My grandparents had twelve children. Like many of their friends and family members, they married and started their family in the early days of the Great Depression. They had a farm so they could feed their ever-growing brood. They struggled, but so did everyone else. They worked hard and eventually thrived.
Later they watched uncles, brothers, and cousins leave their Pennsylvania farmland to travel across the globe as part of the US deployment in WWII. My mother’s teenage scrapbook was full of newspaper clippings reporting the limited information reporters could access about these men and women stationed in places foreign to my mom, but now so important to her. This story was the same for almost every family in our country and across the world at that time.
When I was a little girl, I remember listening to intense “debates” between my father and my older brothers and their friends on the Vietnam War Draft. I watched Dan Rather’s reports on our black and white TV and watched my mom cry because her dearest younger brother Thom was there in the fight. I remember her crying again, this time with tears of joy when he returned, followed by his Vietnamese girlfriend that became my Aunt Anne. The world was getting smaller and more personal to me.
These days the world feels exceedingly small. Sharing is essentially in real-time, and stories of struggle and recovery from the other side of the world capture our attention as if each of these stories is our own. Those nurses in China could be my son’s godmother working in our county hospital. The older people in Spain and Italy struggling to breathe could be my uncle. The numbers of shuttered businesses and unemployed folks could be one of my long-term clients or my sibling.
As the world hits pause to “crush the curve,” we wait for a sense of normalcy to emerge. For those of us in leadership positions, this can bring on feelings of helplessness and weaken our confidence just when it is needed the most.
Over the last month, I have had many conversations with friends, colleagues, and clients about what we are doing to lead in these momentous times.
In the first few weeks, entrepreneurs focused on conserving cash, just as they did in their early start-up days. More mature businesses were 100% focused on quickly shifting their business model to provide the highest possible levels of productivity from staff now working from home. A few of the larger brands modified their messaging to what I call the “we are here for you” commercials.
These are the three areas occupying the mind of every business leader I have spoken with:
- What is our new Financial Position?
- What shifts must we make to our Business Model?
- What are our new Marketplace Realities, and how should our messaging shift to align with these realities?
For many I spoke with, these forced changes have resulted in favorable conditions for their businesses. The radical shifts resulted in windfalls or accelerated adoption of strategies they planned to migrate to in the near future. Yet, as they look ahead, they are thinking conservatively about their business; feeling their good fortune will not last.
While for too many others, quarantines have decimated their businesses ending their current business model for the near-term. They are just starting to shake off the shock and plan for their recovery.
The common thread in each of these calls was the need to stay flexible and think strategically about how to respond to the next set of anticipated changes while proactively building a plan to move from survival to revival.
Based on these “business disruption” calls, I decided to create a worksheet for any business leader to document their strategic thinking as their next step in regaining their business momentum. You can download it for free by clicking on the image below.
Edmund Burke reported said, “You can never plan the future by the past.” And I generally agree with Mr. Burke. However, during these extraordinary times, I think looking back to the past with its struggles and our ability to regain momentum can provide great insight into our future. We may not know how, but we will survive and learn to thrive sooner than we think.
All the best to you and your team as you plan to regain your momentum.