The story of the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. But even though it will, in all probability, end, the ‘new normal’ it has been responsible for could last for months, years, or indefinitely. What is beyond doubt, however, is that businesses will have to start planning for the affects of pandemics in a way they’ve never done before.
You won’t have failed to notice that, although there’s been some dramatic losers over the past few months (think hospitality, airlines, high street retail), there’s also been some big winners (think technology companies, especially videoconferencing ones, online shops and supermarkets, healthcare suppliers).
At The Ideas Distillery we help companies put in place management systems such as ISO 9001 (quality), ISO 14001 (environment), ISO 45001 (health and safety) and ISO 27001 (information security). Even though these are quite differing and disparate disciplines, all four have one important thing in common.
They are all classed as ‘risk based’ standards, which is to say that they all require you to assess the risks to your business and build your system accordingly. Recognising risk and putting measures in place to control and mitigate these risks are central tenets.
But what is most interesting about this risk assessment process is that it also, simultaneously, gets you to consider any opportunities associated with the risk.
You see, ISO management systems consider that risks also have a positive side - opportunities. That’s because within every risk lies an opportunity.
So when lockdown made everyone stay indoors, the watch-word for business was ‘pivot’ - how could a business adjust what it did in normal times to fulfil a need in, well, frankly, very abnormal times. Some did it successfully, others less so - either the perceived need wasn’t there, or the business didn’t have the necessary infrastructure, funding, competence, (fill your own diagnosis in here), etc to carry it off.
But, of course, if they had a properly-research plan with the necessary contingencies that they could have put into action almost immediately, using a finely-honed management system, then things might have been different.
I know this may sound like sage advice once the horse has bolted and run far away over the hills, but a pandemic is just one business risk that has the ability to close even the best-run company overnight (indeed a pandemic hasn’t been a far-fetched scenario in business risk circles for quite a few years given the swine flu, bird flu and SARS scares of recent years).
Let’s just take a look at two immediate risks in the wake of the pandemic (which is, of course, still going on):
Both are clearly the worst type of business risk. But are there opportunities? Can you be a market disruptor? Can you make use of existing current resources - your people and their skills, any intellectual property, systems and technology, or capital you might have?
Just some tips - a quick scan of trends using Google finds that anything to do with wellbeing - from vitamin supplements to exercise equipment - is big business as people start to value their health. Distance learning (or e-learning) is also becoming a juggernaut!
But the big takeaway is to take a risk-based approach to your business planning. There’s still much that can happen (don’t forget there were many businesses still recovering from flooding right before the COVID outbreak), and we’re still living in a climate-changing world with resources getting ever-scarcer.
You could do much worse than to look at adopting an ISO standard and using some tools to really get you thinking about how you might more effectively ‘pivot’ when the next crisis hits. Hopefully it won’t be for a long time yet, but then you never know…
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