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Riding the Second Wave
How to lead your business through lockdown
It is becoming clear that the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic is upon us and that it might be bigger than the first wave. Tighter restrictions are coming into place across the Western world. A number of countries have announced new stay at home orders.
Non essential businesses once again face the prospect of closing their doors and sending staff home. There is little certainty about when things might reopen again and how much the holiday period will be affected. Even if things do start opening up before the holidays, there is the likelihood that we might face a third or fourth wave next year and even beyond that.
It seems like the first lockdown was not a blip. For many, it might prove that the second lockdown is the last opportunity to look at their business differently. For some, it will be time to close the doors for good.
The good news is that the new norm is becoming a little more predictable. And the trends are getting clearer. Here's a look at some of them:
everything is moving online
more business is being conducted digitally and remotely
employees are increasingly working from home - at least part of the week
consumers care more about digital communication, health, wellbeing, exercise, diet, sustainability, waste and the environment - but poverty is increasing
consumers keep spending during lockdown and the economy can bounce back quickly
most countries will experience a prolonged period of recession
expect more of the same next year - until vaccines are successful and widely available (earliest 2nd half 2021)
there could be future pandemic or climate driven lockdowns
sectors that clearly benefit from lockdown include food stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, media and publishing, bookshops, gaming, music, TV and movie streaming, delivery companies, DIY companies, healthcare companies, private hospitals and practices, farming, online entertainment, tech companies and take away food specialists
sectors that clearly suffer from lockdown include travel, tourism, oil producers, physical retail, the arts, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes, hotels, resorts, venues, attractions, military and aerospace manufacturers
Not surprisingly, the biggest macro take home is that businesses that rely heavily on a physical presence and physical interaction with their their customers suffer the most and companies that do most of their business online or remotely do better.
Further, it seems that the companies that perform are those that react to the new world faster and innovate harder. This requires strong, data driven leadership and a culture that embraces innovation and change.
Fortunately there are a growing number of tools to help businesses through the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
There are various apps to help you transition to a digital and remote working world. The number of free tools for video conferencing has shot up and team meeting apps are a dime a dozen. There are a number of tools which can help physical retail outlets sell online. Restaurants and cafes can turn to highly sophisticated online takeout apps.
Most recently, Bookshop.org has opened as a way for small, independent bookshops to easily open an online storefront with all the inventory, delivery and returns handled by Bookshop (plus Gardners).
There are a number of apps, such as Crowdcast, for performers, the arts and conferences to get delivered online. The Sydney Opera house used the lockdown to convert one of their theatres into a production studio so that they can make the move from a physical venue to an arts focused production company.
The Letts Group’s incubator, Letts Incubate, is currently developing Media-as-a-Service. It will provide a new platform for content providers and arts organisations to be able to diversify their offering and income online.
It is becoming clear that no organisation can rely on a physical presence alone. You have to, at a minimum, have a hybrid physical and digital offering.
Restaurants and cafes that do not offer takeout may not survive, so too bookshops that do not sell online. It makes you think about all those venues, attractions, sports stadiums, clubs, museums, galleries, zoos, safari parks, theme parks, bars, cafes and restaurants in a different way.
The soccer world has found a way to survive without a single fan being able to buy a ticket to their stadium. They make money by selling TV rights and merchandise online. They think of themselves more as a media company than a sports franchise. More Disney than Barcelona.
The next step is for independent production companies to offer smaller clubs the ability to film games and offer them to their season ticket holders as a streaming service via the club’s website.
Most companies will need to manage cash and costs harder than ever. They will be forced to become lean and more tightly focused. Customers will have to be understood and embraced more then before. Survival mode switches in. But the key to success will be how you adapt.
Innovation and transformation have become the new currency - and in this fast changing, unpredictable world everything is up for grabs. It may prove that the boldest will do the best. Even if bold means closing shop or dumping a product line. But bold might also mean pivoting to a better place. A place that allows you to comfortably absorb the next interruption or shock.
I guess it’s time for us to step back and think about how to thrive during lockdown and not just how to survive. How to embrace digital. How to lean into the new world.
The big question we should be asking ourselves is how would we redesign our business if lockdown lasted years, not months? How could you design a profitable, sustainable business if, going forwards, lockdown was the one given?
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