by Steve Jenkins, Executive Director, Door County Economic Development Corporation
When your kitchen is on fire, bad things tend to happen if you’ve given no forethought to such a thing happening. But, if you have the right fire extinguisher for kitchen fires, and it’s accessible and charged, and your family has a fire plan in place, you’ll be able to react appropriately to the potential danger and maintain your peace of mind. The fire is a threat; the plan is an opportunity. The same scenarios apply to business.
The coronavirus pandemic has taught us many things, one of which is to be prepared for the unexpected. A time of crisis is not the time to plan; by then it’s too late. Change and disruption are here to stay, but we should not view them as threats because they offer immense opportunities. Those who are willing to step outside their comfort zone, those who can adapt to change quickly and those who have the flexibility to pivot will see their chances of survival vastly enhanced.
So how should one approach business operations in the future?
• First, evaluate what you’ve learned from COVID-19. How did it affect your business? What challenges did you face? Where were you vulnerable? Don’t miss this opportunity to learn.
• Second, what changes did you make to reduce the impact on your business? What would you do differently in the future? Did you seek help to develop new strategies? Many discovered that they weren’t alone during the crisis and that there are resources available to help.
The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) and its partners, such as the Small Business Development Center, directly assisted more than 230 businesses during the pandemic to support their sustainability and survival. That free assistance is just a phone call away.
• Third, develop operational scenarios based on “what if” questions – all of the “good, bad and ugly” possibilities. Reflect on past business challenges, including the pandemic-related ones, and develop strategies to address these possibilities. Keep in mind that such scenarios aren’t just for negative events – they can apply to positive trends such as unexpected growth.
• Fourth, know your market and how it’s changing. It’s essential to stay abreast of changes by examining primary data such as surveys and secondary data such as those generated by other sources. Everything today is data driven.
• Finally, write it down. Your data, insights and strategies won’t help if they’re rattling around in your head or scattered about on scraps of paper. Develop a plan, review it frequently and embed it in your business plan. Make time to do this crucial exercise.
It’s important to access vetted information from reliable, trusted sources to help your business successfully cope with challenges that are beyond your control. Many times, good ideas don’t come from within our own business sectors, so explore how other sectors deal with circumstances that may apply to your business.
DCEDC wants to help the Door County business community prepare for the “different normal” of the future. OpenDoor (livedoorcounty.org/open) on the DCEDC website is a resource to help businesses reopen, prepare for the future and generate ideas about new business models and approaches.
As the economy evolves during the coming months, DCEDC will focus on increased assistance to the county’s businesses to help move beyond survival to growth again. That may mean rethinking business models and new products, services and customers. The “different normal” will present vast, new opportunities for those who are willing to rethink the way their business operates. Embracing change, no matter how unnerving it may be, could be your key to success. Seize new opportunities with fearless vigor!