The pace of change in 2020 has accelerated in ways we have never witnessed before. Even the most agile of companies have been caught off guard as a result of the coronavirus. The forces that impact change, whether regulatory, environmental, social or political, continue to influence every aspect of operations. Business executives will be expected to keep up, and those who were concerned with staying afloat the first half of the year must now figure out how to go the distance.
Leaders who fail to adapt will risk, at best, being out of touch, and at worst, making a misstep that impacts the viability of their organization. They will need to use a multipronged strategy to adapt to the new normal. Among the strategic areas are three upon which companies must focus to move forward and thrive during these uncertain times.
Embrace digital transformation
Companies quickly rolled out digital platforms as the workforce began working from home seemingly overnight. Doing so brought forth many challenges when assessing remote work capabilities, such as bandwidth, solid internet connectivity, cybersecurity risks, hardware and software. What we learn collectively about the ability to conduct business entirely online will shape the future of the workplace for the long haul.
Moving forward, companies must have a security-focused approach and communicate clear digital expectations with employees. Information technology professionals should foster a culture of cybersecurity by implementing VPN and two-factor authentication across their organizations. As businesses leverage and increase social media efforts, it will be critical to also ramp up security efforts around such platforms. With fewer employees in the office, not many people are using fax machines or printers. In order to thrive, businesses should move quickly to conduct commerce digitally through scanning and electronic payments.
Businesses with strong IT infrastructures already have begun this digital transformation. The most forward-thinking already have begun looking to recruit from outside their normal geographic areas to bring in outside talent. Embracing a digital transformation will allow more nimble companies to be successful as the business world continues to navigate this crisis.
Develop an innovative learning culture
The world continues to experience an accelerated rate of change in conducting business. There are strategies businesses can deploy to keep pace with important regulatory and legal changes, disseminate information throughout their organization and ensure compliance.
To keep up with changing information, businesses should develop a culture where it is normal for employees to be learning rapidly, comprehending and implementing changes as they happen. Companies should also practice strategies for identifying credible information in a time of frequent misinformation and out-of-date information.
Now more than ever, businesses should remain open to new processes and procedures to stay nimble and be able to shift priorities. They can organize and delegate teams to review and develop action plans specific to certain subject matters, including coronavirus; IT; and diversity, equity and inclusion. It is critical to utilize partners and outside specialists for resources to avoid navigating such challenges alone.
A strong bench of outside experts, including, bankers, insurance agents and CPAs, can help businesses make the most of changing policies, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The next rounds of government rescue and stimulus packages certainly will be similar in the new hoops to jump through and attached strings that must be complied with.
Plan for the unexpected
We know all too well that we are not out of the woods with COVID-19. Beyond that, the social and political climate continues to be full of many unknowns, so it’s important to be prepared for them. Many companies have found it difficult to set short- and long-term strategic goals in an environment where they don’t even know what their market will look like in 90 days.
The first step is to create a business plan that can adapt to change. Companies should pivot from focusing only on financials and look at all elements of the business from a new perspective. In a time of constant change, what happened before is not necessarily a good predictor of what will happen next.
Companies must continue to conduct historical financial reporting but need to add a robust, timely and accurate financial modeling and projection process. Companies will need to keep their eye on the horizon to ensure that sources of cash outpace the uses of cash so the company will remain viable throughout the crisis. At the same time, as companies are ensuring their survival, they should be watching for opportunities to take advantage of new products, markets, or gaps caused in the competitive environment if another company is unable to survive.
A significant takeaway from the coronavirus pandemic is the reminder that we must always look to the future and expect the unexpected. We should prepare for the unknown as it pertains to financials, digital transformation, a learning culture and human resources efforts.
Businesses should continue to work closely with outside experts to ensure they have the support needed to stay in compliance and on pace. A strong, forward-looking financial approach focused on cashflow, will allow you to set critical financial metrics, provide accountable reporting and guide decision-making.
With a sound approach rooted in the understanding that change is inevitable, we can continue to evolve and adapt through innovative thinking, learning and communication.