Playing the COVID Bounce

There is a saying: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”.

The COVID pandemic has been a monumental crisis that has impacted our way of life and virtually every business.  Most business leaders have gone from anxiety to adrenalin rush, to frantically addressing never before seen challenges.  Many business leaders are now happy to have regained some normalcy and are perhaps a bit numb.

We are not yet out of the pandemic woods.  But increasing distribution of vaccines and acceptance of business and lifestyle practices that mitigate health risks are creating light at the end of the tunnel.

Some CEOs simply want and expect things to go back to “business as usual”.  Others are repairing companies that have been weakened financially, operationally or culturally by the pandemic.  If you have competitors who fit those profiles, opportunity may be knocking at your door.

Right now the time to capitalize on the expected post-pandemic economic bounce.

There are two paths to address specific opportunities COVID presents to your company:  Internal evolution driving organic growth, or external growth driven by acquisitions, joint ventures or partnerships.

It is a classic “Build or Buy” scenario.

Builders will have the advantage of tailoring an exact fit to their strategic needs. Resources can be allocated towards competency enhancing investments, including but not limited to:

  • Talent Acquisition: “Work from Anywhere” is a pre-pandemic trend that is accelerating. This creates opportunities recruit outside normal commuter geographies, with talent and fit overwhelming proximity as key drivers.  For companies in expensive metro areas where demand for talent is high and supply dear and expensive, recruiting remote workers in other regions has become a practical option.  For businesses in less populace geographies, recruiting high value remote workers outside their footprint is likewise a practical option.
  • External communication: Prior to the pandemic, video calls were a tool to be used judiciously. Now they are an accepted norm.  Your company requires technologies and training to execute on this evolving “business process”.  Client/customer exchanges are made more efficient, allowing your best client facing people and teams to interact more frequently with a greater number of accounts.   Business travel has been reduced and will be a source of continued savings.
  • Digital Customer Interaction: In-person B2B interactions are becoming increasingly digitized, fundamentally changing both the creation and implementation of “go to market” strategies.  Order lists, product availability, scheduling, exchange of documents and plans were all trending digital pre-pandemic, and those behaviors have accelerated.  Even more stark is the rapid acceptance of digital purchasing in the B2C sector.  This trend is over a decade old and is still picking up speed.  The pandemic has made it clear that consumers will engage in digital purchases even of products thought to necessitate in-person “touch” (perfume, candles, food products, furniture, etc.).  The extent of “Brick & Mortar Retail” disintermediation from the
  • Supply chain has yet to be seen; but retail real estate investors are clearly concerned. In either B2B or B2C interaction, business processes including but not limited to message crafting, customer acquisition, sales & marketing, and customer relationship management need to adapt both in terms of optimal skill sets and optimal business process platforms.
  • Reduced physical footprint: As a portion of employees work remotely part or full time, the need for office space will decrease, creating potential savings in physical plant.  Office space will need to adapt and be more flexible to meet those evolving needs.

Becoming “leading edge” in business processes might be considered primary targets for investment.

These might also be among the areas requiring a highly tailored tactical implementation of a company’s strategy.

Buyers may find opportunity in transactions involving wounded or distressed companies or assets.  A buyer can use their existing commercial platform to create operational leverage, significantly enhancing the performance of acquired assets or organizations.

Combined with efficiencies gained through business process evolutions described above, does this create an opportunity for your company to:

  • Acquire or merge with a competitor and materially rationalize staff and physical plant
  • Acquire or merge with a competitor and upgrade their business process through implementation of the acquirer
  • Acquire or merge with a direct competitor to drive increased market share
  • Acquire or merge with companies at rational values that are in adjacent markets or geographies
  • Seek any of the above in a manner that would scale your business to a point where its valuation is enhanced, access to financing increased and/or it becomes an attractive home to superior talent?

Driving growth through organic or external initiatives can both succeed.  The choice is case-specific.  The critical point is that if you and your company “lean into” where your industry is evolving, you have a competitive advantage over companies and executives who are just happy that the pandemic is receding, waiting for a return to the way things were, are still a bit numb and/or have seen their companies weakened by the pandemic.

It’s time for a “bias towards action”.