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“For those entrepreneurs or business leaders who want their businesses to not only recover in the wake of Covid-19, but who also desire to be the industry shapers, they must be brave enough to rewrite their business roadmap”
What is one of the most important business lessons learned in 2020? The answer is easy…crumple up that legacy business model and throw it in the trash.
You may be asking, “Why would I want to throw away a model that worked for 10, 20, 30 years – or even for multiple familial generations?” Because what we knew to be normal in the past era of business has been disrupted and replaced. We cannot go back to normal because normal was our problem. This past year – a year held hostage by Covid-19 – has allowed us to see the fractures in our environment, society, economy and business. Most all businesses – and governments for that matter, have really only been prepared for a mild, short-term disruption (if they were prepared at all). Businesses lacked basic contingency plans for their business and operational models, and for sure, they were nowhere near prepared for the large-scale systemic shut-down that blanketed the world like a hard rain of volcanic ash. No one could have prognosticated the disruption to our global supply chains, markets, off-take and operations. But now, as industry looks ahead to a period of recovery, businesses and investors are beginning to see, once again, that while these are the times when fortunes are both made and lost, there is an opportunity and ability to ensure that we move forward as business vanguards through the willingness to disrupt current business model, finding gaps that no one else yet sees, innovating solutions to fill these gaps. While it sounds difficult, with a slight readjustment of our thought processes, we can begin to dissect the challenges, and pioneer extraordinary solutions.
For those entrepreneurs or business leaders who want their businesses to not only recover in the wake of Covid-19, but who also desire to be the industry shapers, they must be brave enough to rewrite their business roadmap. These founders or leaders recognize that it is only by doing business in a way no one else is that they will have opportunities no one else has. Focusing on a few key areas – the integration of sustainability strategies, introducing compelling storytelling, and prioritizing corporate social responsibly, we can trigger creative shifts that will help to position businesses to run the race into the future out in front of competitors.
The most overused and least understood buzzword in the English language is ‘sustainability’. Sustainability goes well beyond simply hugging bears, bunnies and trees. It means the complete viability of our future – environmentally, socially and economically. In short, sustainability means survival.
“A framework of sustainability provides strong value to stakeholders, investors and customers, allowing them to make an ancillary impact on the planet and on society, giving investors a compelling reason to choose your company over your competitors.”
As we are all stakeholders of the future, we have a responsibility to play a role in the triple bottom line of tomorrow – people, planet and profit. A company that adopts a platform of sustainability is proven to outperform competitors when they infuse metrics of environmental, social and governance (ESG) into their business models. Making a short-term investment in the long-term viability of their businesses through a policy of sustainable impact will help a company have a distinctive competitive edge and plays a significant role in determining business success. A framework of sustainability provides strong value to stakeholders, investors and customers, allowing them to make an ancillary impact on the planet and on society, giving investors a compelling reason to choose your company over your competitors.
How we tackle something as massive as our global sustainability can be overwhelming for a business. Many assume their impact will be token, so they tend to put off adopting these measures of responsibility. The United Nations has given us a remarkable roadmap to success in the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). For a business to genuinely and quantifiably make an impact on sustainability, they only need to select and adopt one or two of the 17 goals, for which they can generate the strongest measures of influence. Encourage employees to volunteer collectively on behalf of your company; integrate policies of efficiency into your operations (recycling, energy conservation, etc.); implement platforms of fair and equitable opportunity for employees into your business culture – these are but a few of the ways a company can make an impact. Sometimes, the biggest impact can stem from the smallest gesture.
Once you commit to a sustainable transformation of your business model, you must create the story. While you are measuring the cost savings of raising your office temperature a degree or two; prioritizing gender equity in your workplace; creating equal opportunities for influence, leadership and promotion amongst your employees; embracing a responsible and accountable supply chain; and other measures unique to your company’s commitment, the value of these measures won’t be recognized outside your company culture unless you share the value of your impact. To do that, you must have a well-crafted story. It is not disingenuous to share your impact with the world, you are simply allowing the value of your measures to pass forward to your customers.
“Admittedly, one of the hardest things to do is to is to talk about ourselves and tell our business ‘story’. But telling this story is one of the most critical elements of business visibility and promotion”
Admittedly, one of the hardest things to do is to is to talk about ourselves and tell our business ‘story’. But telling this story is one of the most critical elements of business visibility and promotion. Highlighting your products, the backstory of your founding, or many other topics that can articulate your essence, will go a long way towards helping customers, stakeholders and investors make an informed and conscious decision to choose your products or services. One way to tell a persuasive story is to study, understand and share the quality and value of your supply chain. If you are a company that makes chocolate, where does your dairy come from? This is an opportunity to share your support of the family farms. Are you sourcing supplies from a company owned by a woman? Spotlight that woman and use this as a demonstration of the importance of encouraging opportunities for women-led enterprises. Let the value of others in your supply chain lend their value – their story – to you, which you in turn pass on to your stakeholders and customers.
You can also paint a very compelling picture by highlighting your goals for the future. Promote the fact that you are committed to reducing your carbon footprint by ‘x’ percentage within a prescribed amount of time. Is 40% of your executive board made up of women and/or minorities? This shows the world that you recognize that importance of an inclusive and unified workplace and that you respect the diverse perspective of your team. Are you using data to understand and anticipate the needs of your customers? Use this to truly and genuinely enhance the customer experience – showing that you value their time and want them to have an optimized user experience when they engage with your brand. You, as a business, have a blank page on which to write your future. What you write on that page is up to you. Tell your story in a way that showcases your commitment to the SDGs, your value to your community, and your recognition that together, we are stronger. Your story is the heart of your business…make each word count.
Corporate Social Responsibility
A business is only as strong as the community it supports. Giving back must be an integral component of the business model of today. Whether you are a micro-enterprise or a multinational, there must be outward impact to go along with your internal profitability and growth. Even if you are a small business without significant revenue, remember, there is no measure too small, no gesture too ‘token’, and no act of altruism that is insignificant. Sponsor a community project, reward your employees for volunteering or mentoring, start a non-profit arm of your company and use this to lend a portion of your business model to making a difference.
“Whether you are a micro-enterprise or a multinational, there must be outward impact to go along with your internal profitability and growth”
For large companies, create a ‘year of giving’ in your workplace. Select several non-profits and give your employees the opportunity to automatically allocate a small amount from their paycheck each month to the non-profit of their choice. This allows you to share the value, the feeling, and the personal reward of giving back with your employees. Creating a culture of giving within your workplace will accelerate your corporate culture on all levels, creating a happier, more cohesive work environment, while reducing turn-over rates.
We are the architects of the future. We are the authors of our way-forward. Our business model is malleable and can evolve with our experience, societal stressors and needs, and the gaps we see in society which can be filled by our brands. Disruptive innovation rarely comes from within an industry or sector. The concept for Airbnb did not come from within the hotel industry. The concept for Uber did not come from the taxi industry. By reimagining the future, filling the fractures in new and innovative ways, we can be the true leaders and changemakers of a healthier, more tolerant, unified and sustainable future. Worry less about competition and concern yourself more with being a progressive leader. Don’t waste your time looking at a shift in the operations of your competitor, and instead, spend your time exploring new technologies, strategies or solutions which will allow you to do business in ways that others have yet to recognize or embrace. Don’t be afraid to say, “why not” when someone says, “that won’t work” or “why are you making that change”.
Never get comfortable with your success. Embrace your responsibility to the future viability of our planet. Don’t be afraid to tell your story, and do it in a way that is honest, compelling and impactful. And always remember, a small change can yield big results.