The Five Strategies of Companies that Last

Article #6 in a series exploring the business world’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. This series was inspired by the America Reopens Handbook, which was created by the BizBreakthru team and is available to members

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So far we have defined a crisis (and concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic most certainly qualifies as a serious one), described the crisis management process at a high level, shared some of the emerging data around COVID-19’s business impact, and described successful management strategies for surviving the coming recession. If you want some additional advice on immediate steps you can take to manage cash flow, have a look at this piece from Deloitte, which offers 15 tactics for managing cash flow that may provide additional immediate relief for your business pressures.

We want to shift our emphasis away from management and toward leadership, as there’s an important difference between the two. But before we make that transition, let’s summarize our management advice in five key strategies.

From the analysis we’ve provided so far, we can make a few conclusions about the business qualities that are most likely to lead to organization survival—and even success—during the COVID-19 pandemic. Successful companies consistently deploy the following strategies:

  1. They are always in crisis mode. Smart crisis managers know you are either in a crisis or getting ready for the next crisis.
  2. They have a clear purpose. One of the easier ways to detect a crisis is to have a clearly defined vision—a purpose beyond profitability. By constantly being attuned to your vision, you will find it much easier to become aware of potential impediments to achieving that mission—one of the leading indicators of an impending crisis.
  3. They are progressive. “Progressive” companies find the right balance between aggressive and defensive actions, continuing to engage in market development and asset investment activities, while also addressing operational efficiencies—especially in regards to cash flow.
  4. They respond quickly, but do not react. A successful response to any crisis requires quick but thoughtful action. It requires response, not reaction. There is an important difference between these two terms. A response is a combination of words and actions that create positive change. A reaction is a combination of words and actions that are uttered or made without regard for the impact they may have.
  5. They are agile. It’s not enough to be quick to respond to threats; you also have to be flexible. Crises evolve quickly, and your organization must be able to adapt quickly to changing developments. This goes beyond adopting agile development techniques like scrums and Kanban. It requires analyzing the agile methodology, picking the methods that work best for you, and learning how to adapt on the fly to changing circumstances by quickly shifting your “organizational modes.”

Responding vs Reacting
One of the strategies we mention above is deserving of more attention, especially given the current situation as we write this post.

Companies must act quickly in a crisis, but company leaders must also know the difference between a response and a reaction.

As we write this, in addition to the COVID-19 crisis, as if to add both insult and injury to the insult and injury provided by the pandemic, the U.S. is in the grips of a strong response to the unjust and — in many if not most cases — blatantly illegal actions taken by several police officers during the course of their own reactions to perceived threats. Those officers did not respond, they reacted.

Now each and every American must consider whether they are responding, or merely reacting, to not only these terrible acts, but to others’ reactions and coverage of the acts and the ensuing protests. Learning the difference, and putting this knowledge into use, is no easy feat, but we must learn it or our businesses and indeed, our society, may fail as a result.

How are you managing this crisis? Let us know! Share your comments below!

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