During periods of high uncertainty and massive change it is very logical and instinctive to crave a return to normality – increased certainty, familiar surrounds, and regular patterns. Unfortunately whilst this might appear to be desirable and what we want, in reality it is not achievable in it’s previous form. It is a mirage of the past that we are projecting as a future desire.
We think we want to go back in time but unless you have managed to crack time travelling during lockdown or have a ‘Back to the Future’ edition De Loren sitting in the garage, going back to the past – the normal we are craving – is not a realistic option.
In fact I would go as far as saying it is not what we should be aiming for at all, as not only is it technically unachievable the desire to go back actually inhibits forward movement, new learning and the ability to reframe / reinvent / recreate.
As business owners we like a fair degree of certainty and the bigger your business the more certainty you need as you have more commitments, more responsibility and basically more to lose! It is therefore understandable that you would love your business to be in the state or position it was in pre-lockdown ASAP. But everything has actually changed whether you realise it or not, so a return to this previous state is no longer an option. And that is a good thing as it gives you the licence and opportunity to create a better version of your business.
Before you focus on creating the better version you need to acknowledge and understand the extent of change that has occurred. There are a number of specific changes that will have occurred to a greater or lesser extent in the last few weeks that you need to consider.
Your relationship with your employees.
All of the business owners & CEO’s I have spoken with have talked about how some of their employees have gone over and above what has been expected of them over the last few weeks. As a result their opinion of them, & reliance on those employees has grown. But at the same time some of their employees have gone the other way and the relationship has weakened. This is either because they have had to furlough those employees and the company has without wanting to shifted the relationship or the employees have distanced themselves from the cause for personal reasons. Whatever your own experience is I would say that for the majority of leaders the relationships are different now.
If they have strengthened then you will need to consider whether you need to manage them in the same way going forward, or whether you should just trust them more to do the right thing as remote working has forced you to do. You will be realising about now that what they need is probably a leader and not a manager. They just need agreed outcomes that they periodically reported on and not day-to-day supervision. If on the other hand your relationship with some of your employees has weakened you and them will need to consider whether you are actually a good fit for each other, or whether you should use this as a potential break point in the relationship. Do you actually need the number of employees you did before the virus hit, or would you company be better off if it is more a little smaller and more agile at this point with lower fixed overheads?
Your relationships with your customer / clients.
Again I would suggest that this has either strengthened considerably as you have been able to adapt your offering and still deliver for your customers / clients and they have recognised they shifts you have made and therefore their opinion of your brand has improved. Or for whatever reason you have not been able to serve your customers and they have either stopped trading with you or at least gone dormant. The previous relationship is no longer there and they may have found an alternative solution or service that has replaced what you were previously offering them.
Whatever your reality is you need to either take advantage of this enhanced relationship to provide more services and products to your now very loyal fan base or you need to think about reframing or repositioning your offering to appeal to a new fan base. In reality you probably need to do a combination of both. I know for me during this period I have lent on and purchased more from certain brands I was a customer of before lockdown and I feel more connected to them than before. Whereas there are other brands or services that I realise I don’t really need.
The situation has changed the relationship with your customers. You need to work out which way and act accordingly…quickly.
Your relationship with your business.
The most fundamental change I would suggest that has happened during lockdown is the connection you have with your own business. If the business you currently have really serves you personal mission and aligns with your values, you will have become more committed than ever to the mission you are on.
You will have become hungrier to make it through this potentially barren period.
You will have become even more passionate and evangelical about your offering.
You will have reconnected with the reason you are doing what you are doing.
Or you may have felt the opposite and realised this is not what you want to be doing for the next X number of years and that your passion actually has moved on. That is OK. Things change and your are allowed to change. Recognising this is essential, as it not going to serve you or your business to carry on regardless. Make a plan to pivot or exit altogether but don’t carry just to appease others.
This has been a complex and confusion time for us all, and even more so for business owners trying to appease multiple stakeholders and operate within ever changing government guidelines and advice. But it is what it is.
You will have changed during this period. Your values may have been reinforced or in some cases shifted. Reflect and acknowledge the changes and then act accordingly. Either fall back in love with what you have created and pursue your mission with increased intensity and clarity, or choose to do something different. As ever the choice is yours.