Who would have thought that a virus could so drastically disrupt our marketplace? Businesses have shut down, social distancing has become the norm, and we are coming to the realization that getting back to normal, whatever that is going to look like, is going to take far longer than we ever imagined.
How are you supposed to grow your credit union, care for your teams, and serve your members in an environment like this? We are in uncharted waters and experiencing massive disruption at a level we have never known in our lifetime.
In times of crisis, what you focus on and the decisions you make become far more critical. In a world that has become so uncertain, the actions you take can mean the difference between success and struggle – for you, your credit union and your team. Success comes down to your ability to embrace the unknown, harness the constants shifts and create enough focus to seize the opportunities.
It’s a challenge to say the least. But these five strategies will help you chart your course and put you on the path to emerge successful. They are based on research from my newest book (set to be published Fall 2020) Thrive: Turning Uncertainty To Competitive Advantage, where I studied organizations and leaders who have not only survived but thrived through some of history’s biggest challenges – economic downturns, depression, war and disease.
5 Strategies To Redesign, Rebuild, Relaunch
- Condition Yourself Change – One thing this pandemic has taught us is just how much in our lives and our organizations is outside of our control. Our economy is fragile and things can change in a moment’s notice.
We are living in unprecedented times, and there is more happening outside of your credit union that can impact your success and your ability to grow. Constant change has become our new normal and you have to be prepared for it. Condition yourself for it.
Change is like a muscle – the more you exercise it, think about it, talk about it – the more comfortable you will be with it, and the more you and your team will move from waiting for change to happen to anticipating it.
And anticipating change is where the power is – if you see change coming, it can be your greatest opportunity. If you ignore it, it will defeat you. You want to be one step ahead when discussing how change will positively or negatively impact your credit union.
Think about the organizations that are doing that right now. They have embraced that what they do or how they offer it no longer works – so rather than waiting for the economy to bounce back – they changed. We have breweries making hand sanitizer, manufacturers making masks, and small business delivering their products and services in different ways. One of my favorite stories is about a small gift shop in suburban Chicago.
They are a brick and mortar store specializing in unique and personalized gifts. Shoppers come in, browse, and rely on talking and working with the owner to find the perfect answer to their gift giving challenge. The pandemic and social distancing have put a halt on how this business runs.
The owner, Jill, embraced the change and took her business online. She created a Google form based on the questions she would typically ask customers. She then uses that form to create a unique and exceptional buying experience for her customers. And it’s working.
Change is our new constant. We are in what I am calling a FALSE normal right now. Meaning to survive, we have to do business, engage members and manage our team in a way that may last or may not. You have to be paying attention to what is happening outside of your organization – you need to anticipate the changes that are coming.
- Collaboration Replaces Competition – One of the biggest changes we need to embrace in today’s marketplace is that competition needs to take a backseat to collaboration. Collaboration with others – even our competitors – is where the opportunity lies.
The challenges we face right now are bigger than one person, one company, or one idea – they’re too complex.
Think of the organizations and the countries that are working together to move us past this pandemic by sharing data, medical supplies and information.
Again, we are living with complicated and very complex problems, and if you fall into the trap of thinking it is better to compete than collaborate, you will miss out on opportunities.
- Get Clear On Your Core – Your credit union’s core values are going to guide you through this crisis. You need to ensure you are clear on what those are and you are actively using them in your strategic process and communication.
One of the most challenging things about crisis – is the uncertainty. No one has any idea what is going to happen, when it will happen, or what impact it will have. Uncertainty can render us paralyzed, get us moving so fast we make bad decisions, or make us lose focus by grabbing at any opportunity. To thrive in uncertainty, you need a true north – and that true north is your values – who you are, what your credit union believes, and the promises you make.
One of the most fascinating parts of researching companies that have thrived through unprecedented challenge was that all were clear on their values and they used those values as their guiding light to tell them which direction to take and which path to follow.
The world is changing, your marketplace is shifting, and what you produce and sell may shift in its relevancy. But how you do what you do – there is stability in remembering that.
- Secure Your Base – While most of us are just trying to figure out how to survive in this economic downturn – thriving companies are focusing on growth. What opportunities are out there, what products do they need to create, and how can they best position themselves for success when this economy is ready to relaunch.
In any crisis, growth happens from the inside out, so you need to secure your base. Focus on taking care of your existing members and they will show you the path to grow and attract new members.
Proctor and Gamble, the world’s largest consumer goods company, has been around since 1837. A good deal of their success is based on their commitment to listening, engaging, and taking care of their customers first.
Long before “data” was a thing, Proctor & Gamble were using consumer feedback to predict the next product and the next opportunity.
They grew during the Great Depression by listening to their customers about what products they were still using and what products they needed more of.
In 1941, P&G introduced the toll-free line so customers could easily and effectively have their questions answered and share complaints and ideas.
There is opportunity in today’s marketplace, and the best way to find it is to focus on taking care of your existing members. Check-in, ask how their doing, inquire about their challenges, ask what they need, and what they are focused on. Then listen – just listen.
Their challenges and obstacles will reveal your biggest opportunities and your path forward.
- Shed Fast & Keep Moving – Last but not least, this is no time for perfection. You have to keep moving. Design a plan and take action. Then review, adjust, and relaunch. If you stop, spend too much time testing, or wait for the perfect opportunity to arise, the marketplace will pass you by.
All the work you have done up to this point has positioned you to move quickly. You have conditioned yourself for change, which has shown you opportunities in the marketplace. Collaborating with others has formed new partnerships and created unimaginable solutions. Getting clear on your core has given you clear focus on priorities, and securing your base has ensured you turn those opportunities into the right products and services. Now all you need to do is take action – get moving and implement.
In an uncertain marketplace, you can never be sure of the next step or if the move you are making is right. But what you can be sure of is that movement gives you information, builds your confidence, and shows you the path forward.
I was talking with the CEO of an innovative and cutting-edge healthcare company – one that is well positioned for success in spite of this crisis. He shared that the contingency plan they built for emergencies, that was implemented as soon as the pandemic hit, has now been updated and changed 21 times – 21 times!
Why? Because the marketplace keeps shifting and keeps changing. Some of their ideas are working – some aren’t. So, they review their plan every week, get rid of what isn’t working, commit to what is, and try new things.
Your path to turning uncertainty to opportunity will come from forward movement and progress – you have to shed fast and keep moving.
These are challenging times, but one of the most powerful lessons we gain from history is that there have always been companies, leaders, and organizations that have thrived in times of crisis.
What you do and where you focus will determine how you come through this crisis. Follow these strategies to find your path forward and emerge successful.