North Pole and the New Normal

On discovering the ‘New Normal’

Some of you may recall the children’s story by A.A.Milne about Winnie the Pooh (Christopher Robin’s favourite toy bear) discovering the North Pole.

Nowadays, it’s the equivalent of trying to find ‘the New Normal’; if you think you’ve found it, you’re probably deluding yourself.

Why is that? Because there never was a standard ‘Old Normal’. All our businesses are different, and got impacted differently by the pandemic. You can only begin to take advantage of the new world which COVID has thrust us towards if you find out how it has affected your business. Only the business owner or manager can do this. But it is fair to guess that your conclusion will lie somewhere along this scale:

I’ve done better than expected

The Stand-Out performers are clear enough – Supermarkets offering a good deliver and collect service; Direct Mail companies such as Amazon; Satellite TV services. But there are some that you would not necessarily think of – for example, renewable energy services for households (because folks working at home have had more time to review their energy needs and to ‘dust off’ old projects).

If your business is in this category, now is the time to think about new growth plans on the back of a strong recovery. The danger is that the Lockdown gains will fade as soon as Lockdown ends and people resume old habits. You need to make a plan to retain as much as possible of any ‘wins’ during this past year or so.

My business is badly damaged

You’ve guessed it – this is the bottom end of the scale! Sometimes it feels so bad that you can barely glance at the bank balance or the Profit-and-Loss account. But there is every reason to do so. If you wait for the ‘New Normal’ to come to the rescue, you may not survive.

Now is the time to talk to your bank, accountant, management team and staff about what must be done to get things shipshape. Take restorative action now before it’s too late. It is painful to cut services and loyal staff, if it comes to that. But remember that this is about profitability first and foremost, and there may be other forms of cost reduction.

For example, can you identify your least profitable customers, and can you ‘prune’ them or at least reduce the cost of servicing them? If you can, you may find a way to hold onto essential services and skills which all your customers value.

I’m just about managing

The mid-point in my scale. Yes, you have taken a hit, but you have been smart enough to find ways to cover your running costs by offering alternative services. Or else you have been able to call on some cash reserves put aside for such a ‘rainy day’.

However, your business may be scarred and it is important to understand what aspects of your service or product offering have been damaged so that your eventual recovery is not held back. Have your suppliers had a ‘good pandemic’ or are they reeling? Could that compromise your supply lines going forward? Will you need to undertake some short-term marketing to give your recovery a kick-start?

Most importantly, are there aspects of what you have learnt that you can retain and develop as a new business stream which might enable you to come out this leaner but stronger than you were before.

An example of this is a Sports Coaching firm, which does a lot of its work in schools, which are once again closed. By promoting private 1-2-1 tuition classes to parents at their wits end with having bored kids at home all the time, this company had a record-busting month or two last summer which accounted for almost 25% of annual revenue in just a few weeks! So while annual revenue declined somewhat, profitability and cash has been sustained.

Of course, some of this new demand will fade as schools re-open and parents go back to work. But how soon before that happens? And is it not inevitable that staff will be working from home more than before the pandemic? Review your own business environment to take advantage of the situation and give the chance of recovering to a level beyond the ‘Old Normal’.

Now what? Your good pandemic guide

  • Stabilise your short-term business, assess the developing ‘landscape’ around you; look ahead by speaking and listening to your customers and suppliers
  • Come up with new, imaginative ideas that will enable their own business development as well as your own, and execute those ideas briskly and efficiently
  • Talk to your local CMC Business Advisor

So you can…Create your own ‘New Normal’ – START NOW!

The alternative? Anyone for the North Pole??

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