Strategy & Finance

From Survival to Growth

Enterprise strategies in the age of social distancing and revenue disruption

The spread of the Corona Virus has forced governments, societies and business to make profound adjustments to individual lives and business communities. Slowing the spread of the Virus is everyone’s duty and while companies internationally have transitioned from strict homeworking to a point of limited interaction, there is no doubt that social distancing is creating a completely new and challenging business culture.

In 2015, the Forbes Business survival/recession survival checklist gave all possible scenarios that could cause catastrophic repercussions to business. Graphical representation was even provided to show numerous eventualities to prepare for, but none even imagined the magnitude of the current scenario.

The suddenness of the shift has inevitably left a great many of even the most sophisticated teams without the right business tools. The inevitable result is that uncertainty – and huge question marks around productivity – are brought centre-stage. The reality is that, emerging from crisis, we see that many companies are ill-equipped to position themselves as leaders in the era of a ‘new normal’.

Creating an integrated platform

In an effort to give their business the best shot at survival, many companies are reviewing the business continuation plan (BCP). The new problem is a greater catalyst than ever for corporates to test the BCP stress points. With the recent social distancing and a “work from home strategy”, it is evident there are many gaps and failings in the majority of current systems.

Being unprepared for the present circumstances means there is a scarcity of connectivity and a lack of the necessary business tools for the distribution team to reach out to its customers; a scarcity that’s not only far below optimum levels, but hovering close to mere survival.

So, how to ‘bridge the gap’ at each customer touchpoint? Even after companies have moved to an online system, in the majority of cases, they are yet to ensure holistic, seamless customer connectivity.

To make matters worse, the current distribution business model depends on face-to-face interaction. An inability to adapt to the new circumstances can make it impossible for many companies to ride out the storm.

A new paradigm is now in motion. It hinges on the fundamental requirement that Business Development and Distribution teams should start focusing on connecting with their future customers – but as yet, few have realized the importance of taking a lead and the opportunities that come with it.

It is also clear that piecemeal solutions won’t work. There needs to be one coherent, all-embracing approach that applies a series of logical steps enabling forward-thinking and crisp, effective response. This then builds the platform for a proactive plan leading out of the present crisis with a set of future deliverable goals.

The elements are as follows:

  • Initiate a rapid method for increasing the rate of cash flow, as impacted by the slow-down 
  • Position your business for a recessionary environment, implementing cost-reduction initiatives
  • Manifest tools enabling teams to be productive, even in the social distancing environment 
  • Start focusing on connecting with future customers: remember, the present scenario won’t last forever 
  • Create effective mechanisms for ‘bounce back’ without revenue disruptions

At the micro level, there are two ‘springboards’ for accelerating effective delivery of the actions above.

  • The Business Survival Checklist
  • The Disaster Recovery Plan

The Business Survival Checklist

There are five key steps that are essential enablers for the majority of the business’ future plans. Without the ability to deliver on these, strategies can rapidly become wishful thinking. They are:  

1) Automate efficient processes for the on-boarding of customers

2) Reduce friction and manage tasks with ease across all functions, Can your business do this?

3) Ensure the existing process is meeting the demands of the business

4) Enabling customers to skip time-consuming processes like filling out forms or manual excel inputs. (A classic example would be never asking customers to scan and send a form or policy that your business itself actually provided them with)

5) Adapt to changes in Customer behaviour as they adapt to digital services

The Disaster Recovery Plan

As a kick-start, it’s vital to think of the current trading conditions in the same way as fire, flood or data hacking – as a catastrophe that needs to be overcome. That means activating (or creating, if one is not in place) the Disaster Recovery Plan. This is a vital ‘gateway’ document that rationalizes the unexpected and prescribes a positive series of actions to help turn things round. 

Businesses need to keep in mind that they are now being forced to work in a way that very few directors or staff have ever had experience of. Don’t think for a second that this won’t make a difference: things will be forgotten, key actions will lapse and critical systems will develop unattended glitches. 

A Disaster Recovery Plan must be feasible and be easy to understand; and it must cope for two different timeframes – the things the business can do now and the things that it will do once conditions are stabilized. There are five fundamental requirements:

  • What are you trying to achieve? Everyone must know clearly what they are working towards and what their own role in the jigsaw needs to be. So, is the business trying to have a ‘same but different’ approach – ie, returning to run exactly as before, but with staff working from home? Or is the company prepared to accept a level of temporary dysfunctionality?
  • Who is doing what: who should take responsibility for key areas as things are ‘pulled together’? The Plan explains exactly who these lynchpins are, who they report to – and sets out a clear set of responsibilities and actions
  • What is the recovery calendar and when is each part delivered? In other words, what elements must be brought back online first, which are the building blocks for everything else? Set out the whole sequence very clearly.
  • What are clients expecting? The Disaster Recovery Plan must identify exactly who is expecting what and when: lose these essentials and you won’t have a business left. Remember – clients don’t care how the company is working, as long as the surface is ripple-free
  • If staff leave, what are the contingency plans? Are there individuals ready to deputize? You need to define truly essential roles and resource them fast. 

Being proactive

Utilising these three elements, companies can design a bespoke working platform to mitigate the impact of the present crisis and enable the business not only to survive the short-term, but to think further ahead and lay the foundations for future growth.

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