Thanks to the Coronavirus, the world as we knew it seems forever changed. In business, the pandemic has created a lot of opportunities to innovate company models or to reinvent and pivot.
While no one has a crystal ball on how companies will change this year and beyond, six leaders at The Alternative Board shared their predictions on how the business world will be forever changed.
Virtual Sales Meetings
Prior to the pandemic, smaller companies may have felt at a disadvantage to larger firms who had the staff and budget to allow in-person presentations to woo new customers. A virtual meeting might have been viewed as a “B” level play versus bringing your “A” Team in-person. Virtual meetings are now the norm, leveling the playing field for smaller players who could not afford the in-person sales budgets and staffing of larger companies. Sales success will still require quality services/products and effective selling skills – but smaller firms can now compete with larger firms for these initial engagements online.
I see restaurants becoming subscription businesses. Let’s say you were a restaurant with 40 tables and you made a good profit. When restaurants open again, you might be allowed to seat 15 tables. You’ll use less staff, but you still have other fixed costs like the lease. How do you make it profitable?
I see a subscription opportunity with patrons paying a fee to reserve a table once per month. They might pay $50 to rent a table at a restaurant either at a specific day/time each month or rotating. Weekend fees will be higher. This is just a fee to patronize their favorite restaurants. They still need to pay for the meal.
Think it won’t happen? The model already exists. CNN wrote a story on Rao’s 14-table Italian Restaurant in Manhattan. You can only dine there “…if you know someone who owns – yes, owns – a table seating and invites you to dine with them.” It’s an intriguing idea. The quality has to be there. I’m not going to subscribe to a table at Applebees, but I might at my favorite sushi restaurant. If the public isn’t willing to invest a little more in our favorite restaurants, many of them will not stay around.
Customer Relationship Management
In many ways, this pandemic has brought out the best operating companies that will survive this. Internally at least, the primary levers of business management, i.e., differentiation, strategy and execution, delegation, communication, training, will not change, I believe. Externally, I think your digital presence will be more critical than ever.
What I am most curious about is how it will affect the basics of networking and the power of influence in professional circles. I am seeing some thought leaders come out in our community and am impressed with how they have harnessed the power of their networks with online platforms.
If you didn’t have a robust CRM before this, you will need it more than ever before. Sales are going to be more consultative, if they weren’t before, and based on building long relationships.
I think people are going to be a little nicer, a little more humble and I’m pivoting to make sure I’m offering my clients both the psychological as well as management support they need. I’ve never communicated so much in my life!
Two For The Price Of One
One of the biggest changes in the post-COVID business world will be the relationship between companies and employees. The unemployment rate will be much higher than it has been in several years. But, this does not mean employers will be in the driver seat. The best employees will have learned from this crisis and will choose to work for employers that have not only the proper financial plan but also a strong culture. One of the biggest hit industries will be commercial real estate, especially in big cities. Commercial real estate has continued to flourish in some cities in recent years, partially because of flexible workspaces. Now, those workspaces will be retracting, and big companies are already considering work from home as a constant option going forward. Many cities will find that their commercial real estate is overbuilt and will experience downward price pressure for years to come.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
If you thought things were moving fast before COVID, get ready for them to move even quicker for the rest of 2020 and beyond. We are entering into the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Things are going to accelerate. From a business perspective, everything will ultimately go virtual. This will change the way we do business. You already see it with Google and other organizations letting their employees work from home until 2021 when they review things again. New technologies will continue to emerge or be refined, including more Artificial Intelligence, 3D, and holographic technologies. Business travel will change. It will be 12-18 months before business travel returns, and it will likely still be different. You probably will not see people going to conventions either. This will be done online, all interactive.
From a consumer perspective almost, everything will be online. Things will be extremely customized to the individual. You will interact with your computer, and they will assist you, including keeping track of previous purchases and knowing your likes and dislikes. Need groceries? Your local vegetable stand and fishmonger can stream live what they just got in fresh and invite you to come to pick it up. Or better yet, have it delivered. People will likely want to stay close to home.
These are just a few changes coming. Each of them is a conversation into itself. There will be more e-commerce options, virtual customer relationships, AI, and big data will impact everything. This has implications for M&A and talent.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is how vulnerable we are, including our economy. Just like rescuing a shelter dog has become a badge of honor, buying from a local small business will become a new trend. Websites and product packaging will display proudly “100% Made in (country)” or “Locally Owned and Operated for 20 years”. Customers will inquire more about whether a product is manufactured locally as part of their decision-making process. Larger companies will be expected to source options locally over higher profit margins or lose a percentage of their customer-base over to a competitor that is locally sourced.
Regardless of whether these six predictions become our new normal as a result of the pandemic, many businesses and their owners were forced to adapt in order to survive uncertain times quickly.
Whether it is changing your sales process to be delivered online, or how be ahead of the curve for the 4th Industrial Revolution, now is your chance to re-evaluate how you do business. What changes can you make, no matter how radical they may seem? It won’t happen overnight, but it can and will happen faster than you think. Join a TAB board today and let other leading business owners and CEO’s help you transform your business.