Updated: Mar 23
Five step plan for a CEO to capture the greatest opportunity of a lifetime!
As a business owner or senior executive of a company, now is a very difficult time for trying to figure out a path forward. Should you stay the course, look for opportunities to grow, or is there something better out there?
I personally believe that we will have a faster recovery than many believe. There’s a lot of reasons I think are relevant but no time for that here. I do believe that some industries will lag behind while others accelerate quickly. The key is to identify which ones and see if it makes sense for you and your company to pursue them.
Most companies right now fall into 1 of 4 categories:
Thriving - Doing well and likely to grow even more
Surviving - Going to make it
Life support - Hanging on, barely
Dead or close to it – No explanation needed
The path forward for the last 2 categories is just about survival and cash flow at this point. Not much advice and council in this article. Good luck to those and prayers be with you.
As for Thriving and Surviving, now could be one of the greatest opportunities in a lifetime. Don’t miss it. However, a pivot in the wrong direction could be equally devastating. Here’s a plan to follow.
5-step plan for CEO’s to capture opportunity of a lifetime!
For the purposes of our discussion, we are going to assume that your company is going to make it post-pandemic. You are most likely focused on resuming operations and hoping the economy comes back sooner than later.
Assuming your team knows how to resume normal operations, I am going to challenge you to focus on the 5-step plan to elevate your business to quantum leaps ahead.
1. Evaluate and upgrade your leadership team
Now is the time to take a good hard look at each member of your leadership team. Can they take you to the next level? Do they even know what “next level” looks like? It is hard for someone that has never experienced the “to be” state to have experience on how to get there. Granted, no one really knows what the next few months and years will look like but having a broader breadth of experience allows one to look at the bigger picture.
With all the layoffs and unemployment at historical levels, there are many gems available in the workforce that could seriously upgrade your leadership team. I’m not saying to let people go, but perhaps a restructuring is in order.
Here’s an example – you have a Director of Finance in place that has done a great job of managing the finances of your company. They grew up in the company from a controller to a Director level employee. However, odds are pretty good that they have no experience on deal structuring, acquisitions, leverage options, and so on. Consider hiring a VP of Finance or Chief Financial Officer that is available. During the interview process, give them a scenario and have them provide a solution and justify their position, both from a value and financial perspective. This could include consolidation of departments under the new executive, efficiencies through technology, growth without additional headcount, innovation, etc.
2. Create a Pivot Task Force
Depending on what skills you have, it can be hard to “think outside the box” if your company has succeeded in doing things a certain way in the past. Identify key resources from the leadership team along with product, service, and finance-oriented team members. Make sure you have a strong project manager from the beginning as well.
Start with a brain-storming session. Leverage a coach or consultant, if you can afford one, to facilitate a non-biased meeting. Put ideas into 3 categories:
Same products, different market
Different products, same market
Different products, different market
As CEO, resist the urge to introduce your ideas at first. Let the team and process work it out. Otherwise, they’ll give you what they think you want rather than truly innovative ideas.
Focus on whether this is a short-term pivot or a strategic shift.
Narrow the pivots to the top 3 ideas.
Create a subset of the task force to flush out the practical aspects. Select members from an Operations, Product, Sales/Marketing, and Financial background. Look at the potential market size, risk/reward scenarios, and cost/impact to proceed. Put together a financial model for each idea.
If any of the ideas pass scrutiny and hold merit, immediately start the planning for the pivot process. This should not last more than 5 days at the most. Make sure the plan is fast to market. Better to solve 1 problem quickly than 3 problems later. You can always add solutions later. Analysis paralysis will kill you at this stage.
3. Execute the Pivot plan like there’s no tomorrow!
Time is of the essence here. Leverage the Task Force members on the project team as needed. They were part of the decision-making process and the team needs their passion and commitment. Assign a dedicated project manager and pivot into high gear. Things to consider:
Ensure existing operations are not compromised (except by design) – provides cash flow
Communicate with existing clients – if the relationship will change, get on top of it fast. No one likes surprises or bad press.
Target and reach out to new market – get clients lined up before product is complete.
Discuss with your bank(s) – just in case you need additional credit lines or changes to existing.
Most important – communicate with employees. Some will be on the team, some will not.
They all want hope for a new and better tomorrow. Make sure those supporting the legacy products and operations know they are just as valuable as the pivot team members.
To do this effectively will require a lot of work. Unless your company is cash rich, many will have to double-time it. Communicate, encourage, reward, and join in.
4. Get the Word Out!
I am a big believer in first mover advantage for pivots like this. Develop a marketing communication and sales plan quickly. If you need help, reach out to fractional Sales and Marketing companies. They can spin up resources and help while you get the rest of the company aligned. Approach to consider:
Leverage social media – everyone loves a good story. Tell one. Craft the story based upon the social media audience you are leveraging. Have your employees engage and share. The younger generations have 10 times the connections that older employees have.
Craft and issue a press release – State the facts but be prepared for a one or two sentence endorsement by you, the CEO.
Contact local business journals – Each major city has a “business journal” magazine/website that issues email updates daily. Get your story into their hands quickly as well. Their distributions reach many relevant consumers and businesses in your target areas.
5. Burn the Ships!
“There is no turning back!” was one of the sounding cries by Cortes upon arrival in the New World. You should consider the same. Charting a path into unknown territories is a very risky move. You need everyone committed and bought in. There will be bumps along the way. Employees look toward the leader for hope and determination. Give that to them in a positive way. Show them how they will benefit short and long term. Keep them engaged and excited after the initial adrenaline wears off.
Being the CEO of a company that survived and thrived through the Pandemic probably means that your company is well run and profitable today. I can also assume that you and your family are doing well financially. Just remember, not all employee circumstances are the same. Younger families may not have the means to weather a financial storm as well as more secure employees.
Communicate well and often to all employees when pursuing a great opportunity that impacts them. They may view it as more work while you make more money. There is no way you can guarantee success, but you can guarantee that you care for them and will do everything in your power to look after their best interests. It will go a long way in reducing their anxiety while increasing loyalty.
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