The Balance Between Vision and Reality
Who else here feels like Pat Sajak asking the next guest to take a big spin? Despite the back and forth, it’s clear that, whether we’re labeling a recession or not, businesses continue to manage through supply chain breakdowns, labor woes, and close to 10% inflation (average!)
It’s no wonder that distress is befalling so many small and mid-size businesses. Yet, as I look around, read, listen, and go about my daily dealings, it is common to find business leaders trying to balance the vision of their business arc prior to the pandemic and the reality of what is occurring on main street.
Listening to recent survey reports on consumer sentiment, I was thinking about where Covid fell on the list of priorities on people’s minds. It goes without saying that economic, social, and political challenges are far more top-of-mind at present, so it appears to me that the greatest struggles that business leaders are having relates to adapting our business models to new realities, and the decisions are highly influenced by the hopeful anticipation of a return to normalcy as peak Covid behaviors (the masking, isolation, quarantine periods, etc.) have practically dissipated– “so it can’t be that long before the rest gets better, no?” (think ‘transitory’).
Many businesses are playing the waiting game, some lucky enough to weather through the reduced margins (defraying costs with surcharges, and increases) or able to use up their residual, latent employee capacity while remaining profitable. Other businesses are simply burning cash, squeezing their capacity onto existing but shrinking teams with the anticipation of a near-term recovery—even as their ability to course correct and stabilize is completely dependent on the availability of attracting employees.
At the beginning of the Pandemic, business survival seemed to fall into three categories: those that are 100% dependent on the congregation of people (customers or employees) and simply could not operate, those that were challenged by congregation but could moderately adapt and, finally, those that would thrive because of the inability to congregate or addressed safety measures that were required to mitigate that.
At the time, business models were adjusted, but under “temporary viewpoints,” and there are many in the third category that later hoped to convert windfall into sustainable growth, but are now having to adjust backward from those ramp ups as people now congregate at relatively pre-covid levels. For everyone though, Costs of Goods / Services continue to rise, and the costs of living (and especially gas and childcare) continue to challenge, divide the attention, and impact the productivity (or even the ability to get to work) of the people who we need to show up and power our businesses onward.
It’s an ongoing spiral. Our businesses have endured three years of upsets and, because it is now apparent that these years were simply a lead-in to the current recovery of opposites (high job growth against high inflation, against rising interest rates), the psychological and financial effects are wearing down practically all the roles within an organization.
As some inflationary measures are indicators of longer-term recovery periods (such as a national average of 15% increase in cost of rent/housing), leadership in distressed business is now faced with two paths: continue the current path, hoping that things improve enough to pick up where we left off on the visions of our business before the pandemic and continue drawing down precious resources until its possibly too late, or begin modifying those visions to accommodate the realities of changing business, social, and economic climates (pun intended).
In truth, the leaders of these businesses (especially those in 1:1 direct service industries) are really left with only one question:
How long can we wait for the recruiting and retention challenges to settle down before we accept that our business models need to adjust from our visions to reality?
As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, and committing to a Balance Driven Business keeps you at pace in this new world of business— the ever-increasing speed in which business adaptations need to occur to realign people, product, and profit. Col. Sudip Mukerjee of Reserv3 Consulting and Sean Lewis of SLC Advisory Group combine their specialties for the deep dive needed to bring your business up-to-date with the finance and people challenges of the New World, and to lay the groundwork for staying competitive well into the future.