Leadership – How businesses should come out of the lockdown

Rob Perks, CEO of business development service Inspire Biz

There is a lot of discussion around how we as a society will exit lockdown. Shutting down was painful but relatively easy compared to getting fired back up again. Businesses have had to navigate a new normal during the lockdown, with many having no option but to furlough staff or transition to a completely remote team.

And whilst the impact and pressures felt by each individual business will be unique, there will be many similarities to the shape of their recovery. Businesses must be proactive in their decision-making to maintain business continuity and build enterprise resilience.

Here we discuss the key issues businesses should consider as they recover from the crisis.

As a business leader, you will understand how important it is to have a sound business plan and a strategy that enables you to achieve commercial success and ensure you realise the objectives you have for your business. Your recovery plan needs to be flexible and should respond to the “new normal”, anticipating how your customers and market may have changed.

The core elements of your recovery plan should include a short-term cash flow forecast to establish your budget and break-even analysis, to ensure you are generating enough cash to cover all expenses. A strategic plan that maps out a path to recovery, including both your short and long-term goals, risk analysis to cover all areas of the business, highlighting any opportunities and threats, and your critical key performance indicators, so you can track and evaluate your progress. You should also have a plan for operational activities, including implementing new ways of working, an integrated financial forecast model and funding review to fully understand any associated financial implications, and a contingency plan to fall back on or in the event that the strategic plan is not delivered or sufficient funding is not available.

The key ingredient of a successful strategy is creating a winning value proposition. It describes your target customer, the problem your business is solving, and how you do it distinctively well. To do this, you will need to be able to list the specific benefits of your product or service. Begin by asking yourself what problem does it solve, and why should customers spend money on it? After you have determined the problem you are solving, you will need to define your target audience. Think about the core demographics, level of income, age, gender, interests, and characteristics that fit your target. Thirdly, you will need to consider what makes your product or service unique and compelling. Research your competitors to determine what makes your offering stand out, but make sure you can live up to it. For example, if your proposition is based on excellent customer service, ensure you can provide the best customer service possible.  Keep ahead by anticipating the changes in your market, your customer’s preferences and watch out for developing technologies.

It’s important for businesses to leverage innovative new ways of working as the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Digital evolution will help transform future business models and harness some of the benefits of increased productivity and improved communication as a result of working from home. The economic benefit of virtual meetings and using efficient online communication tools for a business can open up doors that introduce you to a wider pool of customers, employees and markets.

Making the most out of your business by having the future in mind is crucial and gives focus to your goals and ambitions. You should invest time now to develop a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your business, both in the next three to five years as well as further into the future.

It’s important to have a clear and well thought out strategy for your business, but successful implementation is just as vital. Putting your plan into action and measuring its progress is essential. Across businesses of all sizes, around 80% of strategic plans fail at the implementation stage. Ensure you have the right business skills and support to execute your strategy successfully.

About the Author

Perks is a qualified business strategist, heading teams in the hundreds with large corporates, Coutts, NatWest and Bank of Ireland, and having held several non-Eeecutive roles, as well as starting several of his own. Perks devotes his time to developing Inspire’s services to SMEs.