Businesses now live in a “new normal” which will continue to evolve rapidly, so all business leaders must now think carefully about what they should do to strategically meet the new risks, opportunities and challenges so they can succeed. business mentor can be invaluable for this, providing different perspectives that might otherwise not be considered. 

Business leaders must think about the following:

  • Where is your business now compared to where it needs to be?
  • You need to map out the past strategies, mission, values, capabilities, products and services, key relationships with all key stakeholders: customers, suppliers, staff, financiers, community, industry, governments, etc.
  • Compare to where you need to be to survive and thrive in the new environment, and find the gaps
  • These gaps need to be prioritised and the steps to fill these gaps need to be established
  • Filling in these gaps in priority order will underpin the success and survival of the business. These gaps should be implemented within a process of getting back to basics

Getting back to basics will allow for a considered, compassionate and responsive approach that adapts the business to needed changes, while still focusing on commercially strong leadership that every business needs now. Whether you have done well or badly through the COVID-19 epidemic so far, chances are you need to reset the organisation to get it back on track and be responsive to the changed business and social environment. Getting back to basics can energise the leadership and the business, enabling you to make necessary changes while focusing on your priorities. This approach should help businesses adapt and be better able to manage the uncertainties ahead in their business and social environment.

The evolving business environments are driven by:

  • The need to adapt businesses rapidly
  • Meeting challenges in:
    • shifting demand patterns
    • increased emergence of competitors
    • operational cost structures changes
    • increasing social expectations
  • These trends are leveraged further by
    • changes in technology platforms, systems, and processes
    • increased investment in Artificial intelligence
    • movements in social media platforms and advertising
    • Increasing mining of data and data analytic

So, what are the basics that you need to focus on to get your business more resilient in the face of increasingly risky business markets and environments? Many business mentors will suggest the four starting areas below. 

The Four Starting Areas to Getting Back to Basics 

  1. Set and stick to your priorities
  2. Take a hard look at your financial results
  3. Streamline and focus all systems on the top priorities
  4. Connect with your stakeholders and deepen relationships

Many businesses engage with business mentor or coach for assistance in this area. Business mentoring can assist you in asking the right questions in this process to address the pressing strategic issues in your changing business circumstances.

 Back to Basics 1: Set and Stick to Your Priorities 

What are your 5 to 7 top priorities? These will depend on your specific business, the challenges you face in your business and what ultimately makes your business succeed. For example, for a consumer products and services company facing stiff opposition, these top priorities might be:

  1. Keep your best customers loyal
  2. Focus on quality of products and services and improve customer care
  3. Improve the transparency, online channels and reliability of delivery
  4. Get honest feedback from customers on products and services
  5. Ensure all staff are customer orientated
  6. Continuously improve delivery of products and services
  7. Ensure a good response from all key customer groups to advertising, social media and promotions
  8. Invest in image and brands

Anything not in the top priorities drops down the to-do list in Back to Basics 2 below:

Back to Basics 2: Take a Hard Look at Your Financial Results 

Consider what you would do if in a couple of months’ time you had three months of effective shut down.

  • Calculate just how long the business would be able to continue until cash reserves or borrowing ability are gone
  • Which costs can be reduced immediately? Without impacting the priority areas.
  • Where are you profitable with good net cashflow? These are the areas to increase. Where there are negatives? Limit these areas.
  • Where can you generate cashflow immediately?
  • Are there any surplus assets that can be liquidated?
  • Can you get paid faster by customers and can you pay your suppliers slower?
  • Can you reduce stock levels, or in a service business reduce the length of time of work in progress?
  • Are there projects or investments (including Capex) that can be shelved until cashflow improves?
  • Only invest if the cash payback is very short-term, say 3-6 months
  • Are the cashflows being used to support the top priorities? Limit low priority areas.
  • Are your leaders and staff working productively, efficiently and cooperatively on the priority areas of the business?

All of the above seeks to focus attention on the financial performance of the business to improve profits and cashflow. Keeping debt down and deposits up in an uncertain environment makes sense, but only as far as the top priorities are being met, facilitating the success of the business in its markets.

Back to Basics 3: Streamline and Focus All Systems on the Top Priorities

Critically look at the process that deliver your products and services to your best customers and ask the following questions:

  • What are your critical systems to meet top priorities?
    • Ordering, procurement, CRM, delivery, after care, website, social media, data analytics, R&D?
  • Are all of these steps necessary in the critical systems?
    • Get rid of duplication or unnecessary steps
    • Speed up processes to gain efficiency
    • Improve quality of each step to improve customer experience and to reduce costs
    • Must establish whether your customers prefer the functionality of products or the personalisation of services
  • Does each step in your processes add value to your customers?
    • Ask for customer feedback and do basic research to align the steps in your processes that align with your customers’ own priority needs and value perceptions.
    • If non-value-adding steps are found, can you cut these (quickly)?
  • Is this the easiest and cheapest way to operate your systems?
    • What are your competitors doing with their systems that may be better than you do?
    • Can you have an independent review?
  • Is the complexity of your offering adding little to customers and much to your internal complexity and costs, and increasing the likelihood of mistakes?
    • You may have to rationalise the products or services back to the priorities that customers actually want.
  • Review current pricing levels, as demand has changed as your customers may have been very much directly impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns
    • Pricing may be too high to maintain volume in your key market and customer segments.
    • Prices may be too low compared to your competitors or due to supply constraints or in the face of increasing demand.
    • The short, medium and long-term impacts on demand need to be estimated to aid the business in its future forecasts and its investment in the business in its product and service strategy going forward

Back to Basics 4: Connect with Your Stakeholders and Deepen Relationships

You need to have all of your priority stakeholders on side, be actively communicating with them, and reassuring them that your relationship is good, supportive and will deepen to benefit you both long-term. You must also convey that your business is solid and great:

  • to work for
  • in reputation
  • to buy products or services from
  • at valuing your customers
  • to supply and give credit to
  • to support with investment, debt or other funds
  • as a strategic partner
  • deserver of government funding and contracts
  • contributor to the community
  • holder and defender of solid values and behaviour
  • bastion of your industry and countries that you work in

To improve connectivity in these areas, you need to connect with all of your stakeholders on a regular basis. This will need a timetabled stakeholder connectivity plan. Relationship building will be key.

How to connect depends on the existing and target relationship and the state of mind of the recipients. For example, having empathy and taking time to listen to each other’s circumstances will build deeper and more resilient relationships to better serve all in the long term.

Getting the support of a confidential business mentor or business coach to assist with the back to basics approach can be very helpful. They may also be able to assist with other practical and strategic areas of your business.