When the unexpected happens, out of the blue, the usual human reaction is to handle it as an outlier, an exception, and try to “survive” until “everything goes back to normal”. This reaction is backed by the strong beliefs that (i) there is a state called ‘normal’, and (ii) this ‘normal’ is characterized by a kind of stability. If not stability, than a visible, understandable, and most probably relatively slow change, which is embraceable.
Since end of January 2020, our days are filled with news about a mysterious corona virus, which has first reached us as an Asian issue from a long distance, then, relatively quickly, appeared in Europe and basically all other continents. We have found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, where – although being an entrepreneur – quite a huge part of the business decisions seem no longer to be in our hands…. Human health and macro level safety decisions have overwritten the economics.
Vis maior, material adverse change, crisis communication, contingency plan, has also become the part of our language, which all imply something negative, unwanted, temporary and to be avoided, or, at least, something that needs fixing.
Despite of the above mentioned approach, it has a fairly good chance that we have to get used to a new reality. The “new normal”.
This way or that, entrepreneurs have to accommodate the changes, and it is on the leadership how painful the process becomes. If people are provided with the impression of being under threat, their goal becomes to survive, so they will most probably act like that. If they are provided the impression of being a part of an exciting journey, there will be some who would most probably take the challenge, and such a behaviour may inspire the others, as well.
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” (Albert Einstein)
The current difficulty may be your best opportunity. The actual situation affects basically everyone, although not to the same extent. It also means that you should not feel like “being the only one” exposed to the consequences of a decided change. Consequently, your close competitors are also busy with their own internal things and may not be in the position to spend a lot on a well-defined strategy while you are trying to find your ways. However, this also does not mean that you can sit and wait and believe that noone else can cope with the circumstances. What shall you do?
– observe the behaviour of your customers, suppliers and competitors,
– identify the major differences compared to the “usual” in their behaviour, attitude, which means those before the outbreak,
– remember that such a shocking experience may prevent your stakeholders from returning to their business as usual, as well, and think over how you should respond to those changes,
– consider the so-called first mover advantages, and act accordingly.
Instead of victimising yourself and being passive, think of the situation as an opportunity to rethink, review and reiterate your activity and your business model.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” (Milton Berle)
Opportunities most probably will not find you, so you should build them. Or – at least – search for them. Actively. And find them. Make notes of your observations and – where possible – take customer feedback very seriously. Remember that humans tend to be sensitive and to magnify both positive and negative experience under pressure, furthermore, tend to value stability in ambiguous periods.
Accommodating changing demand does not have to mean huge, disruptive innovations. If you have one, that is brilliant. However, most of the cases you may do different things in the same way, or the same things in a different way.
Change, itself, is a demanding process, and change under such adverse circumstances may increase stress level further. Creating an environment where the energies are channellised into some creative process, instead of worrying about the future may be a lot more beneficial. In a positive case, it provides inspiration, a ‘being a part of it’ feeling, and increases commitment and loyalty.
We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work” (Thomas A. Edison)
Opportunity does not, and shall not mean luck. You should not wait for the magic to happen. You have to make it. By work. Humans tend to value things more which were achieved as a result of their efforts. Consequently, If you value something and believe in it, you can credibly introduce it to your customers. They will most probably appreciate it. Appreciate the fact that you paid attention to their needs, and that you have invested into your product or service in order to meet them. Partnership means more than a simple business contact.
One of the positive experiences about the change in the general attitude, due to the global pandemic, is increased cooperativeness. The ‘we can make it’ approach, which may actually be a valid point in lots of the industries and business relationships. It does not mean altruism, but a kind of business rationale, according to which a small ‘investment’ today may help to get through, get to another level, get into a trusted position, etc. in the future.
As a summary: there are two basic approaches to follow:
(i) Stay in the survival camp and wait for the end of the pandemic and your business to get back to the track (minimising the negative consequences, in parallel)
(ii) leave that camp, be active, look around and see what is happening, think over again your business and find or make your place in the new reality.
Regardless of the distressed situation, the key to your success is still mostly in your hands. It is your choice if you use it (the right way and at the right time) or not.
If you have your vision, you can also book some external expertise to help you to elaborate your strategy and to adjust skills and capabilities. You should not be alone in such a journey. Are you ready?