and business models in a new way. In this interrogation, you might discover the potential longevity of current ways of working or operating that could last a lifetime. Not just the obvious things like having a smaller office (or having an office at all) or selling online, but some of the smaller, more nuanced things. You might inadvertently be creating a future business model with immense value.
Stop. Before everything starts.
As tempting as it will be to try and return to more tried and tested ways, there could be a huge benefit in pausing, observing, and learning. If you can do this now, don’t hesitate. The ability to gather evidence of how people behave in the current circumstance is valuable and will be hard to recreate afterwards. How do people shop when there’s no high street, work when there’s no office, communicate when there’s no water cooler – or pub?
The most interesting evidence may come from the necessity to hack services or processes together to suit a particular need or user journey that doesn’t currently exist. What do they love about the new ways they are doing things? What do they hate and never want to repeat?
What can you keep? What can you expand or amplify? What should you lose?
Imagine the new and old ‘status quo’
This is a good time to pilot new business models as a thought-experiment with colleagues. If your operating markets stayed in relative lockdown, how would you change your business? What would you keep, what would you lose? Think about supply chain, employee engagement, recruitment, marketing, customer service. What do you gain from going back to the pre-Covid status quo? It might be lots, or it might be less than you think.
Another way of thinking about this might be to ask yourself “If you were starting your business again today, what would it look like?” What technologies would you adopt, what legacy processes would you remove, would you have premises?
Whatever you are doing, take time to stop, look and listen. The business of your future might already have started. Don’t miss the chance to learn as much as you can.
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