September | October 2020
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“EVERY FIGHTER HAS A PLAN UNTIL they get hit in the mouth.” This statement pretty much captures our collective year. It’s appropriate that the source of that quote is Mike Tyson, who had 44 knockouts in his 58 heavyweight fights, since it feels like we just got clocked with a big Mike Tyson haymaker in 2020. Everyone feels the effects; it’s how we react to the adversity that will define the next year and beyond. Some will be flattened on the mat, others will plow ahead with plans unchanged, and some will throw the entire plan out and just flail away. Perhaps the most successful will take a standing eight count, stabilize, clear their heads and adjust the plan. Resilience, balance and nimbleness will replace strict adherence to a set plan.
Resilience is almost a given for any business that has come this far into the pandemic. Managing the short-term emergencies in the first half of the year favored those who were prepared (cash reserves, diversified revenue streams) and, frankly, somewhat lucky (no recent risky expansions or large debt). Getting off the mat and transitioning beyond life support is coming at us all fast, which will offer opportunities for companies that are both balanced and nimble.
Balance comes from having core strength, meaning consistent business values and competencies. Business values, such as providing quality products and services—and caring for the health of employees, customers and the supply chain—are not subject to market whims. Values make up the foundation that allows businesses to adjust quickly to new opportunities without straying too far from the things that made them successful in the first place.
Customer habits have changed quickly, as have employee and production systems and supply chain processes, and a significant share of those changes will be long lasting. Yet I don’t foresee that overall coffee consumption will radically change over the next couple of years. Coffee is still an affordable luxury (or necessity) and is rebounding faster than many other nonessential, bigger ticket markets. Clearly, online ordering, delivery and home preparation are opportunities, and I expect cafes will be among the first businesses to figure out how to safely accommodate customers in person.
There are a couple of keys to setting up a nimble business that can recognize and benefit from new opportunities. First, all businesses are training businesses—ever more so now. There will be new processes for existing employees and an influx of new employees, as well. The better employees are enabled, the better they will understand and embrace new opportunities.
Second, constant interaction with employees, customers and suppliers will enable businesses to more quickly identify and react to trends and issues. This needs to be a conscious and practiced activity, as it is all too easy for physical distance to turn into isolation.
Finally, credibility will be more important then ever. Customers, employees and suppliers will reward companies they trust. In an environment with so much uncertainty, trust developed through reliable service, reliable delivery and reliable business practices will provide the relationships that are nimble (and resilient) enough to identify and take advantage of market changes ahead of the competition.
I truly believe the next year will be positive, with doors opening literally and figuratively. The best companies will be steady, clear-headed and ready to take advantage.