Positioning your business post lockdown
What can you do to best position yourself?
There’s no doubt that, so far, New Zealand has fared a lot better than many other countries in dealing with Covid-19. However, there’s also no doubt that life, and business, is going to look significantly different for some time to come.
Even as we move into Alert Level 1, we've still got a ways to go, so you need to put in the groundwork now in order to best position yourself for what’s to come. But how do you prepare for uncertainty? Here are some thoughts.
Where are we heading? The phases of recovery
At the time of writing, NZ is just transitioning into Alert Level 1. While we can’t predict if NZ will continue to move between the different alert levels, in his recent Trade Me Jobs’ webinar, economist Shamubeel Eaqub defined three distinct phases in our country’s journey post lockdown.
Understanding your business, and managing its cashflow, is crucial during uncertain times.
1. Before a vaccine is found
The health and economic impacts of Covid-19 are inextricably linked, in particular with relation to our borders.
Because the Government has been able to pursue an elimination strategy with the virus that hasn’t worked in other countries, it’s likely that strict border measures will remain in place until a vaccine is found. After all, there's no point in stamping it out here just to open the gates to travel and allow it back in. Best guess timeframes on this medical milestone are in the 12 to 18 month bracket.
Among the key impacts of this phase will be a significantly reduced tourism sector and changes to global supply chains as countries are more careful about what they import and export.
Importantly, Shamubeel noted that NZ’s exports (especially food) will be relatively immune, although we might struggle to import some goods due to border closures and increased challenges to transport and logistics.
2. Once a vaccine is found
Even once a vaccine is found, Kiwi business leaders should be very cash conscious.
This is because the economy is going to be substantially smaller than it was pre-Covid. However, New Zealand is likely to be in a better economic position compared to many of our trading partners because our elimination policy means we’re unlikely to have to fight waves of recurring infection.
3. Looking ahead
Covid-19 has caused suffering and heartbreak for many across the globe, and it’s important that we, as a species, learn the lessons and make the ‘new normal’ better than what came before.
In particular, many are predicting improvements to both social and physical infrastructure. For example, it's hard to imagine welfare systems that have been pushed to the limit due to unprecedented levels of deprivation continuing unaltered.
What’s more, the decline of airlines, together with the forced adoption of communication technologies, points to less travel in future – especially for business.
All of this means there’s space for new ideas and businesses to spring up. After all, companies such as Uber and Airbnb were both born around the start of the GFC – both promoting the sharing economy at a time where people had less disposable income to buy outright. Now’s the time to be positioning yourself for where you think your future growth areas will lie.
As tough as Covid-19 has been and will be, its aftermath will leave space for new ideas and businesses to spring up.
How can you prepare for recovery?
1. Continue to manage your cash flow
Understanding your business and its cash flow is vital for survival and recovery. And this importance will not wane once for months to come. Shamubeel recommended that businesses prepare for two “lean years” – so think about what size your organisation needs to be,what resources you should prioritise and how you can cut fixed costs.
2. Think about your position in the market
The businesses that will survive Covid-19 will be those who have worked out how they can outcompete their rivals, and pivoted to exploit these differentiators. So take stock, and look where you can add the most value.
Integral to this is generating goodwill among your customers and partners. People remember how businesses behave during tough times, repay generosity with loyalty and punish anything they view as exploitative. Going above and beyond to help your network will pay dividends when they’re in a better position.
Look for ways to help your partners and customers – you'll reap the rewards of their goodwill in the years to come.
3. Invest in yourself, your staff and the future of your business
We’ve all seen how crucial national leadership and communication are during a crisis. The same is true for business leaders. As an owner or manager, there’s never been a better time to work on soft skills like communication and leadership – especially when running a remote office. These capabilities will continue to serve you well you as your company navigates the coming years,
Equipping your staff should be another top priority. During uncertain patches, you need to retain top performers and those who understand the intricacies of your operation, so show you value their professional and personal growth. As well as role specific upskilling, consider training employees in agile working methodologies. This will allow them to adapt more easily as the landscape continues to move quickly.
To permit your business to move with the times, you also need to make the right investments. This can be scary when the market isn’t settled, but Shamubeel encouraged leaders to think about the value of investing in tech and capital once NZ moves into the post vaccine period.
4. Build in shock-absorption as you move forwards
Covid-19 has delivered the business world an unprecedented shock, so it’s vital that you plan for your post-Covid company to be more resilient than it was before. This involves being flexible, and having processes in place you can follow when the unexpected strikes.
For example, many organisations struggled to adapt to remote working when New Zealand moved suddenly into Level 3 and then Level 4. Should this happen in future, you should now have a plan in place to minimise the disruption of such changes.
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