Matt Neff, one of Evolution Capital Partners’ Senior Advisors, has again shared his thoughts in an article in the Indiana Business Journal. His perspective is one Evolution Capital is also sharing with our partner companies, now that the initial reactionary stage is evolving. What opportunity lies beyond the virus, and how can we and our teams be ready to move as soon as possible? What constituencies can we be communicating with now and in the coming days to assure readiness?
Nobody knows how long the economic hibernation directed by the state and federal governments, due to the COVID-19 virus, will last, although there are now signs that it may be the end of April. But whenever the forced-hibernation ends, and the government permits the U.S. economy to restart, business leaders need to be prepared. And you should be developing your restart plans now.
There is no precedent for this series of events in the past few weeks, so I can’t pretend to be able to prognosticate how this will go. But based on what I see, when the economy restarts, I believe it will not be like the Indy 500, where there is a pace lap for all of the cars to get up to speed before the green flag falls. I believe the restart of the U.S. economy will be more like the Kentucky Derby; the bell rings, the starting gates open, and from a standing start, the horses jump out and accelerate to the finish. If that’s right, will your company be ready?
In venture capital, we like to talk about 90-day sprints. Build a set of objectives, and tactics, that will get a company to a better place in 90 days. What are the value drivers that we can accomplish in the next quarter? Because if we can hit some (or all) of those targets, we will have a lot of momentum for the following quarters.
So you’ve been consumed by adjusting to the daily surge of data, keeping your company alive and witnessing an unprecedented drop in both supply and demand. You’ve been focused on how to keep your employees on board, and working productively. How to cover payroll? How to meet your debt obligations, and keep your company funded? These questions are existential, and they have dominated your life for the last few weeks. But at restart, the game changes. For probably the only time in your business career, you and your competitors are all restarting at the same time, from the same place.
What I’m proposing is a discipline of setting aside some time with your team to develop the post-Corona 90-day sprint. When the bell rings, and all of the horses start from a dead stop, what will your business do? Will you be in the “Run for the Roses,” or still lining up to the gate?
Here’s a couple of thoughts on issues to address in your sprint. First, how can you restore your supply chain, and production capacity, to get back to the pre-pandemic levels? What were the Key Performance Indicators that you were using in February, and in the next 90 days, how do you work your way back to that level of performance? Who is accountable for each of those KPIs?
Where will your customers be at the opening bell?
Are their needs the same, or have they changed? Have you spoken with them to understand those needs, so you’ll be ready to support their sprint?
What is the fallout from the pandemic on your workforce?
Have you lost key players, and if so, who will or how do you replace them? How do you get their buy-in on the 90 day sprint goals? Do you need to create new incentives for them?
What are the expectations of your Board of Directors, and investors/owners?
Have you communicated with them throughout the crisis? Are they up to speed on what you hope to accomplish in the first 90 days post-pandemic? Are your lenders on board, and willing to support you? What information will they need to get to that point?
As a leader, your job includes having the discipline to look around corners, and starting conversations with your team that they may not want to have right now. People are undoubtedly tired, scared, worried about their own families, and their health. And you need to acknowledge and respond to those concerns. But you also need to inspire a conversation about what comes next.
This pandemic and forced hibernation will come to an end; it may be in 2 weeks, and it may be in 2 months, but it will end. And when it does, how do you lead your company to quickly get out of the gates, and down the track, while others are still thinking about how hard the past few weeks have been? Lead now. Prepare to restart.