While companies around the globe are thinking about how to restart normal operations, the initial focus will undoubtedly be tactical. Forward-looking leadership teams will realize that now is the time to re-think their company’s business strategy to maximize chances for success over the intermediate to longer term.
It is likely that strategic plans established during the record global economic expansion will no longer apply in a post-pandemic environment. At the very least, financial projections outlined in those plans are no longer realistic. But the challenge is not limited to making better forecasts — the ground has shifted fundamentally for many businesses. Some customers and suppliers will recover slowly, others not at all. Industrial ecosystems have been disrupted across the globe. Business strategies will need to adjust — and quickly.
So where to start? Simply stated, strategy is about choices: what is the company all about and why do you exist? Where do you choose to offer your products and services, and to whom? Why? What are those products and services, and what business models do you employ? Think of these questions as links in a chain, and let’s consider each in turn.
What are your goals and aspirations?
Is your fundamental mission still intact? Has your definition of success changed? Perhaps not, but there is a chance that you will need to re-scope these for the new environment. After assessing where you choose to compete and how you will win in target markets (see below), you might well determine that an adjustment is necessary. You may need to raise your sights, or narrow them. If you have not had clear company aspirations, mission or vision, now is the time to develop that clarity.
Where to compete?
“Where” is not only about geography, but also about customer segments and sales channels. This is an arena where many companies will want to make modifications. Are some types of customers that you currently serve across markets globally going to be different in the future? Will the market demand be different from historical trends? Will there be dramatic swings necessitating focus on certain markets and/or customers and not others? Will the jobs change that customers perform with your products and services? Will new market opportunities present themselves that were not apparent before? Is there an opportunity to build market share by countering competitors’ moves and filling voids in markets where they choose not to focus? Very likely, the answer to some of these questions is a resounding, “yes”.
By clearly articulating the specific markets and their respective customers and then prioritizing their relative attractiveness and the capability of the company to serve these markets, the result is a very targeted understanding of where the company should (and should not) compete. For example, your products or services may remain the same, but prioritized geographies may need to change, or your channels may need to evolve to accommodate more business-at-a-distance.
How to win?
Once you understand where to compete, the next step is to determine how to do so in each selected market. Will you need to rethink the appropriateness of the products and services that you provide for those markets as determined above? Will different products and/or services be required? Could business models need to change? Do value propositions need redefinition? Will the company’s production assets (supply chains, factories, etc.) need to be reconfigured? How might the organization structure or operating model need to evolve?
These strategy elements are interdependent — when one changes, others may become misaligned or inconsistent. By answering these questions for each defined market, you provide strategic clarity. Most likely, some of these elements have changed. This necessitates a thoughtful review of your business strategy.
At this crucial moment — how strong is your strategic plan? Returning to the metaphor above, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This pandemic is a unique and unprecedented disruption that has left no individual or company unaffected. Your future success will depend upon how you respond. Companies that realize this, take the time to fortify these links, and make appropriate modifications to their strategic plans will be the ones that win in tomorrow’s marketplace.