Not every business was designed for sustained success: only resilient businesses get through difficult times such as economic, political and social crises with a plan and emerge stronger. Let’s take a look at how some major companies reinvented themselves through tough times and learn from their best moves.

A mission with a vision

A business becomes resilient when its people always know the direction to follow, no matter the unforeseen variables and context that show up. Your company’s mission reveals the “what,” the “who,” and the “why”. The means and ways towards the goals to achieve can vary over time according to circumstances, risks and opportunities but the direction should always be clear.

For instance, Nike’s mission is stated this way: “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Whatever the company faces, customers should always be able to identify themselves as athletes through Nike’s products and services. This involves a certain kind of positioning, communication, level of quality and technical features regarding the products while remaining affordable. (Re)defining your company’s mission and your personal one as well will clarify how flexible you can and cannot be in your initiatives during a crisis before you start losing sight of what your company was meant to do.

Emotional intelligence

Crises do not only affect businesses, they affect individuals too. Uncertainty, health concerns and career concerns will likely impact your team members. In the context of Covid-19 particularly, not only do they fear for their loved ones’ health and for their job in a harsh economic crisis but most of them have to comply with new working conditions (from home or at work with an uncomfortable equipment and a set of new rules) while taking care of their family. Taking the pressure on your team into account and expressing empathy is part of being a resilient leader.

This involves acknowledging that their focus and priorities might change for a period as well as adopting a confident and calm attitude that will reassure and inspire them. Implementing new patterns to ensure immediate health and safety should be your first move, before even worrying about the figures. Adapting the work conditions to the context by providing flexible work hours and arrangements can then be made, leading to feedback surveys to keep track of your team’s well-being and motivation. In China, some leading companies have launched a digital employee health declaration system to watch over their employee’s welfare during the crisis and ease some administrative reporting requirements at the same time.

resilient leadership in crises

Focus forward

Markets and consumers evolve, therefore so does the demand. Crises are always a good time to take a honest look at your business and identify what is truly working and what is not. Have your initiatives and investments of the last years paid off? Are there flaws in your strategy or room for improvement in your development? Then now is the time to leave the past behind and make some tough decisions. Sometimes, it’s best to give up on one or more business divisions rather than fighting for nothing. A crisis is hard enough to overcome with successful products/services, do not waste more time and money on activities that drag your business down. As tough as it can be, it’s part of being resilient.

Take Google for example. When its social network Google + was launched in 2011, expectations were high. Results were not. After years of battle to make it attractive — even linking other Google products such as Blogger or Youtube — with the hope to challenge the leaders Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the platform was finally shut down in 2019 due to low user engagement as well as software design flaws. In the same vein, the American business and financial software company Intuit dropped 5 divisions and lines of products, including Quicken, their oldest and iconic franchise. Business doesn’t leave room for nostalgia if you’re determined to push it forward.

Core skills for new markets

In times of crises, focusing only on managing your core business can leave you vulnerable to disruption. Your core skills and personal reputation are your best assets to think bigger and help your company tackle new markets and opportunities.

Remember how Neste reinvented its processes for refining oil and gas to become a global leader in renewable and circular solutions. Or how the entertainment leader Disney became part of tweens and teens’ daily life with the launch of multiple Disney TV channels. Not only have they extended their markets and ways of consumption but they even produced their own idols with shows like Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

A decade ago, Apple gathered all its best inventions — touchscreens, lightweight design, powerful processors and batteries — in a single brand new device: the iPad. More recently, a great example of reinvention was how the transportation and energy company Tesla started producing ventilators powered by its Model 3 tech to address the shortage of ventilators in American hospitals during the Covid crisis.

Take digital a step further

The digital transformation has taken place a while ago and most businesses had already digitalized part of their operations and customer service. The Covid-19 situation has however highlighted a range of untapped opportunities to go further. Besides, remote working and management alternatives including online trainings, meetings, cloud computing, specific applications and softwares — that had already been considered by many companies and organizations but not so much implemented — have now become common practice. Now is the time to consider new online options for both your customers and your workers.

New ways of consumption and digital activities have emerged and if some were obvious, others were quite unexpected and freakishly creative. We never doubted that we could fulfil grocery needs and even our compulsive shopping addictions through e-stores or practice some yoga and fitness thanks to online classes. But did we ever think we could for example live and enjoy an activity as immersive as Tomorrowland on a computer ?

Combining 3D design, Hollywood-style filming techniques and modern gaming technology, the 2020 edition of the world’s biggest electro festival provided a unique online experience. Using green-screen studios, pre-recorded DJ sets and live action performances, the team brought full-sized DJ booths to life in a 3D fantasy world that we could enjoy from our sofa. Far from the classic and quite boring live concert accesses we can find all over the internet, they have succeeded in transforming a whole festival in a unique and futuristic experience thanks to technology and VR. “Our biggest challenge – besides being an obvious enormous technical challenge – is making sure festival visitors will be able to feel they are being part of something larger than their computer and their internet connection” commented Henry Daubrez, CEO and creative director of Dogstudio. Mission accomplished for the resilient Belgian organization with over 1 million viewers.

Author: Sophie Vande Kerkhove – Content Manager

An EngineeTech365 original content
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