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  • Donald Plumley

Getting the wind back in your sails

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

Steering a business through the COVID-19 crisis has been like being on a sailboat at sea in the middle of a hurricane; by comparison 2019 was blue water sailing with clear skies and fair winds. After being tossed around, it’s time to open the hatch, assess the damage, and peer towards the horizon.

There will be a break in the storm clouds. What is your plan for the second half of 2020, then looking forward to 2021 and beyond? Sage Partners have formed a working group to think deeply about our process to assist management teams as they navigate through calmer waters and set course to (re)Ignite Growth.

Returning to our sailing analogy, most firms quickly battened down the hatches and are getting ready to emerge from the storm. Leaders have made sure their crew is safe, taken stock of their resources (cash), and are taking tentative steps to restart their journey. But to where? And how?

A high-performing leader, like the captain of a sailboat, has a destination in mind when setting sail. The CEO’s navigational map is made up of a strategic plan, financial objectives, KPIs, and so on. But when the storm rises, the captain needs to reassess. As businesses and economies take first steps to reopen leaders should consider:

  • Assess: How bad is the damage? Are all of our “systems” working? How has demand for our products or services changed?

  • Locate: Where are you and where should you go now? Did the storm blow you badly off course? Perhaps the port you were sailing towards no longer exists, or there’s a better harbor to set sail toward.

  • Plan: What’s the best way to get there? Perhaps the currents and winds have changed so much that it’s difficult to make forward progress via the original route. Set a new course and communicate to the crew.

  • Prepare: What do you do when the next storm comes? There’s evidence that we’ll see one or more waves of COVID-19 infections -- building a process to prepare, react, and re-emerge is essential. And, whether COVID or a different disruptor, we can be assured other events will occur. Resilience and agility are essential.

Looking back at the 2008 financial crisis, we saw that too many companies were slow to react - not to the downturn - but in responding aggressively as conditions improved, losing opportunities to create sustainable advantage over their competitors. The result was a historically slow recovery. The COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to learn from past mistakes by more aggressively preparing and executing on a strategy to reignite growth.

Leadership teams should go through a process to:

  • Define the New

  • Deconstruct the uncertainty

  • Ignite Growth

Using this framework, you can determine if existing strategies are no longer relevant or how to adjust, identify new opportunities, and dashboard leading indicators to make sure progress is made. As new information - especially important in uncertain times - becomes relevant, you can adapt and respond quickly.

If you are interested in speaking with a Sage Partner about our process and how we can help with your team’s on-going response to today’s opportunities, let’s start a conversation.


Sage Partner Donald Plumley contributed this Sage Advice.

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