Take back your future: The time is now to re-think, re-evaluate and re-set your business for the “new normal”
Sue Mizera reveals how businesses can prepare for recovery once Covid-19 has passed by re-thinking and re-evaluating their company's core values and strengths.
What’s the definition of an optimist? A guy who irons five shirts on Sunday night. “This was a joke that circulated in the 1990 banking crisis, which I lived through, and which may apply again today. One thing I learned from that time: it is never too early to prepare, never too early to think through what return to ‘normal’, will mean for your company. The worst thing you can do is be caught without a plan”: James Risch, former managing director of JPMorgan and Co-Founder of TorchFish.
If the best way to predict the future is to create it, now is the time for re-thinking and re-evaluating everything about your business: your market, your clients and customers, your competitors, your supply chain, your marketing, your offering – everything. Because taking back your future will require more than “random acts of marketing”, or a blind faith that technology and online wizardry will somehow come to the rescue. These would be dangerous, false hopes.
Rather, we fully advise a more fundamental approach -- a deep-dive into your business situation to plan ahead for what you will do when this disruption has passed. As an earlier generation might have enjoined, we advise you “to put on your thinking caps:” to explore the essence of your business, your purpose, your reason for being, your Why? And then strategically figure out your What next?
Some things you may very well keep, some things you are likely to shed, others you may want to evolve. This is fine, this is what a plan is all about. But you have to know what these “things” are first. Nor is this easy, nor should you endeavor to do this alone. What follows are three “thinking-cap” exercises that we routinely employ with companies going through major change. They are for you and your management team to begin your business’s deep-dive, to be optimally ready, together, for managing what will lie ahead.
Few exercises are more comprehensive, or more revealing, than a SWOT: What are your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Originating in the US in the 1960s, the SWOT provides management teams a frank, up-to-the-minute evaluation of their organization’s internal fitness as well as external competitiveness.
If your company maintains a current SWOT analysis, it is surely time for an update. If you haven’t before performed a SWOT, ask each member of the management team to complete the exercise alone using the chart (above) for definitions.
Task: For each box in the matrix, identify the three to five factors that you believe are the most important for your company. Then convene them (remotely) to discuss all input, and conclude with a ranking of the top three to five—no more—responses for each of the four blocks.
The hidden beauty of a SWOT:
Responses to strengths and opportunities provide the basis for a company’s Vision: Where are you headed? What potential do you want to exploit? What long-term impact on your markets, on society, do you want to make?
Responses to Weaknesses and Threats provide the basis for a company’s Mission: What gaps, absences or work-in-progress are less than optimal? What needs to be addressed immediately in order to make the Vision a reality?
Surprised at this hidden power of a SWOT? We will provide more input in subsequent postings for how best to express Vision and Mission statements. For now, the idea is to get the SWOT done meaningfully, with the whole team’s input and agreement.
Target audience exercise
Even as normal business contacts and communications are in near total disruption, there is no better time than now to get closer to your clients, customers and audiences. What’s on their minds? What are their businesses experiencing? Will they need something more, something different, from your services going forward?
You may have seen our recent posting (early March) on communicating with your target audiences via the Think-Feel-Act exercise. This tried-and-true exercise requires you to ask:
- What do our audiences really think and feel about our company, our offering today? How do they act?
- In the future, what do we want them to think and feel about our company, our offering, tomorrow? How do we want them to act tomorrow?
We fully recommend not only to reflect on these questions with your management team, but to use this time to explore these questions with your audiences as well. Is what they require from you today what they will actually want and need tomorrow? What do you need to say or do now to make sure their attitudes and behaviors track with your best intentions, and vice versa? Be prepared to be surprised.
Brand personality exercise
Alert readers will know we have published three postings on Brand Personality. In my last article, we discussed brand archetypes as a scientifically-grounded, universally applicable platform for staking out, among other things, differentiation, category ownership and competitive advantage. As such, brand archetypes are pure business strategy, and no surprise, a favorite of many CEOs we have worked with.
We invite you to revisit this exercise in the light of these unprecedented times and the impact of new findings from your SWOT and Think-Feel-Act exercises.
- Do they affect the choice of your brand personality?
- Will your brand personality necessarily change due to new requirements, demands or needs from your audiences?
- Will the “new normal” put more emphasis on kinder, gentler relationships?
- Will the emotionally-driven, collaborative guardians, companions and sages be more valued than, e.g., independent-minded Explorers and Jesters?
They very well may. What uniquely matters, however, are the implications for your brand personality.
Conclusions for now
These three exercises are key pieces in overall successful branding and communicating with your audiences about your brand. Each exercise can be used independently, or better yet, integrated and in synergy towards building your complete brand octagon.
Our clients in the past have referred to their brand octagons as their “compass” and their “North Star.” What better time than now for discovering exactly that?
See also our previous posting (April 10) that features help with core values, another octagon element and a sine qua non of a truly strong organisation. Stay safe.