This year has been full of experts trying to predict what will happen next with the economy, commercial real estate, small businesses, tax codes, and more. Well, here’s one more prediction – the agility commonly found in industry-leading companies, and that was required of all companies to survive the pandemic, will be a permanent determining factor of success for all businesses.
This year required restaurants to shift to delivery models they maybe hadn’t previously embraced (or even to offer groceries in addition to their famed dishes), beer and wine tastings went digital – requiring distribution and shipping models to adapt, tech companies were forced to staff up – quickly – to meet new demands for their products and services. While the need for a business to be agile is not new, the hyper-fast, hyper-sensitive manifestation of that this year has really divided the herd – those that can become “Disruptors” and those that cannot are likely to fade out.
So what does it mean for your business to be agile in this context and how can you adapt your company to maintain that framework long-term?
The pandemic has forced many companies to re-evaluate their teams. Are they equipped for this new, ever-changing marketplace?
You may have heard of Finders, Minders, and Grinders. Finders are your business development experts – they will leverage relationships to convert them into new business. Minders do the work of maintaining a company’s established products and services – focusing on the relevant processes. Grinders deliver the products or services. There’s one more category, though, that is critical to a company’s success – the Accelerators; this group knows how to scale up the company’s offerings by increasing awareness, implementing demand-generation programs, or developing higher-efficiency processes. Innovators are arguably a fifth category, although often those with the innovative mindset are serving as a company’s Finder or Accelerator.
Most start ups launch with Finders and Grinders, later adding either Minders or Accelerators – but rarely both. Companies with a staff that ticks all four boxes though – those are the ones that rise to the acclaim recognized in the Fastest Growing and Disruptor lists.
However, just having the right mix of individuals may not be enough to stay on the list. You have to be ready to shift the responsibility and ownership of projects to the other categories of teams as a program, product, or service line matures. At the heart of this fluid team structure is the realization that you don’t want your best innovators or accelerators overseeing the day-to-day of established products or services – you want them innovating and expanding the company’s offerings.
The adage ‘what got you here is not what will get you there’ is true for the team managing the project too; the individuals and teams that are best suited for finding and developing new products or services are likely not best suited to maintain, deliver, or scale those products and services.
No matter which end of the spectrum your company is at on this – it has become a particularly challenging aspect of business in 2020. Whether a company is booming during the pandemic (as is the case with many streaming services and grocery chains) or if it’s struggling to hold the pieces together (as is the case with many distribution companies), the solution is the same – fine-tuning the balance sheets to ensure there is enough cash flow to cover current needs and future growth, and leveraging the available resources to feed that cash flow.
While this has always been true, the pandemic has magnified that fact. A company’s cash flow needs today likely aren’t what they were at the beginning of the year, and the safe bet is that this will remain a bit of a moving target for most companies. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make cash flow forecasting an integral part of your overall business planning.
As part of that, many executives have found that keeping up with the ever-changing list of pandemic-related loans and funding assistance programs – such as the Paycheck Protection Program, Employee Retention Credit, and Main Street Lending Program (which have often been vague and not clearly defined at the start) – has monopolized valuable time and resources. All this flux and unknown can stretch things particularly thin, making it imperative that someone is dedicated to verifying the accuracy of the financials, analyzing the data, and relaying that information to the stakeholders so they have the opportunity to adjust course operationally, as needed.
Telework took the world by storm this year, but beyond that, companies who have steered into AI and other forms of automation have realized that these investments offer a stabilizing factor in times of crisis. Using technology and automation to limit human interaction (i.e., improve social distancing), pivot product offerings, and increase overall efficiency is critical for any company to achieve and sustain a competitive edge.
E-commerce should also be noted here. Many companies (especially smaller ones) didn’t see the value in or need for this before, but they should all expect that in the post-pandemic era, the convenience consumers and clients found in e-commerce and platform-based businesses will be the “new normal.” The platform-based economy is here to stay.
Lastly, don’t overlook cybersecurity. The advancement of technology and increased adoption of e-commerce means cybercriminals are ready to take advantage – and top performers, fast-growing companies, and industry-disruptors are prime targets. Having sound information security strategies, policies, and other safeguards in place will be critical for top companies to protect their data and finances.
A company’s agility (or lack of) has been the make-or-break moment for so many this year. Congratulations to those who have survived – or even thrived – throughout it all; just remember – while it may be unlikely another pandemic will strike soon, you never know when there will be another call for a new normal. You can set your company up for success – to handle whatever life throws at us all – with fluid teams, strong money management, and always being ready to safely and securely leverage the ever-advancing technological opportunities.
Michael Kaplan, CPA, is a partner at Miller Kaplan. He has more than 25 years of experience serving businesses, private enterprises, and highnet- worth individuals in a diverse range of industries such as entertainment, technology, real estate, manufacturing and distribution, and more. He is a nationally-recognized business manager and leads the firm’s Private Enterprise Group. Learn more at millerkaplan.com.
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