Usually when thinking of disrupting business markets, we think of Disruptive Innovation. Businesses like Amazon, and Uber come to mind.
It is pretty hard to deny that the enforced social distancing we have endured as a result of the COVID=19 pandemic is market disruption of a different sort. But is that disruption transitory, or as permanent as the above examples of Disruptive Innovation?
Ask a dozen entrepreneurs this question, you are likely to get that many answers. Most of them will be pretty sure of the opinion they express too. I hear three groups of responses:
- Things will go back to normal either in another month, or several more months.
- Things will never go back, this is our new normal.
- There will be a combination where the new normal will continuously shift.
The most likely scenario is the third. With the shifting viral pandemics we have experienced just in the last ten to twelve years it seems naive to believe this is over.
With our recent losses of shelf ice, glaciers, and permafrost scientists are finding very old viral threats that mankind has never been exposed to before. Taken together, it’s hard to imagine that social distancing isn’t something that will at least partially, or perhaps just sporadically become a part of what we think of as that “new normal”.
Now is the time to consider what this means for your business.
Your Disrupted Market
That consideration starts with where you are now. Before attempting to foretell your business future, take stock of where you are now. What has changed for your enterprise, if anything? Consider your:
- Supply Chains – Are they still there? Will they return?
- Staffing at All Levels – Can you accommodate long term work from home staffing?
- Sales Process – Can this feasibly be handled remotely?
- Product or Service Delivery – Is this now fundamentally different?
- Brand Strategy – Your primary means of lead acquisition may need adjustment. It may not.
- Insurance and Liability Concerns – Speak to your business attorney as well as your insurance agents.
- Legal Classifications – Do you need different local, state, or federal licensing to continue long term?
This list isn’t exhaustive, but will facilitate enough information to get you more than just started.
Few markets haven’t been disrupted at least partially, and many completely by this pandemic.
Go over the list quickly at first, and then after you’ve had a chance to absorb a bit you should sit down with your team and have a brainstorming session.
Evolve or Die – The Market Disruption Dilemma
This is not an idle pursuit. When you consider what has happened in the retail market as a result of Amazon, or the taxicab industry as a result of Uber this is an existential question for many if not most businesses.
The Uber offshoots, like Uber Eats and Door Dash have caused a surge in carry out business which has exploded now as dining room service just isn’t social distancing friendly. These are obviously extreme and obvious examples, but most markets have been changed fundamentally in some ways.
These changes, or at least aspects of them can easily become permanent, or semi-permanent. Think about businesses that seemed a part of the American fabric of life: Sears, K-Mart, the retail bookstore, and a host of other extinct business models and iconic institutions gone forever.
Making these calculations isn’t some trendy business philosophy. It is about the very survival of your business by accepting new, as well as dynamically shifting realities.
The truth is that many will find that by doing these calculations, and making necessary changes, that the value of their business will increase due to less competition in the marketplace. Those that evolve, will thrive. Those that refuse, will cease to exist, or will lose substantial market-share. Simple as that.
Your Business’ Identity
Think about your elevator pitch for a second. The last time I rewrote one, it helped to listen to Simon Sinek’s excellent Ted Talk. It’s titled How Great Leaders Inspire Action, and reminds us to “Start with Why!”
Describing how you seek to make your clients or customers feel as a result of using your product or service is a great why. It will rarely include descriptions of how you circumnavigate new market conditions regardless of how extreme.
Providing great pizza, customer service, consulting, business services, insurance products, or anything else has changed over the decades. Your business identity can remain intact if you don’t tie it emotionally to outdated methodology or models.
This market disruption is a big one. Maybe THE biggest ever, time will tell. Adopting an adaptive approach to your business identity isn’t just good business sense, it needs to be at the heart of who you are as a business. That above all else is what will ensure not your the survival of your enterprise, but it’s long term dynamic success.
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