6 actions to corona-proof your business

We recently wrote this piece for Business Goa (http://businessgoa.in/). Sharing here since it’s something that’s concerning all of us.

There’s no doubt we’ll defeat the coronavirus. It’ll soon be a distant memory. Our lives will adjust to a new normal. We’ll fondly reminisce of the days we washed dishes and took out the garbage.

What’s the economic impact? Depending on who you ask, experts predict a ‘V’ shaped or an ‘U’ shaped economic recovery. They’ll throw in a few scenarios for good measure. The more cynical talk about a prolonged ‘L’ shaped phase. The truth though is that nobody knows for certain. Probability dictates that some scenarios of some experts will be proved right. Yet, which alphabet shape the economy traces is an uncontrollable factor. Instead, we can plan for what’s in our control. This article gives you 6 powerful actions to corona-proof your business.

Action 1: Rethink your business model

Whichever industry you are in, you’ll need to relook your business model. For instance, online retail will grow at the expense of store retail long after we’ve seen the last coronavirus. In the hospitality industry, local tourists will become a larger chunk of customers. The product and go-to-market strategy for both sectors will change significantly. 

It’s not just the service sector where business models will change. We’re quite likely to see a partial reversal of globalization. That means some reshoring of manufacturing. That’s good for India where a good portion of demand is internal. If your business is export dependent, identify alternate domestic customers. If you are importing, develop alternate domestic suppliers. Even if neither exporting nor importing, there are large opportunities reshoring will bring. You just need to keep your eyes open to the opportunities. Smart thermometers, meeting apps, logistics aggregation, disinfectants, online education- a few of many opportunities to do something new.

Action 2: Go digital before it’s too late

The future is digital. Digital has become a key part of everything we do at work and home. This crisis is accelerating what was anyway happening. Companies without digital at their core are getting severely disadvantaged. Explore business areas to use digital technology. Don’t invest in high fixed cost software. Instead, exclusively use SaaS products. Most of them come with an extended free trial- make use of that while evaluating options.

Action 3: Streamline processes

Streamlined processes make you more efficient and organised. It improves customer service and reduces cost. Besides, you can’t really go digital without having streamlined processes. Streamlined processes are required in any case. The coronavirus has just made the need more urgent.

Action 4: Modify marketing strategy and channels

Using digital and social to market and sell online is already big. It’s going to explode in popularity. Which would you prefer to meet? A salesperson who travels 15 days a month sitting in a chair 1 meter away from you. Or a salesperson talking to you on a screen or on a phone with almost the same amount of clarity. For the near future, the answer in most cases is the latter. And once we get used to it, it’s going to be difficult to revert to the traditional way. To make digital selling happen, there are infrastructure and behavioural changes needed. For instance, everyone will need to have a more structured workday if appointments are to be honoured.

There are several positive aspects to this. For many businesses, it expands the geography you can sell to. It’s also going to reduce travel which means lower costs. And your salesperson could do 4 meetings in a day instead of 1. So, more efficiency.

Action 5: Conserve cash

In periods of uncertainty, cash is not only the king, but the emperor. Look around for cost cutting opportunities. Whether its travel or rent or your mobile phone plan, every rupee counts. Yet, be careful to differentiate between cutting costs and not investing. You’ll need to invest smartly in some initiatives.

Action 6: Recharge employees

This period has been emotionally draining for everyone. A little for some, a lot for others. It’s useful to check-in to employee wellbeing. And this goes beyond sending messages saying, “We’re there for you”. Or doing a Zoom team call and posting pictures on social media about how cool your organization is. It’s having a conversation with each employee and understanding their emotional state. And helping them get back on track.

Closing thoughts

Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence. It is to act with yesterday’s logic.” The pandemic has happened. It’s impacted us all. Let’s stop grumbling. Let’s stop our doctorates on the coronavirus. It’s not going to make things change. Instead start making changes in the way you do business. Adapt to the new environment.  You might well build a bigger, better business post-corona than you had pre-corona.

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