By Stephanie Anyamele ACA
The goal of every business right now, in the face of COVID-19, is week to week survival. The past few weeks have been spent on calls with SME owners dealing with cost-cutting, employee lay-offs and identifying new and quick revenue streams to stay afloat.
All this can be quite overwhelming but there's no better time than now to start thinking about what a post-pandemic world looks like. Even if it's just for a few hours a week, if you take the time to develop a strategic plan, this will give you a better guide for making smarter short-term decisions.
To kickstart your strategic planning process and create a plan for a speedy recovery post-pandemic, here are the questions you should ask yourself:
1. How will life change for your customers?
COVID-19 will bring about significant change to many businesses' and people's lives for a long enough period of time. You, therefore, need to understand how these changes will re-shape the needs, desires and decision-making criteria of your customers.
Anticipating how you would need to change your products and services, or create new ones, to be able to deliver value will be key to your success.
2. What will happen to your current competition?
No doubt, your competitors will likely make changes to survive as well. What kind of financial position they will be in? What resources they will have or not have? And what strategic moves are they likely to make? While you won't know for sure, the goal is to steer towards the open ocean and away from bloody waters.
3. Who could be your new competition?
Focus on current competitors is good but you also need to consider who might choose to pivot into your market or industry. Or maybe you're thinking of making a pivot yourself, so you'll need to assess who's already in your new market. Everyone will be making moves and you'll need to watch strategically to see all the moves.
4. Where will you find new talent?
Many people with amazing talent will likely find themselves without jobs post-pandemic. If you've had to let go of employees and so will need to rebuild, make sure you have a plan for getting the best people quickly before everyone else starts hiring them. Also consider which of your former staff you can re-hire too.
5. What will your supply chain look like?
If you are dependent on suppliers to run your business, it's imperative that you take a hard and careful look at your supply chain. And don't stop just with your main provider, also look back several layers to assess what's working and what's not. Some parts of the system might take time to recover but others will change altogether. Your strategic plan must support your recovery and future growth.
6. What specific features will set you apart in the new market?
How are you going to win in your market? Once you have a clear plan for refocusing your core customer and core product or service, this is your next area of concern.
The best businesses are those that have a unique and valuable differentiation strategy that sets them apart from their competitors. Otherwise, you'll find your company competing on price, and that's a not-so-great business place to be. Identify the two to three factors that will make you stand out to your best customers.
7. What specific things will you need to stop doing or let go of?
You'll need to figure out what capabilities you need to stop doing if you're adjusting your product or services or if you're making a pivot . These things may have served you well before but they are not going to be an asset in your new world. The sooner you identify and stop doing these things, and the sooner you redeploy your resources to new strategic capabilities, the better. Holding on to these will only serve to drain your finances and dilute your focus.
8. What are your new monthly forecasts and key milestones?
Once you have a new positioning and key capabilities, it's time to forecast the next twelve to twenty-four months of key metrics and operational targets. You'll also need to set key milestones for implementing any business changes and capacity building. These will be crucial for your leadership planning sessions and establishing your priorities.
Working through a crisis is not easy, and can be daunting for many. But the sooner you settle your current situation and start focusing on what the world will look like in the new world, the higher your chance at future success plus you will have the confidence and motivation to keep going today.
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Stephanie Anyamele is the Principal Consultant at Charles Ardor & Company, a boutique management consulting firm that works with owners, leaders and managers (OLMs) of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to improve the financial and operational health of their businesses. She is also the founder of What Next, Coach?, a business support platform equipping startup and growth-stage businesses with resources, expertise and community to reach and thrive beyond the 5-year mark. Stephanie is passionate about supporting business owners in Nigeria to create structure, maximise time and experience freedom and fulfilment.
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