Your Business Plan: What to change in a pandemic

I recently reread (or more accurately listened to) Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen. The authors discuss a concept they dubbed a SMaC recipe. SMaC is an acronym for Specific, Methodical and Consistent. Great companies have and adhere to them with very little change over time. For example, Southwest Airlines has a very successful SMaC recipe – Putnam’s 10 points – which included: 

  • Remain a short-haul carrier, under two-hour segments.
  • Utilize the 737 as our primary aircraft for ten to twelve years.
  • Continued high aircraft utilization and quick turns, ten minutes in most cases.
  • The passenger is our #1 product. Do not carry air freight or mail.
  • Stay out of food services.
  • No interlining.
  • Keep it simple. Continue cash-register tickets, free coffee and donuts in the boarding area, no seat selection on board, tape-recorded passenger manifest, bring airplanes and crews home to Dallas each night, only one domicile and maintenance facility.

This list remained consistent over several decades. In total, the elements of Putnam’s list only changed about 20%; in spite of disruptive events like industry mergers, air-traffic control strikes, deregulation, the Internet and 9/11.  Through this consistency, Southwest also managed to evolve their SMaC recipe with calculated and deliberate changes over time. 

A solid SMaC recipe is essentially an operating blueprint for turning high-level strategic concepts into reality.  When we work with Entrepreneurial companies, we do something very similar when we ask them to ‘answer the 8 questions’, or to complete their Vision/Traction Organizer™ (V/TO™) and identify and simplify their company’s handful of Core Processes-especially their Operational Core Process. 

Many business owners and leaders might feel compelled to rewrite their playbooks during this current crisis. My passionate plea to you is that you pause and take each point one at a time. For example, the 8 questions we answer in the V/TO are as follows: Core Values, Core Focus, 10-Year Target, Marketing Strategy, 3-Year Picture, 1-Year Plan, Rocks and Issues. 

Now is the time to lean into your Core Values-not abandon or tweak them. Your Core Focus is your company’s sweet spot that combines your ‘why” with your ‘what”. Why you exist should not be impacted, and your what should only be impacted if what you do can no longer exist. Your Marketing Strategy is your how…and here is where you might need to make a change or a tweak. 

The first part of your Marketing Strategy  is your target market (psychographic, demographic and geographic profile of your ideal prospect). Has the psychographic profile of your customers changed as a result of the pandemic? The second part we call the 3 Uniques. These are the key differentiators that set you apart from your competition and speak to how to do what you do. Has this had to change? Is the change temporary-or will there be everlasting changes? The final two parts to the Marketing Strategy are your guarantee and your proven process. Do you need to add or modify either of these in light of the new normal? Again, I encourage you not to assume YES and make sweeping changes without thinking it through. 

The other questions or sections of the V/TO to consider, the 3-year picture, 1-year plan and Rocks, should all be reviewed for relevance and reality. What can you do and what should you do? Be specific and intentional about any changes you make.  With my clients, the results have been mixed. Some have kept their goals intact, but had to adjust revenue and profit targets. Others had to eliminate goals that no longer make sense for their 1-Year Plan. Most of my clients made almost no changes to their 3-Year Picture.  

We teach our clients that everything is just an issue. Don’t begin sweeping changes without first identifying the root causes for the issues that Covid-19 is inflicting on your business. Now is the time to lean into your Core Values and Core Focus (your who, why and what), making only the necessary changes or improvements to solve the real issues resulting from this pandemic.  If you  do this well, your company will come out stronger on the other side and ahead of your competitors. 

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