Now is the time for businesses to take a long and hard look at where they want to be in three years’ time. More importantly, as Pat Stephenson writes, they need to figure out the changes they need to make to survive the next three years.
It possibly sounds more than glib – crass and inhumane even – to talk about business opportunities during the worst pandemic Western Europe has seen in 100 years.
Practically everyone is suffering directly or indirectly as the human and the societal cost of Covid-19 keeps up its unrelenting barrage against the senses.
Not one person has escaped unscathed. Deaths. Long-term illnesses. Mental health issues. Businesses bust or closed and jobs lost.
However. But. Also.
It is inarguable that we have seen and will see an accelerated change in existing trends of human behaviour. Remote working is the most apparent example. Something that was slowly happening (and with great reluctance amongst many companies) had to happen and did happen practically overnight.
Think about retailers without e-commerce functionality. Or the restaurant experience. Or live and in-person experiential. Or even our relationship with transport and travel. Covid-19 was an enforced catalyst for change for all of these and much more.
Coming back into work this January there are numerous unknowables – known and unknown unknowns. The current Covid-19 situation is worse than anyone predicated. The key question about when the general populace can get vaccinated and when and what will be the new new normal are on everyone’s minds.
In the quagmire of record numbers of cases and Ireland now being dubbed as the sick man of Europe, it’s perfectly understandable for all of this to stun us into inaction.
It is really tough. And I know a lot of people are naturally defaulting to ‘Just keep going. Just keep going. Let’s just get through this.
However. But. Also.
With this level of long term accelerated societal change – again known or unknown – there is either opportunity or threat for you and your business.
Even where there is a threat there is an opportunity to get ahead of it. And a thread flipped can be an opportunity in and of itself?
As someone who thought it was a good idea to set up a business in the depths of a recession, I am obviously an optimist. But I firmly believe there has never been a better time in the last 10 years to improve or reinvent your business.
So, let’s choose to look for the positives. To see threats that are known and understood as opportunities. Changes that have been forced on society as the chance to build a better, or different business.
That’s what we are trying to do and we’ll be very excited to share some of those changes this year as we launch them.
This is where your agency can really help to fuel your thinking. We have at our disposal everything you need to help to inform this thinking. Information. Strategy. And the creativity to help you make most effect of it.
We are subscribed to every font of statistical and qualitative knowledge you could need to help identify the opportunities. Global, European and Irish consumer data. eCommerce trends. Societal trends. Media consumption. Case studies. From everything from Foresight Factory, through to the Future Foundation and then complimented by the owned-data we process and receive through our always on social monitoring and bespoke sectorial analysis.
So please just ask your agency. We’re happy to help.
But to help get you thinking I wanted to share three questions for you today that I’ve used to try and focus or identify those threats and opportunities. They help me. Maybe they can help you.
Borrowed with pride from amalgams of everyone from Dan Sullivan to Jeff Bezos they help me to frame my thinking about mine – and my clients’ business – in a way that forces constructive, business building thinking.
First up, build the business that would put your business out of business.
Covid-19 has enforced evolution. This exercise asks you to do the same thing. Imagine and then design the business that could out-perform your business? What would it look like? What services would it offer and how would it impact on your existing business?
Next, fast-forward three years to when you are sitting down with your agency to celebrate the success of your business and your (marketing-driven) business transformation. What exactly was it that allowed your business achieve this success?
Three years is an almost perfect time to try and imagine a future. One year is too curtailing- it’s hard to envisage extraordinary transformational change in 12 months. Five years is so far in the future as to be unrelatable. But three years is the perfect amount of time to identify actionable change and to make it happen.
It’s also worth examining all the work that you do every week. What three actions or activities that you are currently either doing or not doing enough of that can help have a significant effect on the success of your business? In addition, what three actions or activities that you are currently doing too much of that have either no or a negligible effect on the success of your business?
Now swop them out for each other for three months. There is always a reason not to change. But honestly try to make these three changes for three months. Even just eliminating three time-wasting, energy sapping, less-than-business building activities, will improve things. But switch them out to focus on things that can possibly transform your business for the better.
These are beyond trying times for us all. But change has and is coming. In the midst of all this now is the perfect time to try and spend some time identifying the threats and opportunities that are facing your business.
Those three questions will give you a good framework to try and work some of those out.
And if nothing else thinking about building for success for the future can help get us all out of the grey day to day of January.
Pat Stephenson is chief relations officer and a co-founder of Boys + Girls.