Staying the course with your business's strategy in the face of uncertainty
When a crisis occurs, making the right choices for your business is essential. This means having a strategy that will allow you to survive and thrive in difficult times. The unexpected nature of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in severely impacted economies across the globe. It forced large and small businesses, almost overnight, to question the strength of their business strategies as it demanded industry norms and consumer preferences to shift at an unprecedented rate. Not everyone coped, and now that the dust has finally settled and we’ve attained this post-pandemic normality– we find it quite telling to see what the most successful businesses during the pandemic have had in common.
At Step Advisory, we have built an understanding and appreciation for what it takes to develop a business strategy that can weather any storm. Like every business, the pandemic put our strategy to the test. However, we’re standing on the other side now, grateful to have weathered the storm. Our strategy, and our clients’ strategies, are shaped on the understanding that there are three fundamental tenets to ensure that your business strategy positions you perfectly to crest the wave of the next crisis and land successfully on the other side. These tenets are:
The key to success? Create a differentiated, robust identity for your business and seldom deviate
1. Know who you are
A good business strategy is understanding what differentiates you and taking every opportunity to drive home that fact. Differentiation lies in how an organisation executes its strategy, not the strategy itself. What does this mean? A well-developed purpose and vision statement acts as a strategic North Star, guiding an organisation’s future ambitions; through execution principles, a business crafts its identity and differentiates itself in the market. In other words, for your business strategy to be crisis-ready, it is critical to clearly understand how you authentically execute against strategy and to seldom deviate from this.
James Allen, a leading global corporate strategist and co-author of Repeatability, calls these execution principles non-negotiables. Allen suggests that in a typical organisation, only 40% of employees can identify its strategy and execution principles, while successful organisations embed these non-negotiables into critical, front-line routines. This embedding within the front-line ensures that strategies succeed where they are most likely to fail – with customers.
An excellent example of non-negotiables proving to be a distinct point of difference from competition is Apple. Whilst Apple’s overarching vision “to make the best products on earth, and to leave the world better than we found it” is not too dissimilar from competitor Samsung’s “to inspire the world with our innovative technologies, products, and design that enrich people’s lives and contribute to social prosperity by creating a new future”. Apple has succeeded in ensuring that its non-negotiable of “insanely great products” lies front and centre of their employees and, thus, their customers.
This employee-wide understanding of a company’s strategy and execution principles is fundamental in times of crisis. The ability to continue providing a consistent and pleasing customer experience in times of uncertainty will help your organisation retain its base, especially if developed strategies are robust.
2. Make your strategy robust
As your organisation faces an accelerating and ever-changing operating landscape, your business strategies must remain robust and capable of thriving across any number of possible environments.
A widely relevant and used example: In 2015, very few, if any, organisations planning 5-10 years ahead would have foreseen a global pandemic (and no one would have expected them to either). However, whilst a pandemic acting as a change agent may have been unforeseen, operating landscape changes, such as ways of working and customer interactions, should have been accounted for in organisations’ strategic scenarios had they been developed enough. How? Well, digital-only transactions, closed international borders, and stagnant local economic growth are all typical considerations when undertaking a scenario analysis and planning exercise.
For an organisation to succeed in this world of uncertainty, moving from crisis to pandemic and back again, it is thus vitally important to ensure that developed business strategies and execution principles are robust enough to succeed across divergent yet equally likely scenarios. Similarly to how businesses have developed omnichannel sales methods, your organisation should create a powerful omni-scenario strategy.
3. Know your clients
Lastly, a crisis is as likely to shift your organisation’s operating environment as it will your customers’ preferences.
For your business strategies to succeed in a crisis, or any changing environment, there must be fast-acting feedback and execution mechanisms to ensure that customers’ shifting preferences are understood so that your organisation can quickly cater to these in a manner that customers desire. Globally, organisations are turning to measures like Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to assist in efforts to continuously mould products, services and interactions to customers’ ever-changing preferences.
A crisis is nothing but an opportunity.
Whether it is a global pandemic, technological advancement, or geo-political instability, operating environments globally are likely to remain in a state of flux for the foreseeable future.
Organisations that are comfortable (at every level of the organisation) in their business strategy, their ambitions, and what makes them authentically different will continue to succeed and grow, despite changing environments. Couple this with a robust approach to developing strategies, considering numerous future scenarios (based on industry and economic drivers), and your organisation will thrive through any crisis.