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We still have businesses to run and mouths to feed and the stakes are rapidly escalating. People are now talking about back to normal... in SEPTEMBER?? So, what now?

‘Adapt and Survive’ is the old saying. How are we as business owners going to do that: rapidly and effectively? Some of us have spent the first few weeks rapidly mugging up on various teleconferencing packages and have pleasantly surprised ourselves that we have managed to dial into meetings and maintain some degree of human interaction. We have even discussed and agreed to do some stuff at some point. We’ve also either explicitly or implicitly wondered what were the point of offices anymore.

Others have simply had to close, as they have had to previously rely on direct contact with their customers. So might this be the new normal?

When we did our last SWOT analysis (we did, didn’t we?), how many of us put ‘pandemic’ and ‘social-distancing’ as Threats? And amongst the bravest, Opportunity? To have an enduring business model for the future we now surely have to consider these, given that the experts warn that the virus may either mutate or revisit us in future? Surely we ALL have to sit down and do some serious thinking about this.

There are many social and physical implications, but in terms of profit and loss, we do need to start thinking about how we could function and maybe even prosper in a virtual world where we are not allowed to be in physical proximity to others – possibly for an extended time. And how does that then become a viable business model, and a route map or strategic response? And how does that then translate into the tactics and everyday actions that we now need to do to keep going. Is it a nudge, a deviation or a complete reinvention of the way we do business?

For many of us this is a frightening thought, not least because we are all creatures of habit to a point. But it looks like it’s not a temporary measure. It could be a regular feature of life for some time to come. So how do we respond?

We go back to basics. I mentioned the term ‘business model’ above: how we actually transact business. For many, it just happens. Which is fine if we are bumbling along with life as usual. When the wheels fly off, we struggle to unpick what we do, with whom, how and maybe even why?? We can’t get raw material supplies, our sub-contractors have gone AWOL, our staff are not capable of working remotely (because we never thought it worthwhile to give them a fancy laptop or training), and we can’t even physically get in front of our customers anyway.

Maybe then it’s time to plot all this out on a Business Canvas? This is a really visual and flexible way of putting down on paper all the bits of the jigsaw that makes you do what you do. It splits into nine specific segments, and it can be used to look at how you service a particular customer segment, maybe a whole sector or channel or even the complete business. Your choice.

Maybe start small with specific segments or types of customers: then look at what you do internally: aspects like what you do, what you need to do it (resources), who else you depend upon (key partners), and your costs. On the other side, map your customers, how you reach them and do business - and where that happens. Then look at how much and through what mechanisms cash comes into your business. A really useful canvas is available at strategyzer along with other resources.

I regularly use this to help businesses unpick what they’re doing and to help them innovate, progress, maybe transform. Today, all this looks rather superficial as a lot of the projects have been relatively ‘optional’ while the core business chugs along nicely. It all looks rather more necessary now!

Certainly it has challenged me, as a person who relishes the face to face contact of things, to reset what I need to do in order to adapt and survive and I’ll be spending this weekend not teaching the Canvas, but doing it…for real! If you are in the same boat, maybe this will help you too?

Wishing all readers well in responding to all this. Let’s stick together and help each other where we can.

By Mark Bosworth, Bosworth Consultancy Ltd,
Delivery partner