At Chief Outsiders, we use the phrase “Building sustainable engines for growth” as that’s what we do for our clients. Unfortunately, many companies’ engines have been shut down because of the global pandemic as customers have stopped buying due to choice, circumstances, or government decree. Restarting those engines will not be as simple as just turning a switch back to “ON” – at least it shouldn’t be.
The good news is that now 3-4 weeks into lockdown, many businesses have already triaged their organizations. They’ve cut expenses, delayed payments, secured new capital, reduced workforces, and accessed government programs where possible. The lucky few whose products/services have seen a surge of demand during the current crisis, have ramped up near-term production to take advantage of the surge. Now it’s time to start thinking about what it will take to restart commercial engines once the economy is able to reopen. I fear that too many CEOs and business leaders will remain solely focused on the financial and operational aspects of their commercial engine restarts, not the go-to-market implications.
A recent piece in The Harvard Business Review provides a good overview of some of the things CEOs should be thinking about as they restart their commercial engines. Titled, “Preparing Your Business for a Post-Pandemic World”, authors Carsten Lund Pedersen and Thomas Ritter present some “steps that organizations should do to lay the groundwork for their recoveries now.” They present several questions as a guide. Number 1 on their list is “What position can you attain during and after the pandemic?”
I love this question as it gets to the heart of the thinking required to be successful in a post-pandemic world. I’ve put together my own set of questions CEOs and other business leaders should be asking when preparing to restart their commercial engines. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing enough company leaders ask these type of questions – at least not at this point. Not only is that a shame, it’s also a missed opportunity to ensure that their post COVID-19 performance is as good or better than it was before the crisis.
Here are my suggestions for two areas to start with:
Markets and Customers: it’s all about emerging in a stronger competitive position with deeper customer relationships and reinforced customer relevance.
Organizational Readiness: the team and structure that got you here may not be as appropriate for the future when viewed through the lens of changing market and customer dynamics.
These are a baseline of the questions CEOs and their teams need to ask instead of falling back into the old ways of doing business. I fear that too many of them will be disappointed in their results if they don’t.