At Start Co. we work with startups, small businesses and nonprofit organizations by taking them through an entrepreneurial building process that reinforces and sharpens business and operational performance. Our process is rooted in the fundamentals of first and foremost delivering what the customer or client needs. In these rapidly shifting times all organizations including ours are forced to revisit everything in our operation; most importantly we all must revisit clients and service areas, conducting client discovery asking our clients or potential clients about four key areas critical to success. We all must do that now and immediately. We need to ask this of ourselves and client bases:
- Problem: Is the problem you believe you are working to solve, as painful or significant to your clients as you believe? Is it relevant now and will it be in the future?
- Solution: Are the features of your solution in line with the needs your clients are seeking to have solved?
- Go to Market Strategy: Are the marketing and engagement channels you are using the best ones to use in the present day? Are you able to use them in a way that fits into today’s behavior of your customer so that they are better able to receive your products and services?
Overnight, COVID-19 put all businesses and nonprofit organizations in a state of uncertainty, one where we have to reflect and question everything. Now is the best time to go back to discovery and just talk to your clients and partners because it will help you identify what their priorities are, if anything has changed, and what their new behavior is. The added benefit is that during periods of uncertainty your clients and partners and you may also find comfort and hope in times where fear and uncertainty can easily creep in.
We have spoken to about 75 businesses in the last 4 months, and most all have found themselves addressing real and perceived challenges in a haphazard and superficial manner. Similar to nonprofit organizations, many are lacking a process, tried and true, for dealing with the problems at hand and most all are doing it in silos, alone.
If you are ready to switch your modality and are looking to prepare your business for the short term strain as well as the new market that we are all going to have in the long run once this passes, then it’s time to get back to fundamentals. You are going to have to go talk to your clients and partners. Take the time and make 10 quick calls. Based on this feedback, it will give you confidence or make you aware of a previously hidden threat; both are critical before investing time and money into an adapted strategy. At the same time we must explore the things we have been telling ourselves over the last many years — all the things that we may have been putting off that now can no longer be ignored: technology, innovation, processes and systems with scale, creative partnerships, etc. — and yes, cuts and other operational changes. These are the things that may have not been prioritized, but they are also the things that would make our lives a little easier right now. We are all out of excuses for the changes that need to be made.
Forecasting for Our New Futures
We all had a budget for the year. Those assumptions are wrong now and we must revisit our budgets to see what even makes sense. Even if our budgets make sense, you will probably find that your assumptions for delivering your services and receiving payment may be changed in the current environment. The same goes for operations: critical components like your human capital processes and systems, etc. may not function as you planned because of hard decisions, or adaptations, you are making or will make. You must review these things and rethink to stay ahead of the curve — as hard as that may seem it is crucial right now that we all stay steps, days, weeks, and months ahead of the challenges ahead. There are future impacts to your organization that are coming a few months down the road; you must try your best to get ahead of it.
Normally, a decline into a recession takes place over a 6 month or so period. What’s different now is that a recession has arrived in the fastest manner in modern history, so the normal precautions that may have been in place may have to be revisited to make sure they are in place immediately. We tend to get stuck in the weeds of survival — heads down to deal with the crisis of today. But while we are doing that, we must also rise up and take a macro look at what could be coming down the road. We have to talk to our clients and partners, rethink and redesign services, and adjust our assumptions and therefore our service models if we are to ride things out — and maybe if we are lucky and focused just possibly switch from survival mode to thrive mode.
We have a toolkit that is always freely available to help you think through all aspects of your business. Here below we have highlighted a couple of items listed that would be particularly relevant today to review and apply to your company. You must think through how relevant you still are with everything going on, and you have fallen off the priority list for your customers, how do you get back on.
Items of note for existing agencies
- Self Assessment
- Discovery Sections
We are all being forced to make some guesses on where the country and our economy will be in a month, 3 months, 6 months, etc. The guesses aren’t what is important — stepping back to think is. We all can take a step back to look in on our organizations. That’s what is most helpful in the chaotic, problem solving environment we are in. For those of you who are protected from the current economic happenings, I suggest you stay intuned with your clients, partners, and environments and assess your industry’s lag to the current economic situation. New opportunities will always present themselves if we are open to the possibility and seek them out.
We know most of you are looking at all the day-to-day developments from assistance packages to unemployment, but we wanted to make sure we are thinking about the full picture. This will help you better make sure the micro decisions fit into a broader plan for the future that is ahead. We are working with many of you and maybe we should have a discussion about this? Do you need a plan for the current COVID-19 environment we are in?
For those we have been serving, we are here to help.