Companies and the leadership within them can often become paralyzed when the world they operate within becomes uncertain. As things change, particularly transformative things, companies can get myopic on little things they can fix, in the spirit of scrambling to do something, or they can freeze to see how things shape up before they act. "Freezing" can come in the form of making cuts to the more outward-facing areas of the business, or it can be staying the course.
When the world is uncertain for an economy, or an entire industry, it becomes a time when the best companies take market share.
Business is as much art as it is science, and knowing when to press the gas or hit the brake is a huge part of getting to any destination. But, knowing the roads, changing lanes, and taking detours is also part of it.
Anytime you want to get from Point A to Point B, you need to have gas in the tank. A company that goes into an uncertain period already unhealthy is at a significant disadvantage. So, companies must do the right things to stay healthy in good times so they can weather more challenging times.
Assuming there is gas in the tank, a valuable tactic to use, when feeling like the world is uncertain, is to identify what you do know rather than get hung up on what you don't. There are more things that you do know than what you don't. It may feel like the things you don't know are outside of your control - which may be true. Focus on what you can control. Ask yourself and your team to envision a new path and travel it honestly.
We can break up the knowns into three categories of descending certainty: We know much of "what" is going to happen; we typically don't yet know "how," but have ideas; and, "when" is most variable, but there are tools to manage it until we get there.
Put a time horizon and ask yourself, at a high-level: Will people continue to buy your product or service category?
We know we will get through the coronavirus crisis. People will travel again; they will dine at restaurants; they will buy your category of goods and services.
Start with intention.
We don't yet know "how" people will buy or use various products or services in the future, but we can predict. "Hows" will change: How will video-conferencing change travel? How will businesses automate more? How will travelers choose their next destination? Via what mode? Leaders must envision the future of their categories since current events will forever shape and adapt to buyers' future "how."
Be empathetic and get creative.
"When" remains variable, which, I know, causes anxiety. But, relying on your expertise, when do you think it will happen in your category? Can you change the trajectory? What are the leading indicators?
Ask the tough questions.
Contingency planning plays a role because you can't bleed resources forever while you wait to realize your "what" intentions. Businesses need to operate a specific list of if/then scenarios with check-in points. Are you clear what your leading indicator signals are and what your course correction will be when they occur?
Sitting idly by is never good for business. Leading businesses act, sometimes in dramatic ways, when times become confusing, concerning, and uncertain. When disruption happens, opportunities abound. Those businesses that emerge strong are those who see uncertain times as an opportunity to take market share. They recognize that we will never go back to the way things were.
The only certainty is change, and those who accept it, understand it, adapt to it, are those who can take advantage or even create that change in their favor.