Leading into 2021: Four areas that need your focus

As we emerge from the damage inflicted on society and our businesses by COVID-19 – and being only too aware that there may be further challenges posed by the virus – business leaders are planning how to restore value to their enterprises. Start-up and early-stage businesses are grappling with issues which weren’t foreseen in their business plans, for them or their customers.

Faced with continuing uncertainty it can be tempting to play it safe and stick to what’s succeeded before. But attitudes have changed massively over the past four months and entrepreneurs who don’t react quickly to these may find revenue dwindling and opportunities disappearing.

1.    Restore Revenue Rapidly

Speed matters. A gradual recovery of revenue will not be enough to allow you operate at the level you did earlier in the year. To be able to fire on all cylinders you need funding from your revenue streams at least at the same level as it was before COVID-19.

Adapt a start-up mindset. This favours action over analysis and testing instead of research. Establish a brisker tempo to your sales process with daily check-ins, weekly – brief – CEO reviews, etc. This encourages agility and accountability.

Identify and prioritise revenue opportunities. Even before recovery fully starts are you planning who you’ll target for maximum return? What changes are needed to your value proposition to include increased health and safety? What campaigns can you start now?

2.    Rebuild Operations

The pandemic has changed demand patterns for product and services while pointing out fragility in supply chains and service networks. BREXIT will also have a significant impact on the latter, although we’ve had a bit more time to prepare for that.

Those business who have continued to trade have shown agility and innovation in adapting rapidly to these changes. They’re now asking how they can sustain this performance while others are just starting to grapple with the need for reinvention.

Resilience is the new watchword for operations. Establishing back-up supply chains, increased workforce cross-training and using external suppliers to supplement internal processes are some of the solutions being examined.

The future of work, defined by the use of more automation and technology as well as remote or distributed workforces, was always coming. COVID-19 has hastened the pace. Employees across all functions have learned how to complete tasks remotely, using digital communication and collaboration tools.

In operations, changes will go further, with an accelerated decline in manual and repetitive tasks and a rise in the need for analytical and technical support. This shift will call for substantial investment in workforce engagement and training in new skills, much of it delivered using digital tools.

3.    Re-imagine the Organisation

In the heat of the coronavirus crisis organisations have been forced to work in new ways, and they have done so quicker and more effectively than they previously thought possible.

Clear goals, focused teams and rapid decision-making have replaced bureaucracy. The challenge now is making sure we don’t revert to old ways.

Identity. One noticeable characteristic of companies that have adapted well is that they have a strong sense of identity. Leaders and employees have a shared sense of purpose and a common performance culture; they know what the company stands for, beyond shareholder value, and how to get things done right.

Organisation. Small, nimble teams built in hurry to deal with the emergency made important decisions faster and better. In a world where fast beats slow, businesses that can embed these forms of speedy and effective decentralisation will jump ahead of the competition.

4.    Accelerate Digital Throughout the Organisation

For most organisations a digital strategy has focused on customer engagement whether through social media or online trading.

What we learned in the past months is that not only can employees and suppliers be engaged online, digitisation can have benefits to our innovation capability and production processes.

One notable gap for smaller businesses over the past months is an absence of current operational or financial data meaning the sudden impact of the shutdown left them reeling without up-to-date indicators of cash-generating ability for example.

The Leading At The Edge Online event on 7th October will provide business leaders and managers with insights and tools to help them build better organisations for 2021 and beyond. Find out more here.