In this discussion, the panel looked at what makes this new market different and how it is likely to evolve. The discussion included the mindset of the customer, consciousness of the business climate, technology and leadership.
Current Business Climate
“The current climate of the pandemic and social unrest is very different from past episodes or events such as war, environmental disasters or 9/11,” Alan Wallner said as he began the discussion. “This is global, and it impacts everyone mentally, socially, economically and personally, and it’s going to be here for an unknown period of time.”
He then asked the panelists their opinions on the state of the current business climate. He also asked them about the key indicators they use to keep an eye on the business climate to know how to navigate a business and all the decisions that must be made.
“It depends what type of business you’re in. It depends who your ideal customer is,” said Rosemary Davies-Janes. “Are you selling essential services? Are you selling nonessential services? Do you have a high price point item? Do you have more of a commodity that you’re putting out there as either a product or service? So all that being said, what I tend to look for are nonessential businesses. I look at businesses that are selling nonessential products and services that are thriving right now. That’s a great indicator to pay attention to. I look at what ways they’re thriving, how they’re marketing, what their customers are saying that just really examine what’s going on.”
“Look at whatever is businesses relevant to my customers. I look at emerging market trends, innovations that are being rolled out and tested and how people respond to those. It’s a little challenging because there are so many places you can watch and the information available is overwhelming, but I think just stay in your lane and look at what’s going on in your vertical with businesses, who would be your competitors, is probably the best place to start.”
Bill Mills’s view was similar to Rosemary’s. “I look at my clients and I’ve worked with about 50 different businesses,” he said. “Some of them have gotten just devastated by COVID. They were in hotels. They were in body shops. . . . But most of my clients are down a little bit. They think they’ve found the bottom and that to me is a hopeful sign that they might be at 2018 levels of volume, or they might even be approaching close to where they were at at the end of the year. And 80, 90% are feeling like we can handle this if there’s no other big change, as we can be profitable at this new size of revenue.”
“I also have been following some of the Fortune magazine surveys. Their Fortune 500 CEO survey. That’s really interesting watching these really big companies make their bets on what they’re going to invest in and what they’re going to stay away from.”
“One thing that I would add is looking at your demographics’ behavior style,” added Ben Theis, “and where they are sitting, understanding that we are dealing with something that’s unprecedented, so we have to be maneuverable, but also understand that people may be in different areas to make certain decisions. We look at where are those demographics that we’re going after as in clients and potential clients, and looking at where are they right now. And even if they’re in a no buy mode right now doesn’t mean that we can’t add value to them or add value to our relationship with them.”
“We know that it’s going to be super flexible and it’s going to change; we could be getting different stats, hypothetically; we could be right where Houston is hypothetically by next month, or they could be right where we are. We just don’t know some of this, but I think it’s having a plan and understanding that. And then looking at that with your business and marketing plan.”
Top Items to Look at When Determining what to do with Your Business
The panelists next looked at the perspective of what a larger company might be doing when they’re hurting and really struggling, and many bring in a turnaround specialist, someone who will pull their business out of the slump. From that business turnaround perspective, the panelists were asked the top things they would take a look at before they determine what to do next with a business?
“The turnaround guys think every business needs to be turned around,” said Bill. They think that 5% of your customer base is migrating away from you and you just don’t know it. And so they’re always in a turnaround mindset, and it’s pretty much an 80-20 analysis. If you really get dispassionate and take all the emotion out of your business and step back and say, okay, probably 80% of my revenues, 80% of my profit, comes from a very small percentage of my customers. That’s the market telling you that you’re relevant to them, and I’d want to know more about why am I relevant and how do I get more of those folks? That would be probably one of the first things I would look at.”
“Another thing,” Rosemary added, “what are customers complaining about? If you’re a consumer-targeted company look at what customers are saying to your CSRs, the frontline people there, what are they complaining about? What are they happy about? What are they telling them that they need that may or may not be available? So it all goes back to front lines, the frontline workers know so much, no matter what type of business you’re in, and they are a resource that can be tapped. And yes, it’s different these days because a lot of them are working from home. You may have to congregate on Zoom, but have everybody watching out for things that are shifting.”
“I think everyone out there, even if the industry came to a halt, there are opportunities out there for everybody,” said Ben. “I’m not going to say that I have a silver bullet answer for every single industry out there and how to turn it around. But I will say that if you listen to your clients, customers, demographics, if you listen to the trends, if you listen to your colleagues, there are going to be opportunities to help you either get through this or to conform and persevere.”
“It’s taking what you already know and just adding a little spin to it,” said Alan, “a different perspective that aligns with what someone needs and you can definitely open doors. You don’t have to do a massive shift with your business.”
What is Normal?
“I think a lot of people have overheard the word, the new normal, because no one really even knows what that means in a sense of what that’s going to be,” said Ben. “But I think one thing that we all can agree on is that no matter what comes out of this, things are not going to be exactly how they were in 2019, things are going to change. And they may change period, or they may change for the long term. . . . I think if you’re in sales, obviously things have started to change in how we communicate with potential clients and even just the expectations or the etiquette.”
Rosemary said, “ We have all of these amazing CRM tools and just doing the right thing, taking care of our customers. The more we do that, the more we build trust. And I think that’s really important in this environment because what’s going on around the world is telling people that they can’t trust. They have to in the best-case scenario, trust and verify.”
“I think the new normal is going to be an enduring case of irritable bowel syndrome,” said Bill. “Everybody’s just going to have heightened anxiety for the next couple of years. This is the time to remember why you got into business in the first place; to be an entrepreneur, to solve a problem that nobody else could solve, to make something great. And none of that has changed.”
It’s a Bold New World!
All Thrive!cast episodes focus on leading business owners to discover ways to create success for them and their businesses in this bold new world.
To hear more from the panelists on this and other Thrive!cast episodes, click below.