Future business success will depend on many factors, CEO and iBridge founder Jennifer Cumpian highlights four actions for leaders to consider as we navigate challenging business landscapes. This article first appeared in the Austin Business Journal.
1. Collaborate and Plan for Business Success
Few businesses today exist without strong relationships with a group of suppliers, partners, customers, and service providers. We all need to focus on strengthening these relationships and promoting a collaborative approach to problem-solving. We need to be advocates for these companies, as well as for our customers and employees. How can we support each other when facing a high level of uncertainty? We can offer help in any way possible. Many people are allocating time, free of charge, to help others resolve issues related to enabling staff to work from home, find credit and make difficult choices.
While collaborating and strengthening our inner circle of suppliers, partners, customers, and service providers, I also suggest that we all conduct a thorough risk assessment of this critical group and have an action plan ready if any of these core organizations fall. The weak link in this chain could increase risks for your company.
2. Reflect and Reexamine
Your company may be facing a temporary production downturn, but do not miss opportunities to strengthen your overall operation. Focus your underutilized staff on internal processes that are less than optimal. Now is the time to improve these areas. This approach can involve company time but often minimal or no additional funds.
Establish a collaborative approach to set goals that streamline processes and ultimately provide added value for your customers. Be intentional in structuring opportunities to strengthen team relationships, particularly among members who have never experienced working from home. This situation is an opportunity for everyone to experience your company culture and purpose in reality — let it validate and strengthen your team. Do not neglect these opportunities.
The time spent reflecting and looking at your company with fresh eyes may have given you a close examination of your assets. Your list could include staff talents that you haven’t been leveraging fully, equipment that may have had limited utilization, or software licenses that you own while using a small percentage of the capability. What is the ultimate potential of these assets, and how do you maximize that
Imagine a company trying to support shelter-in-place that has a robust yet underutilized capture software platform. They may still be relying on incoming faxes going to fax machines or printed on laser printer machines in the office. In this case, the company could leverage that software license and instead send its documents to a shared drive for processing by the capture platform, ensuring its staff can work efficiently, and more importantly, safely from home without concern that faxes are not being addressed.
When was the last time you had time to focus across your company on maximizing and growing your staff’s contributions? I know job evaluations can become routine and not focused on how each person could improve the company — as opposed to limited thinking about the role. Use this time to retool and renew for your business success.
There is a truth that must be your paramount focus: this crisis will end, and when it does, we will all find that our markets have changed. In terms of your competition, some will not survive or will take a new direction. Scan your market, and be ready to step in aggressively when the time is right. The key is to look for these opportunities and be prepared to act when we have defeated this virus. As an example, after hurricanes, the organizations that move swiftly to replace lost products and services often find a permanent position in a market where they had been previously excluded.
In terms of your customers, recognize that while they will have many needs, they may well be struggling to bring back staff and reestablish operations. Now is the time to reach out with a strong, solution-focused approach to support their return to normalcy. In terms of new customers, have a realistic view of the time it will take for them to transition to you for support and services. If you can, try to offer options that minimize upfront costs.
The challenges of the virus have created an unprecedented burden both personally and professionally on all of us. We feel the anxiety of protecting our families and the heavy responsibility for our staff and customers. You may be experiencing crushing blows, but now, more than ever, your company needs leadership. It’s time to lead.
Jennifer Cumpian is the Founder and CEO of iBridge Group, which provides the latest technology to businesses and governments.