The devastating global pandemic has impacted every business differently.  Initially many had to focus on the immediate pressures caused by the financial and staffing fall-out, but now as the government takes tentative steps to relax the restrictions of lockdown and allow some businesses to reopen, what are the strategic considerations that leaders should focus on?

1. It is widely recognised that for most businesses, the gradual reopening will not mean a return to ‘business as usual’.  It will be essential therefore to keep a close eye on the financial position.  A rolling cashflow forecast is critical and must be reviewed weekly. The horizon should be 13-weeks, up to a year, depending on the industry. Certainly, the coming month should be in focus – that activity never goes away.  Hazlewoods recently shared a useful template for managing cash flow which can be downloaded here - https://www.hazlewoods.co.uk/news/small-business-interruption-considerations

2. Research confirms that the most successful companies are those who take the trouble to segment their market.  Segments are groups of customers with the same or similar needs. Focus your attention on your key customers / clients in your most profitable segments. Understand what these key customers value - as the acclaimed American poet, Maya Angelou once said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” - so make sure that you take care of these clients, make a special point of understanding their needs and communicate to them how you are meeting those needs.

3. Engaging with your employees as you start to reboot your business will be vital.  They are critical to your success so communicate regularly with them about your plans to reopen. This will be a period of immense change and upheaval and employees will be looking to their leaders for guidance, reassurance and direction.  Initially keep the message simple, providing information about the changes being made and the practical measures being put in place to ensure safety.  There may be an emotional reaction, for some that will be excitement about returning to work whilst for others it will be anger or anxiety.  Speak with staff to create shared understanding on what the change means to them and to their roles and be available to answer the plethora of questions.  Provide empathy and support. This may not be an easy time as people adjust to the relaxation of restrictions and need to be given time to understand and adapt. Remember that communication is as much about motivation and inspiration as it is about providing information so share your vision for how the business can thrive in the long term, get the team involved and show them how they are contributing to the future success of the business and recognise and acknowledge their hard work.

4. One of our LEAD™ masterclass speakers, Professor Malcolm McDonald recently highlighted the dangers of “anorexia industrialosa” meaning an excessive desire to be leaner and fitter, leading to emaciation and eventually death.  Cost cutting will invariably be necessary for many businesses but must be done sensibly.  By focusing on your key segments as we suggest above, you can then reduce your costs in unprofitable areas of the business and prioritise your key products, key customers, key segments. Strive for efficient and effective operations – eliminate waste, improve capacity planning, manage the mix of work, encourage team-based improvements, devise better metrics.

Whilst there may seem to be no clear pathway to the future, we will get through this, so senior leaders need to plan for this too.  Allocate time and resources to addressing the immediate challenges whilst also looking beyond the crisis.

Engage the leadership team and the wider workforce in learning lessons from the last few months, imagine how your industry / sector will change in a post-Covid world and start planning your next steps to help your business to survive and thrive.

This blog is part of the #FutureNow campaign in partnership with BPE Solicitors, Hazlewoods and Target PR where we will be sharing expertise and useful insights for businesses in these uncertain times.

If you would like to participate in our online workshops ‘Leading in a crisis’ to gain top tips for leading your business and your teams out of lockdown, please do get in touch with Jo Draper or Stewart Barnes here.

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