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Strategy Redo: The Old Rules No Longer Apply

“A global, novel virus that keeps us contained in our homes—maybe for months—is already reorienting our relationship to government, to the outside world, even to each other. Some changes these experts expect to see in the coming months or years might feel unfamiliar or unsettling: Will nations stay closed? Will touch become taboo? What will become of restaurants? But crisis moments also present opportunity: more sophisticated and flexible use of technology, less polarization, a revived appreciation for the outdoors and life’s other simple pleasures.”
– Politico, Coronavirus will change the world permanently.

Yes, this is a crisis. But what is your company’s opportunity? What is most important RIGHT NOW is that CEOs, founders and executive management teams re-evaluate their strategy. You have this time and this opportunity, so make the most of it. The world changed overnight and is not likely to revert to pre COVID-19 anytime soon, if ever. NOW is the critical time for leaders to take a fresh look at strategy.

You should answer the following strategy-related questions:

1) How will we be relevant in a virtual world? This should address employees, hiring, culture, sales, conferences and how your brand will be heard. My advice is to think about the impact of ‘distance everything’. This means learning, hiring, selling, engagement and support.
2) What is the impact to your supply chain? Manufacturing may be relocated which should have a positive effect in the future, but what are the impacts in the interim?
3) What has changed with your customers? You should know how your customers’ business has been impacted, what their future will look like, what new products and services they need that you might be able to provide.
4) What will e-commerce look like for us post COVID-19? If you aren’t online with a direct selling channel, you will likely be left behind.
5) How do we incorporate virtual reality and mixed reality into your company? Let’s face it, Zoom meetings won’t be enough. You’ll need to get up to speed on the latest advances and how you can incorporate them into your company operations.
6) What regulatory impacts can we expect in our industry? While this is probably the fuzziest for most, it is an important consideration to walk through the anticipated impacts.
7) How will access to capital be impacted? There is still a lot money available that has to be put to use. However, investors will likely shore up existing portfolio investments first. They hold all the cards, so be prepared for a difficult journey, especially if you are early stage/pre-revenue. But the flip side is also true – low interest rates will make new acquisitions more attractive and the volatility of the capital market will steer more capital into private equity, venture capital and angel investing.
8) How can you adapt and/or form new partnerships? I was intrigued by recent analysis of a retail establishment partnering with a pharmaceutical chain to stay healthy and provide a richer shopping experience for their customers. What can you do to think outside the box of the channel you’ve been building up to now?
And, the most important question of all applies to every company in every industry:
9) How will your business change and adapt to people being more educated about viruses? This education impacts your employees and their willingness to travel; tele-health options available to employees via your health insurance policy; customers and their willingness to engage with you in person; industry conferences and speaking events where you got the word out about your brand; and a whole host of tangential issues.

Southwest Airlines recently spent the time to re-think their strategy. These are the questions they posed about their four to five year future post COVID-19: “What sort of economy will exist then? What sort of temerity will have enveloped humans? Will we have become entirely digital slaves? Will we shy away from travel — especially business travel — and tie ourselves to our homes and Zooms? Will we suddenly prefer to drive longer distances, to keep away from others?” Every company should be doing the exact same process of re-thinking strategy based on what you expect the future to look like for your industry.

Remember, if an exit strategy is your future plan, you need to act on a variety of fronts to make it profitable. M&A doesn’t just happen. It is the result of good strategy, executed well. Those that sell as a reaction won’t reap the most profitable exit.