Restart the business, and we are back in business-as-usual?
Many articles about ‘restarting the business’ focus on plexi and hygiene. On rules and regulations. On getting back to business-as-usual next week, or next month. The reopening of many businesses feels like the end of a crisis that lasted some months, and got us locked in for a while. For now, because soon we will be wearing masks and chat with our friends on a 1,5 meter distance. So, soon, we will be ‘free’ again. That is what we believe. And the world will have changed for the better.
That is what we believe.
Sorry for the bad news … but please open your eyes!
In reality, we are at the beginning of one of the biggest crises in our recent history, and it will last for several years. This crisis will keep many of us locked out from a lot of the aspects of modern life, that we all thought were pretty normal.
Corona already increases the pressure on cash. And cash is what is left over from the client’s payments, after raw materials, after rent, after salary, after taxes. Corona already has put millions of people worldwide out of job. So their spending will not increase to compensate. Meanwhile, the state funding has added billions of future taxes on top of that.
Don’t chase the nearby economic oscillations
What will happen after this restart, is largely unpredictable on the short term. Some companies might be overbooked, others might be filing for bankruptcy, yet others might hit the government funding jackpot. Only for some months later to face a different situation again.
I believe it is useless to try and draft a ‘strategy’ for the next months. If a company makes any plan, this plan can merely be called a ‘survival tactic’. Moreover, such a ‘tactic’ should be revised every semester – or even more frequently – in order for the plan to remain valid. Such planning looks more like running after a rabbit’s tail, hopping and jumping from left to right.
With such a short-term tactic plan, companies will easily lose so much of their energy and credibility, that they will not win this rat race.
Some trends and evolutions can be predicted, but they cannot be forecasted.
The world will probably be much more digital. But it is difficult to forecast that in numbers for the coming months. Most citizens will become poorer, so consumption will probably be “either cheap or great” again, just like I remember it from the eighties. But, it is very difficult to predict, whether the critical consumer will be the one that will have the money to consume “great” as in “durable”. Or will critical consumers put aside their wishes for a better planet, and be happy to have some food on the plate. Finding work and clients already is the new normal, since “the war for talent” has already been swapped overnight with “the war for business”.
The solution is in the long-term thinking … and that is good news for purpose
The light at the end of the tunnel, is at the other side of the planning time horizon. Opposite to what one might think, it is now more easy to draw a five-to-ten years horizon strategy that will be spot on, then it is to draft a strategy that looks ahead for the next couple of months or even years.
That is good news too, for purpose-thinking.
Purpose-thinking helps define the bigger dream that could keep the company alive for ages. It is also the flag on the horizon that makes it a lot easier for every individual in the organisation to keep being aligned, and naturally do the right things with a smaller (read cheaper) management structure. It is also the beacon for consumers and other stakeholders that will define the future income streams, as well as the context in which a company could thrive. It helps keep the ship on course, whilst being thrown from left to right by heavy waves.
That’s why I believe the right purpose will keep a company profitable on the long term, e.g. by creating peace-of-mind and stability on the short term. Although cutting costs will be important for every company now, there is a huge difference in blind and wide cost-cutting to get the numbers down, versus cutting only the non-relevant costs to support those activities that are in line with purpose, and hence thrive on the long term.
That’s how I believe this crisis will change the face of the business world for the better. Feasible, yes, but definitely not an easy task.