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Andrew Penny, August 5 2020

Tis an ill wind that blows no one any good

Our world is built on tectonic plates that shift slowly and surely under our feet. Occasionally the plates ‘stick’ until the pressure builds up sufficiently to ‘unstick’ them in what we call an earthquake Much like an earthquake, the pandemic has caused many of the trends underlying the world we have built to move very quickly. Political, social, business, technology and a host of other trends have suddenly shifted and most of the world is scrambling to adapt. Some business leaders are hiding, but some are embracing the immense changes. These are some of the opportunities.

Buying and selling
In-person selling and buying is almost extinct. Instead digitally supported buying and selling is the new normal. Sure, some ‘old school’ companies will try to get back to the old way of doing things, but they will find the world has embraced the new ways and moved on. The technology has been available for years, but the pandemic shift highlighted how efficient and effective technology to support this has become. Ottawa based Shopify enables businesses (like Tesla, Sephora and Lindt) quickly and easily create a professional online store. Their Q2 2020 revenues increased 52% over Q1. TroutRiver live bottom trailers created professional sales studios for each of their salespeople to enable them to sell across the world without leaving Prince Edward Island. Today’s buyers are even hungrier for content! (Particularly video content). How have you adapted to the new way of selling and buying? Are leading or lagging in your market?

Value chains are being reformed
Supply chains have been a casualty in the disruption wrought by the pandemic. We are shifting from cost-based to value-based decisions. Terms such as on-shoring and near-shoring are more prevalent. Sustainability, resiliency and diversity are now very much part of the consideration. No matter where you fit in the value chain, you have an opportunity to increase the value you are providing as other members of the chain falter or cling to the old ways of doing things. Look up and down the value chains you are in – can you expand the value you provide? Think about logistics, packaging, service expansion, costs reductions and diversification. How will you leverage newly accepted technologies such as AI, IoT, Cloud, and the plethora of connectivity and communications tools such as Zoom, Slack, Teams?

Value vs time
For knowledge workers, this could be the last spike in the old command and control business model that was established during the industrial revolution. That’s the one where all the employees sit at their desks every day from 9 to 5 so that the boss can be sure they are ‘working’. The companies that cling to the old time-based system will have difficulty attracting new employees and will be unable to access all the creativity and incredible value that most employees could offer. What leadership actions have you changed? What management process have you modified? How will you shift to objectives and outcome-based leadership? (See what my colleague Graham has to say on this.)

Global by default
Once we remove the ‘office’ we become untethered and unconstrained by location, by square feet or by location. If you embrace this change you are no longer restricted a region, a country or a continent. Apart from time zones, a Zoom call with Montreal or Mumbai is the same. In our own case, we have added team members in Aarhus and in Montreal. And just last week we started discussions with companies in Córdoba, Leicestershire, Moscow, New York and Vancouver. Now that the walls have come down around your office, what will you do, where will you go, where will your team be based?

Time to stand up and stand out
Many old school firms are fighting hard to get back to the old way of doing things. That is not going to happen. Many of these pandemic changes will be permanent. This is your opportunity to embrace them and stand out as a better employer and as a better partner for your clients.
At your next management meeting, why not ask your team how best to embrace, and capitalize on, the changes in Business Development, Sales, Operations, Recruitment, Customer Service, Administration?


These are indeed exciting times and full of opportunities. I encourage you to embrace the changes and look for the cracks in the old order. As Leonard Cohen might say – that’s how the light gets in!

Best regards,

Written by

Andrew Penny


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