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5 Essential Questions: Adapt your business to the new reality

“Never waste a good crisis”. I don’t want to sound flippant. But this quote, attributed to Winston Churchill, contains a central and liberating truth. No matter how bad things seem, there are always reasons to be optimistic. Amidst the pain of Covid-19, there are still opportunities available for entrepreneurs willing to take an honest look at their businesses. In seeking not just to survive the crisis, but to thrive afterwards, I have found these five questions to be clarifying: Does my company’s strategy still make sense, or do we need to change our approach? An effective strategy takes an honest look at the competitive landscape in which you operate. It assesses your advantages and weaknesses and plots a practical course to overcoming these challenges. The pandemic has challenged most businesses; what worked well before may not work in the future. The job of a business leader is to assess the situation as it is and make the necessary changes. Maybe a daunting process, but also a cathartic one, that will open your eyes to the hidden opportunities that a crisis creates. My business, Quadrant2Design which designs and manufactures exhibition stands for B2B and B2C events, has seen many shows delayed or cancelled, leaving us without work for an extended period. We have used this time as an opportunity to think deeply about our offering and how we can restructure to suit the changing business environment better. This pause has led us to refocus our marketing message on our core values, and to introduce some creative new elements that we think will make our service more attractive post-crisis. Do we need to change our offering because of the pandemic? If you have thought clearly about how the pandemic has changed your customers’ needs, the answer to this question should be clear. While competitors are fighting fires, you have a unique opportunity to improve your product offering to better match what customers will want after the pandemic. The form this development takes will depend on what market you operate in, and the extent of the disruption you are facing. For instance, you might simplify your product range to focus on one specific aspect of your previous offering. Businesses are also exploring new approaches to distribution; witness the explosion of online delivery services from everything including traditional retailers and pubs. And we can be in no doubt; price, inherent value, and add-on value will become even more critical once businesses start to get back to work. View the need to improve your business model as an opportunity, and maybe even an exciting opportunity, rather than a threat. How do we boost our marketing team’s effectiveness despite Covid-19? While marketing might not seem like a priority, it isn’t an optional extra that can be turned on and off at will. You’ve spent years building your reputation and connection with customers. If you don’t maintain your marketing presence, all of this work can be unravelled surprisingly quickly. Rather than cutting marketing, the opportunity is to build your customer base while competitors have their head in the sand. Put simply, people are bored and are sick of the paint by numbers Covid-19 adverts saturating our screens. Few brands are communicating interesting ideas which treat their customers like adults. This is your opportunity. Whether in words, video, social media, your website, or the press; find something positive, real and exciting to say to your customers. They will appreciate it. Is our supply chain stable; do we need to bring some capabilities in-house? The majority of businesses will have assessed their supply chain to ensure continuity during Covid-19. And many business owners will be considering whether supply chains can be shortened, or dispensed with, by bringing back functions or manufacturing in-house. The advantages of taking more control of the supply chain, beyond ensuring stability, include potentially improved quality, the potential to customise your product better, and the ability to capture profits further up the supply chain. You may decide that you don’t have the right skills to bring supply functions in-house, but it is worth asking the question. My team is doing more with less. How do we harness this lean efficiency after Covid-19? Our team have rallied together, despite the severe conditions forced upon them by the pandemic. Companies across the country are similarly proving that, with fewer resources, they can achieve more than they thought possible. In particular, I have taken two lessons from the crisis that we can hold onto and use in the future: Firstly, identify a clear goal that the team can get behind, remembering that this is as much about what you don’t do as what you do. Having this clarity has enabled my team to work coherently and avoid irrelevant distractions and side-projects as we get the business back on track. The second is to make clever use of remote working. While I don’t believe the office is going to disappear after Covid-19, remote working can remove distractions, improve efficiency and provide more time for meaningful projects. Providing space for important but not urgent work, away from the madness of the office, can help the team to achieve more than they thought possible. Looking ahead Businesses face unprecedented challenges from Covid-19. We can’t control the course of the pandemic. But we can control how we adapt to the new realities. In doing this, I believe it is possible to emerge from this crisis more robust than ever. Alan Jenkins is the founder and CEO of Quadrant2Design an exhibition design and manufacture contractor that operates throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

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