It’s an old saying, and whilst I am not convinced it is totally true, it is a good way to consider the current situation.
As I have watched the way businesses are handling the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic, they seem to fall into two categories:
- Those that look short term “we need to cope until things get to normal”
- Those who look long term “Things have changed, how do we adapt to the new environment”
As you might have gathered from the title, I would advocate the latter of these strategies. The crazy thing is that both strategies require significant adaption in the short term, but only the latter will deliver benefits in the long term.
To illustrate my point, I would like to use the example of two restaurants in my local town, who have taken very different approaches to business in 2020.
Just hang on in until it is all over
The first, shut during the first lockdown, taking the time to put in place procedures to open as a restaurant with reduced capacity as soon as they were able. This they then did, and by all accounts had a good summer as things opened up. Though I would expect that margins were down due to increased costs and reduced capacity.
Come the second lockdown which, if we were being honest was inevitable! They were back to square one. This time they chose to do takeaway, but very much in a way that suggested it was not a long term plan (First come first served, no advanced ordering, take the phone off the hook when they get busy). The impression was that their attitude was. “It is just 4 weeks, then we can open as a restaurant again.”
Well, the end of the lockdown came, but restrictions meant that they still could not open. ….The struggle goes on.
Adapt And evolve
Contrast this with the second restaurant. They took a very different approach right from the start.
In March when they shut their doors, they immediately set up a takeaway system. They posted their menu on a Tuesday. Then took bookings for delivery slots over the weekend. Whilst I would suggest they should look further than Facebook for their marketing, this was a simple solution that worked, and could be adapted further and developed as time went on.
Through the summer, they decided not to make the changes needed to reopen the restaurant, opting instead to continue the takeaway model. As a result, The second lockdown, and the tier restrictions have not really impacted them too much. They can continue with this model until they are able to open again whenever that may be.
Furthermore, when they do, they will have developed a takeaway model that they can continue to run alongside their regular business.
I am sure that for both of these businesses the last 9 months have been hard work and stressful. But for the first, the best-case scenario is that they survive. For the second, I think survival should not be an issue. And when the restrictions are lifted, they will have evolved and be well placed to go forward strongly.
These are just 2 examples, but have seen many more where businesses taking the second approach:
- Retailers who have invested in digital focusing on their online offering
- Conference organisers who have shifted events to high-quality webinars
The list goes on. For these there is no going back to “normal”. The have moved on, and hopefully their businesses will be stronger for it.