Lets face it, there’s not a lot of good going to come out of the Corona crisis, but it’s not quite all bad news. There’s even an up-side to self-isolation. So make the most of those chinks of light.

There’s a lot of speculation about the impact of Covid19 on businesses, but a most of this is pure guesswork. So, let’s start by confirming what we know for sure.

The Corona crisis so far

For a start this isn’t going to be a short-term affair. The immediate impact may last for a matter of months, but much of the Corona crisis fall-out will be felt in years to come and it will bring about some permanent changes to our way of life and ways of doing business.

Many businesses will fold. In many cases this will be simply because they can’t sustain the slow down, or in many cases complete shut down we are facing. Obviously, because employers will be obliged to pay the salaries of their employees even though they won’t be doing anything cash-flow will be a big concern and in this respect digital businesses will have a tremendous advantage. Digital businesses will also have an edge because many, if not all areas of their organisation can operate without people – machines don’t have to go into isolation.

The counter to this, of course, is that businesses that haven’t transformed will be lucky to survive. This is definitely where the reality of business transformation will become clear to business leaders who haven’t been pushing the transformation agenda for the past few years. The penny should also drop for those who have been deluding themselves that they have been transforming when in fact all they have been doing is digitising an existing model.

With retailers shutting up their high street stores you might expect a growth in on-line retailing. Already, we’ve seen evidence of this in the reports from retailers like Kingfisher in the UK, but this could be short-lived. Who is to say how the inability to bring home an income will impact on the habits of consumer who are self employed or laid off as a result of the wider impact of the shut-down? 

The other fact we all have to bear in mind is that small businesses have an advantage over their larger competitors because they have greater flexibility, so, in a glass-half-full kind of way small businesses could take the view that their flexibility gives them an opportunity to gain ground on their bigger competitors. Unless they are digital, big firms will be comparatively slow to respond to the continually changing situation and the scale of liabilities will be greater too.

So, what should you be doing while we are all in limbo?

It will be a rare business that manages to achieve any kind of growth while we are going through this Corona crisis. In fact, for most businesses it’s going to be a question of survival, but even for those that pull through there will still be challenges to face.

You might expect an expression of relief among consumers and businesses once restrictions are lifted, but don’t think for a moment this will mean business as usual. A lot of things will change, confidence will be shaken, disposable income will be short and habits irreversibly changed. One thing is for certain though, there will be a rush by businesses to capitalise on any opportunities that emerge and if you are not ready to compete you may still fold. So, you need to use this time wisely.

Here are five things every senior executive should be doing while we are in lock-down.

1 – Research your competition

Use your Corona crisis down-time to get to know your competitors better. It never ceases to amaze me that CEOs of businesses I talk to rarely visit the websites of their competitors. Your sales and marketing executives should have kept you in the picture anyway, but there’s no substitute for first-hand experience so, use this opportunity to visit their website and social media. 

You may be surprised at how they represent their proposition and you could pick up a few ideas. At worst you will reassure yourself that you are staying ahead. 

Get your digital agency or SEO people to give you a list of key search terms that bring visitors to your own and your competitors sites and search these terms yourself to see what they reveal. You may well find new, emerging competitors you weren’t aware of.

2 – Research new tools

One aspect of digital marketing involves creating an automated sales funnels. This usually takes the form of a series of automated e-mails triggered by your own actions. The starting point for this could be when you download a report or free asset, visit a blog or read an article, or if you request more information about a product or service. Try doing some of these things on your competitors’ sites and even the sites of businesses in other sectors to get a feel for how it works and the different approaches organisations take.

Platforms like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor that marketers use to build these pipelines have free versions so try a few out for yourself. Use their tutorials to learn the basics for yourself. Gain an understanding of the technologies you hear talk of around the office.

3 – Read

I can’t emphasise enough the importance of staying abreast of thinking and innovations, not only in your own sector but in business generally, but I know most of us are usually too busy with the day-to-day of running your own show to find the time to sit down with a book. Now is your chance to bring yourself up-to-date.

I’ve created a reading list for anyone who is interested. You can download it here, but you should pay a visit to Amazon and run a few searches for yourself. Think of all those times someone has mentioned a business theory, philosophy, person or technology that you weren’t familiar with and find books and on-line articles that will explain what it’s all about.

4 – Update your LinkedIn profile

Another thing that surprises me is how many business leaders neglect their LinkedIn profile. As a figurehead of your organisation you owe it to the business to communicate with investors, employees, suppliers, partners, customers and prospects and there is no better way to do this than on LinkedIn.

If you aren’t sure what constitutes a good profile there are plenty of LinkedIn consultants out there who will help you out, but you could make a start by searching the profiles of your counterparts in other organisations.

You should also make sure your marketing people are managing your business page. Use down-time to bring it up to date with new content and a fresh new text.

Spend some time making new connections. Learn from history’s mistakes and avoid silos. In the digital economy innovation is everything and that only happens when there’s cross-fertilisation of ideas. In the US the Silicon Valley start-ups shared people and thinking and took the initiative away from the Boston establishment who saw other players as the enemy.

Make a list of businesses and business leaders you admire in your sector and others and reach out to them on LinkedIn. A great way to do this is to create a “pod” and invite them to join in. Alternatively you can create a group. It doesn’t even have to be on LinkedIn. I once created a forum for developers to share ideas. It had its own website. My objective was to flush out movers and shakers and build relationships with them that would help with new initiatives. You should do the same.

5 – Create your post Corona crisis re-boot strategy

We can’t guess how quickly things will take off after the crisis, but we do know for a business to avoid that second wave of fatalities it has to be at the front of the field. You need a plan.

Use the opportunity now to work up a range of strategies with your management team. You can still video conference even if you are in isolation. Brainstorm ideas and scenarios, delegate the preparation and get everything lined up for your big push. Apart from giving you the edge it will keep your team engaged and motivated.

The next few months are going to be tough for all of us, but the biggest mistake you could make is to take the view there’s nothing you can do to make things better. So, start planning your future now. If you don’t you may not have one!

Of course this isn’t by any means everything you could be doing and if you find you have even more time on your hands I’ll be happy to give you a few more projects to get stuck into, but whatever you do, don’t do nothing.

Phil Darby
March 17, 2020

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