Even when COVID-19’s impact is diminished and the government gives you the green light, you still have to choose if, how, and when to reboot your business. The smart way is to reboot only the parts that can be successful. Then deliberately move through virtual steps before physical steps, over-communicating emotionally, rationally and inspirationally every step of the way.

 

Choose whether or not to reboot

The world is never going to be the same as it was before COVID-19. Assess what’s changed temporarily, permanently, and fundamentally across customers, collaborators, capabilities, competitors and conditions - including environment, social and government as Neal Kissel highlights in his note on 5 lasting changes CEOS need to be planning for now.

 

Think through scenarios and your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, to develop a new view of your leverage points and business issues at this point of inflection and how those impact your strategy, organization and operations.

 

Use that to help figure out which parts of your business, if any, can and should be:

  • best-in-class/superior to all other choices
  • world class/parity with the top tier
  • strong/above average
  • good enough/minimally viable - and scaled or outsourced
  • gone from the list of things you do - and not restarted
 

Choose how to reboot

Your customers are never coming back. Yes, the sun will come out. The bans will be lifted. Business will resume. But things will never be the way they were before. Each of us is changed. Our businesses are changed. Given that, there is no chance that your old offerings are going to meet the needs, hopes and desires of your changed customers without changes. Trying to sell your old offerings to the customers you had is a recipe for disaster. Instead, take a marketing, puzzle-solving approach to rebooting your business – creating, delivering, and communicating new offerings.

 

Those approaching problems with a marketing perspective, start with potential customers’ needs, hopes and desires and then figure out ways to create, deliver, and communicate offerings that satisfy those potential customers.

 

This is different than those approaching problems with a sales perspective, who start with existing offerings and figure out how to find, serve, and satisfy the most appropriate customers for those offerings.

 

And, this is why the most successful organizations are going to tackle marketing first, then sales as part of rebooting their businesses post COVID-19.

  1. Create new offerings by digging deep into consumers new needs, hopes and desires and then repositioning or modifying existing offerings or building something entirely new.
  2. Deliver those offerings with a supply chain, distribution ecosystem, and team that are ready, willing and able to go.
  3. Communicate your offerings working through awareness, interest, desire and action in line with every marketing and sales funnel there ever was and ever will be. Build:
    • Awareness through broad, but shallow communication first, then
    • Interest by engaging in conversations with a smaller set of likely prospects,
    • Desire amongst those who have a pressing problem or need your offering addresses, and then
    • Action.
 

Choose when to reboot

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it well in his April 13, 2020 joint press conference with other Northeast governors. He said we should reopen, but reopen “with a plan, with a smart plan, because if you do it wrong it can backfire.” He went on to say we need to “take one step forward. See how it works. Then you take the next step.” And everyone’s plan may be different because the plans have to “fit the facts and the circumstances.”

 

With that in mind, think and act in steps.

 

Virtual steps:

  1. Bring your trusted lieutenants and advisors back virtually to build out your strategy, smart plans, guidelines, parameters and practices – to guide everything that follows and so those that follow them know what to do and how they should work in the new reality.
  2. Reboot or build supporting infrastructure and complete other tasks that can be completed without a physical presence.

Physical steps: No employees, allies, or customers should return until it is safe. Then use scientifically appropriate tests to determine which individuals can return to:

  1. Prepare physical locations for other returnees,
  2. Complete pre-start tasks,
  3. Engage in limited reboot efforts to see how things work,
  4. Reboot fully – noting not all have to come back physically or at all.

Communication steps: Wrap it all in emotional, rational and inspirational mood-countering leadership communication – as you should be doing more frequently than you ever imagined appropriate through the crisis and restart.

 
  • Emotional - Connect with your audience by being authentic, relatable, vulnerable and compassionate as you empathize with how the crisis has and is affecting them personally, Mayfield & Mayfield’s empathetic language. As one of PrimeGenesis’ partners puts it, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
 
  • Rational - Lay out the hard facts of the current situation – in detail with a calm, composed, polite and authoritative tone and manner. This is first part of the Stockdale Paradox. We’re defining facts here as things that any rational person would agree are true no matter what bias or perspective they bring to the situation – objective, scientific truths as opposed to subjective, personal, cultural or political truths, opinions or conclusions.
 
  • Inspirational - Inspire others by thinking ahead, painting an optimistic view of a future they care about, and calling people to practical actions they can take to be part of the solution - instilling confidence in themselves with Mayfield and Mayfield’s meaning-making and direction-giving language.
 

The optimistic future view goes to meaning and purpose: mission, vision and values. Ground all your communication in values: be – do – say.

 

The call to practical action is direction-giving, making people part of the solution, whatever part they are playing for their own and the greater good.