Building Your QuaranTEAM

I have worked and lived through two gulf wars, 9/11 and its economic aftermath, the Geat Recession and now the current pandemic. I recently read a very old report I'd saved from one of the aforementioned events, and this quote from Stewart Brand stood out as one that we continue to need to repeat: "This present moment used to be the unimaginable future."

Yet we are never fully prepared, even though we have insights like this report from the National Intelligence Agency (page 75): "Potential Emergence of a Global Pandemic The emergence of a novel, highly transmissible, and virulent human respiratory illness for which there are no adequate countermeasures could initiate a global pandemic. If a pandemic disease emerges by 2025, internal and cross-border tension and conflict will become more likely as nations struggle—with degraded capabilities—to control the movement of populations seeking to avoid infection or maintain access to resources."

So much innovation in technology is what is keeping our country (and our global friends) afloat; we can connect, share research and news, work from home, and see our customers, family, and friends located all around the world. But as the strongest, smartest, most innovative country in the world (well, maybe not as innovative as we once thought), we went through a period where we could not find masks, toilet paper, medical equipment and personal protective equipment.

It's been said it takes disasters to wake up nations, and I see already how my colleagues are mobilizing for greater innovation to take back their country and their companies. Since 2009, my company has worked with companies to build pivot strategies, revenue rescue plans, and innovation and digital transformative product/company strategies to guard them against the erosion of business in the digital world. Albeit slow to move in many cases, as innovation and changing course has its naysayers, we persevered with our core champions and moved the strategies along.

It's a dark time right now for everyone, but there is opportunity for entrepreneurs to be the leaders in building a more self-sufficient country. We are challenging ourselves and our customers to look at opportunities to help and build for the future.

So how might you look at your own world and find opportunities ahead? Consider this quote from Sun Tzu's The Art of War, "The flavors are only five in number but their blends are so various that one cannot taste them all." It's not complicated to innovate. We make it more complicated many times than necessary.

Here are a few strategies you can use right now even with your team members stuck at home:

1. Form Your QuaranTEAM

The members of this team will be your pivot or innovation leads in the organization. Whether you have a team of 18 or a team of over 1,000, mobilize everyone to a team that will be instrumental going forward with a pivot. For example, for one of our client companies, we had to immediately turn their sales strategies on their head. So many companies today are used to customers knocking on their doors to buy their products. But we're not so prepared for the reverse unless maybe you have lived and worked through some of the calamitous events I mentioned.

2. Focus Intently on Revenue

Below are some steps we took for some of our customers in early January in order to learn more about the possible implications of COVID-19. These are viable steps that could help rethink your business as we come out of sheltering and open up to our new normal.

Anticipation plan: Conduct "what if" scenario planning sessions. Develop backup plans for your backup plans and so on.

Create your revenue rescue team:

  • Reorganize the whole company around revenue growth, sales and suppliers/partner management. Ensure you are capable of delivering the products or services that you sell on time.
  • Incentivize all the new behaviors you desire from the organization as a whole.
  • Turn as many of your organization's staff as possible into insightful and helpful customer-facing teams. Build an outbound customer plan to keep abreast of what your customers need and how they are doing.
  • Celebrate both wins and losses.
  • Refocus marketing strategies by shifting to customer sentiment. Take frequent pulses on sentiment, and understand how messaging needs to shift before ever making the first call or sending out the first refocused campaigns.
  • Ensure all meetings have revenue at their initial focus.

Product innovation and pivot strategy team: Start now with product innovation discussions: What will you need to be as we come out of this? If you think it is too soon or too late to have these discussions, I challenge you to rethink those assumptions.

3. Look Backward to Look Forward

List your company's five flavors (as Sun Tzu referenced), and begin making your blends to find your own innovation opportunities. Remember to keep it simple!

What are the five core competencies — your unique values, solutions or benefits — that got you where you are today? List these, and define why they worked for you in the past. Now, throw all of these up in the air, and create 25 new blends out of them that will serve the needs of your customers as we begin to come out of our sheltering-in-place orders. Your five flavors are your newly designed innovations or solutions. Test three of them, and then repeat.