Take time now to prepare for an uncertain tomorrow
By Stephen Hoops
This year has reshaped how businesses view their daily operations and future planning. Many businesses have suffered due to missing or incomplete continuity plans created from a mindset of “checking a box,” as opposed to tried and true plans with an eye to the realities of activating them. Many businesses did not account for a complete shutdown that requires operations in a virtual or remote environment.
For business owners or operators, the remainder of 2020 should not just be about driving a return to profitability, identifying revenue opportunities, and ensuring stability in your P&L. Identifying what worked and what did not during these trying times is one of the most critical things you can do for your customers, employees, and shareholders. We have experienced one of the greatest viability tests for Continuity of Business plans that could be imagined. We must embrace data collected over the past five months and use it to reshape our business, update our continuity plans, and plan for a future that may require us to be nimble and have multiple options at our fingertips.
There are five major items all businesses should evaluate immediately:
- Review & Update Continuity of Business plan as soon as possible
- Analyze Your Current Product And / Or Service Offerings
- Kick the Tires on Your Marketing Model
- Optimize Staffing Models
- Evaluate Your Operating Expenses
Now more than ever, it is critical to review your Continuity of Business plans and evaluate what worked well, what did not work well and what was missing. There may be a second round of impacts later in 2020 and early 2021. COVID-19, an election year and economic uncertainty adds many variables we need to account for when planning. You should work with your internal teams, partners and potentially engage an external resource that specializes in operational reviews. Ensuring our business is prepared for the future is our most critical job as leaders. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Did I have downtime, higher customer response times or any gap in coverage at the start of the quarantine?
- Was this due to IT concerns with connectivity of employees, increased customer requests, general IT issues or staffing concerns?
- Have I identified and addressed those issues that caused any concerns during the early and current stages of the Quarantine / Pandemic?
Businesses will need to evaluate their products or services to identify opportunities and/or shortcomings that may occur as the world evolves over the next 6-12 months. From data we have gathered and evaluated, we see a distinct shift in preferences for consumers on their engagements. The average age of digital solution users has increased drastically; older Americans have learned to use newer technology to meet their needs. As the ease and convenience of solutions for businesses and consumers evolve, it is critical that each business evolves to ensure they are not left behind and missing opportunities. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Did my product and services have a shift in consumer appetite and consumer confidence over the last six months?
- Do I understand fully what impacts occurred that was due to closer of the country versus a shift in consumer needs?
- Can I adapt my products to be more versatile and technology driven?
- Is there an opportunity to expand my product or services to meet new and evolving needs of my consumers?
- Is there an opportunity to expand my area of influence and customer base?
The evolution of how consumers and businesses engage with product and service providers, along with an understanding of how your marketing model is structured, will be imperative to your future success. Understanding your engagement model with customers through your marketing channels will allow you to determine if a shift of marketing mix is necessary to optimize your response to marketing materials. This includes quickly kicking the tires on your channel optimization strategies, response models, evaluating trends over the past 12 months and aligning your marketing strategies to your corporate budget and goals.
- How has my marketing model been developed and maintained in the past?
- Does it rely on direct data from consumer responses?
- Do I understand how to navigate the information and data collected during the quarantine? Am I able to leverage that data to design assumptions as my target area evolves over the next 6-9 months?
- Do I need to redesign my Targeted Channels (e.g., digital, mail, television, radio), based on the “new normal” in consumer engagements?
- Am I confident whether my business will return to normal or need adjustments?
Many businesses are now evaluating how to evolve their staffing approach for each department. They are re-evaluating their need for a high “in-the-office” presence for many departments. Most notably, the ability for several call-centers to adapt quickly to the needs over the past five months have led many businesses to consider a hybrid model that will balance remote workers and in office work staff. Benefits include efficiency gains, reduced commutes for employees and the ability to quickly address absences. As such, we may see deep reductions in commercial real estate needs. This also comes along with increased demand for cloud technology and staffing software, but the overall efficiency and potential cost savings is worth evaluating. The learnings over the last five months could potentially have significant impacts to how we view corporate structures moving forward.
- Was my human capital strategy prior to the quarantine a strict “in the office” model, versus “remote” or a hybrid?
- What were the benefits and shortcomings of my human capital model during the previous six months?
- Is there an opportunity to adjust my operating model to prepare for the future, optimize my expenses and ultimately improve my margins?
- What have I learned about my hiring practices, staffing models and management team?
As businesses looking to enhance and improve their landscape during the global pandemic, national economic trends, and political outlook, this is a perfect time to address overall operating expenses. Planning for the full reopening, enhanced Continuity of Business plans, improved marketing models and potentially evolving products and services will allow us to effectively navigate these waters to prosper in these uncertain times, while helping our customers effectively and efficiently.
Stephen Hoops is the president and CEO of Newark-based Predictive Analytics Group, which specializes in management consulting, operational efficiencies, data management, business analytics, financial planning & analysis, marketing, and model development (including machine learning).