If you feel there’s been a shift in your business since the pandemic started, you’re not imagining things. Perhaps there’s a noticeable drop or volatility in profits or sales that seems to persist. Or maybe the shift is more subtle, hinting that maybe your customers and their beliefs and behaviors aren’t who or what they used to be.
The HT Group Advisory Partner Russ Finney confirmed this assumption in part two of his newest Strategic Thinking Series. Finney is a lecturer and director of MIS undergraduate programs at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. While in part one (summary here), he outlined steps to COVID-19 business recovery, this second part featured ways to profit and build sustainability and momentum moving into the future.
To kick things off, Finney presented a study conducted by LendingTree in 2020. The study illustrates that consumer attitudes (and, by the way, employee attitudes as well) have shifted. These changes are being traced back to morphing priorities both from recent events and generational attitudes. Some vital stats include:
- About 38% of consumers are currently boycotting at least one company. The top reasons for the boycotts include disagreeing with the company’s political stance or stance on social issues.
- Consumers are split in many ways (providing you can never please everyone): 19% have boycotted a company for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, but 18% (a nearly equal amount) have boycotted a company for not taking enough steps to support Black Lives Matter.
- 40% of consumers now consider a company’s treatment of its employees, and 33% consider whether a company is local before they decide to spend money on their products or services.
- Younger consumers are more willing to use their dollars to make their preferences known. More than half of Gen Z and Millennial consumers were boycotting companies at the time of the study.
Finney points out that, thanks to digital media, a company’s stance (either by action or inaction) and how they treat employees is out there—either virally or searchable—whether they choose to control the message or contribute to the conversation or not. That makes digital marketing a key to winning back business profit, sustainability, and momentum.
In light of this challenge and the others he’s outlined previously, Finney presented several questions business leaders should work tirelessly to answer this year. They include:
- Is it time to change our business model?
- Do we have the people who can support what is ahead?
- How much are we going to invest based on our new imperatives?
- Who should be our business and vendor partners for this change? (Consider who proved to be most reliable during the pandemic.)
- How do we know which technologies are best for our unique business?
- How do we minimize the risk around new business conditions?
- Do we have visionary leadership to help us to make the correct choices?
There are great role models to emulate, including Austin greats like Michael Dell and Vista Equity Partners LLC’s Robert F. Smith.
“You would think that these leaders would be fueled by epiphanies, but they will tell you that good strategy is a result of process,” Finney said. “It’s not from a brilliant flash of a lightbulb, it’s not from someone putting an idea in a suggestion box. It’s a process to get your strategy nailed down.”
Key activities supporting that process are to analyze, identity, and prioritize the elements within the strategy that take center stage. That can be tough to do, especially when you’re so close to the business that you’re practically melded together. Exercises like the Business Model Canvas, Porter’s 5 Forces, and what Finney calls Strategy on a Page (which he considers a better alternative to the Balanced Scorecard) can help.
The best way to conduct those exercises? With outside help. Finney and his colleagues with The HT Group consulting and advisory services are available to help with frameworks and processes that have been pressure-tested through experience. Taking an objective deep dive is critical to reaching a business strategy that addresses evolved consumer (and employee) attitudes and behaviors.
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