Paul Mueller and Elizabeth Mueller
May 28, 2020
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world, forcing people to change their daily habits and lifestyles. From grocery shopping to working in an office to routine social contact, our foundation has been shaken by this virus. The disruption has been less for some, as essential and other businesses have remained open. Life for this part of our community has maintained some sense of normalcy. However, for others, the current environment has been extremely tumultuous. Front line medical and health care workers and first responders witness the impact of the pandemic on a daily and personal basis. Many hospitality workers have lost their jobs or been furloughed, uncertain when and if they will be able to go back to work. Many small businesses have had to close and may not be able to reopen when their peers and competitors resume operations. Although many businesses and employers are facing new and unprecedented challenges in the wake of this unique situation, there are several ways in which we can help ourselves and others in embracing the path toward recovery.
The impact on us as individuals is as unique and personal as we are. This means our journey back to normalcy will also be unique. We cannot assume that we are all in the same emotional place and therefore need to understand where we are in order to help ourselves and others to get back on track. The foundational change in our social environment is equivalent to our country going through the grieving process. We are all in some state of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance. All of us are in different stages depending on how significantly we have been impacted by the situation. Some of us are stuck in the early grief stages of denial and anger as we have seen our life dreams dashed by hospitalization of our loved ones, business closures, and/or unemployment. Some of us have been able to move forward to bargaining, trying to find ways to discount the reality. Others are stuck in depression over our prospects for the future. A fortunate few have been able to move forward to acceptance and can begin to think about how to put things back together as our society begins to reopen.
For us to relaunch with what the pundits call a V-shaped recovery, it is essential that we all move through the steps of grief and get to acceptance as quickly as we constructively can. Only when we collectively see a healthy path to the future can we be mutually supportive in rebuilding that future. It is important as we engage with colleagues, friends, and strangers that we do not assume that everyone else is in the same state of mind as we are. We must take the time to understand where everyone is in the grieving process and help them move through that step to the next in a healthy and positive way. Only by us all getting to some level of acceptance can we begin to relaunch our society in a way that will have near-term positive impacts.
Now that we have navigated through the shock and disbelief of this pandemic, we must turn our attention to getting back to business. While running our companies, it’s rare that we are afforded the time to take a “strategic pause” and get a good understanding of business health. We are usually trying to analyze results on the fly and implement changes and corrective actions in real-time, often resulting in inefficiencies and mistakes. As a result of the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to rethink our operating models and make some changes before we get back into the fray. We should be asking ourselves:
It’s critical to take advantage of this time to work “on the business.”
There are several ways to address the parts of your business that are not meeting your objectives. When evaluating a business process, a simple but effective approach is to ask if that process is essential to meeting these objectives. Can the process be effectively outsourced or eliminated altogether? If the process is essential, now is the time to improve it. One of the key principles for business process improvement is to simplify. The Law of Complexity states that the complexity of a process increases by the square of the number of process steps. As complexity increases, so does the opportunity for increased costs, delays, and possible mistakes. Now is the time to implement this “keep it simple” paradigm. Eliminating steps and collapsing complex processes will drive efficient performance in your business as you ramp back up.
It’s also critical to remind your staff of the Company’s belief system. Clearly communicating the long-term vision, mission, core values, and strategies will assure that people are aligned around the Company’s purpose as you enter this new normal. Focusing on what was working, remedying what needed attention before the shutdown, and reinforcing Company core principles and objectives to gain alignment will ensure a vigorous restart.
As the “ramping up process” continues, we must understand and adapt to the newly-changed environment. Things will be different, making your business’s next steps a crucial pillar. Telecommuting, distance learning, social distancing, and many things not yet identified will influence the way business is conducted going forward. Vigilance and situational awareness will be critical. Some elements of the new environment may be beneficial to our businesses; some will certainly be threats or pose risks. Observe and incorporate those things that will give you an advantage. Be a thoughtful early adopter. Understand and protect against those things that are risks but be diligent and flexible when doing so. Those who can observe, understand, and adapt will be able to accelerate their businesses in the new normal.
It will be essential to understand how your environment has changed with decreased customer demand, supply chain disruptions, and other critical business factors impacting the ability to get back to business. Haphazard responses will not suffice - you will need well-thought-out plans to accelerate your business during the aftermath of COVID-19. A first step might be to review your current strategy and test whether the assumptions on which it is based are still valid.
These are just a few of the questions business owners should answer at this point in our recovery. Keep in mind that there isn’t a well-established baseline of ‘normal’ anymore. The next steps that you and your team take will begin to create the new status quo for your company. Solutions and approaches that could have been viewed as unconventional before the shutdown may now be seen as appropriate options for moving forward. Keeping an open mind will be vital to success when paving this new path forward.
If you would like to talk further about the information in this article, please reach out.
About GaP Business Advisors
Gilbert & Pardue Business Advisors (GaP) is a Houston-based business advisory firm serving lower middle market and small business owners from coast to coast through representation for Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) and through business value-growth services such as Fractional CFO, Advisory Board, Executive Coaching, and Consulting.
Matt Gilbert and Bret Pardue established GaP to provide owners of lower middle market and small businesses – those businesses generally enjoying annual revenue of $5-$50 million – with the quality of M&A representation and value-enhancement services previously only available to middle, upper middle, and large businesses. GaP brings highly-experienced executives, sophisticated financial and marketing products, proven-effective processes, and fully-integrated expertise to every engagement. No other M&A firm serving the lower middle and small business markets provides the quality of representation and transactional expertise that we do.