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How to Pivot Your Business and Survive. Right Now.

Running A Business

Unprecedented times require unprecedented responses. Hawaii companies and their people are facing rare challenges and there is little indication it will end soon.

Leaders at the helm of businesses must move fast to assess the current conditions of their market and customer, see clearly new opportunities, pivot the strategy, engage their leaders, and, above all else, move into decisive and iterative action.

Survival depends upon this.

At the heart of this plan is raw speed, decisiveness, and action. Details matter, but this is not the time for perfect information and analysis. Nor is this the time for committees, task forces, research, and organizational alignment on decisions. CEOs and their teams must dive in, see quick patterns, and make moves. Now.

Survival depends on speed.

But how do you begin as a CEO of, let’s say, a chain of restaurants, a thriving law firm, dental office group, or small hotel chain?

In one week, a CEO can take the following 7 immediate steps to position their companies to endure this crisis.

Step 1: Get your arms and legs around your customers and market situation.

Know what your customers and non-customers are planning.

  • What is the health of your primary market and customer? Are they spending money right now? Are they pulling back moving the next 3 months? How are they struggling?
  • Do customers believe they can survive? When will they recover? Will they be going out of business?
  • Are there any new customers or market opportunities that are emerging?
  • Who are your most valuable customers? What can you do to increase value to them, create loyalty, and new revenue streams?
  • Are there customers who are draining value and driving costs for your company? How can you optimize? Exit them?
Step 2: Examine your immediate and mid-term financial health.

Attack some key questions to assess the situation and the severity of the challenge in front of the company.

  • What is your cash position for the next 3, 6, and 9 months under worst-case conditions?
  • What is the condition of your sales pipeline and forecasted revenue streams?
  • What are your payroll and other benefits costing you?
  • What value are you getting from current marketing efforts? What is the state of debts owed?
Step 3: Assemble a >70% view of the current condition of the company.

Bring together your top thinkers on the leadership team including the person who heads finance and people. Get into a room. Don’t leave until you have a clear assessment of the problem. Move fast and bring together a 70% point of view of your market and customer situation alongside your financial and operations condition.

Draft your thinking on adjustments you must make now. What profitable customers can you build? Are there new products or services you can furnish to the existing market? Are there new, more attractive markets adjacent to you? Is there a new way to channel your offering such as online and home delivery? What changes can you make to operations today and cut costs while improving value to valuable customers? What initiatives and investments can be postponed? Abandoned?

Step 4: Get objective input that pushes you to get aggressive and innovate now.

Big companies have boards. Smaller companies have advisors, experienced friends, peer company leaders, some investors and board members, and a network of professionals who can provide perspective and expertise to push back and pressure test your initial assessment and planned moves. Enroll them now and ask for their honest, detached point-of-view that challenges your assumptions, your assessment, and your initial 70% plan. Get them to challenge attachments to precious, legacy operations and practices, and make bolder moves. Now is not the time to hold onto the past.

Step 5: Integrate the feedback. Build the 80% plan. And then pivot. Now.

We began this short piece with urgency and action. In this step, you must quickly integrate the feedback of the “board” on your initial thinking, move it to an 80% answer and move fast now.

There is no “I need to get aligned with the people in . . . .” There is no “we should really do some research to make sure that is truly an opportunity.” There is no “Let’s set up a bunch of project teams to diligently plan and walk these moves forward.” There is some of this but, essentially, this is a top-down lead plan for now.

There is only one word – Act.

Step 6: Communicate and engage your leaders as you sprint ahead.

Executives lead this effort but they must bring in their leaders who know the nuances of the operation to move even faster and land on the other side. They can identify mid-term innovations that should be protected so that the company is even stronger on the other side of this crisis. But again, this isn’t about committees and big meetings and holding on to what is precious. It's bringing in the best of your team to sharpen and drive the plan forward now without losing sight that we will emerge from this and want to be in a position to succeed there and then.

The executives and these first rung leaders must over-communicate. “We are in the fight for our lives. We’re repositioning our company. We’re making fast changes. Not tomorrow. Not in 2 months. Today, and we are doing this to survive today and, on the other side, thrive for the long term and continue to build a great company and place to work.”

The message – whatever it may be – should be clear and must be shared with the broader organization. Teams must be engaged in this dialog and mobilized to take action, bringing forward a constant flow of solutions that transform the company.

Step 7: Move, Measure, Modify – the “3 Ms” of Transformation.

The 80-90% plan is not the final answer. You have to move, measure, and modify. Move now with the plan you have today. This is your starting point. Measure your moves, however. Huddle each day in short meetings focused on the impact of the moves. What happened? What was the miss? Why? What was learned? Modify the approach where you missed and where you hit. Strengthen what is working. Fix what was missed or kill it on the spot so you don’t waste time and money. Move again. Measure again. Modify again, until you have the flywheel flying and momentum, or a foundation underfoot at least.

Many companies in Hawaii can survive the impacts of COVID-19 if they take action this week and commit to change now. Some of us will get to the other side with our companies. Sadly, some companies may not get to the other side of this. If you follow the above steps and get it done in less than 7 days, your chances for success improve.

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