Skip to main content

Edition 224 – Over the Horizon

For almost 3 months, most family businesses have been running a management by fire strategy. COVID 19 hit hard and when Australia went into lockdown, businesses needed to adapt quickly to a fast changing situation. It was what most businesses needed to do to get through a period of complete uncertainty.

From 1st June, New South Wales and Victoria will further reduce restrictions in an attempt to bring some normality (if that actually exists) back to our businesses and everyday life. As the Prime Minister himself said this week, it’s now about bringing Australia out of the Intensive Care Unit.

What we have been through, and are continuing to experience, has been so successfully managed by a wide range of businesses purely as a result of adaptability and speed. Changes needed to be made, immediately, for fear of not knowing how long this was going to go on for, nor what it’s impact would be.

Now is the perfect time to move the thinking away from reactivity and start focussing on what is over the horizon. To that end, we’re facing two strategic planning scenarios in the family business space right now.

  1. From now until February 2021.
  2. From February 2021 until December 2021.

February 2021 is the first critical date as it is when Australia will be out of the blocks after the Christmas break. That means, you need to be thinking through:

  1. What work do we have locked in between now and February 2021?
  2. Will some of that work be long term – or is it likely to be a short term filler?
  3. What does that mean in terms of my requirements for staffing, cash and equipment between now and then?
  4. Will that work generate enough cash and profit to see us through until April 2021 (which is when you’ll start to be paid for work commencing in February 2021)?

Essentially, between now and February 2021 is short term planning – think of it as a “COVID 19 Lite” approach.

February 2021 is also the date that you need to be thinking about what your longer term work is likely to be throughout the entirety of the 2021 calendar year.

That means, you need to be planning around:

  1. What work do we want to be undertaking throughout 2021?
  2. What relationships do we need to cultivate between now and then so we have the chance to pick up that work at that time?
  3. What staffing will we need in 2021 to carry out that work and if we don’t have that level of staffing in place now, what do we need to do to acquire it?
  4. What upskilling will our staff need at that time – and how do we invest in that upskilling now, not at the time we need it?
  5. What will our cash requirements be after February 2021?
  6. Who are the customers (past, present and future) we need to be having conversations with now to ensure we’re out of the blocks fast in February 2021?
  7. Do we have the equipment that we will need to perform the work we’re aiming to win in 2021?

Now, whilst I can hear a lot of you saying:

“How I am going to be able to know what 2021 will look like?”

let me pose this to you:

“If you know what you want 2021 to look like for your business, then why not spend the time now planning it and the months afterwards implementing the changes needed to achieve it?”

If I want to run the City to Surf in August in under 50 minutes, I need to be focussing on my fitness, running technique, diet and sleep routine well before the start date – and to make my vision achievable, I’d be aiming for August 2021 and not August 2020 given where I currently sit on each of those four variables.

The same applies for your family business. How much you’re training now, the clarity of your goals and the lead time you are giving yourself are all critical in determining whether your vision is ultimately successful – or is merely pie in the sky.

Use the same degree of urgency and invest the same level of time as you did with your COVID 19 business strategy to work on your post February 2021 strategy. Speed always trumps perfection!