This is a question probably each of us is asking more and more often. On one hand we are living through the time of progress, digitalisation, and massive opportunities. On the other hand, after relatively calm and stable decades we are facing more and more challenges and crises, and the scale of these challenges is often quite global. The pressure each of us is feeling both in personal and professional path is high, and we need to manage resilience, ability to make the right decisions and fuel business growth and personal development.
Being born in Soviet Union in Russian-Ukrainian family, having experience of living in 4 different countries (Russia, Latvia, UK, France) and in 6 different cities, as well as working across 35 markets, I have faced quite a few crises of different scale through my life: Perestroika, end of the Soviet Union, 3 or 4 times living through currency collapse, a few terrorist attacks nearby, retailers’ closure, Brexit, pandemic, war in Ukraine. Some of them didn’t have any emotional impact on me and represented just different external conditions to function and succeed. The others touched me deeply and required some internal mental and emotional mobilisation. However, I went through successfully most of them, eventually learning, growing personally, and often finding the opportunity for the business growth. Thus, I would like to share some thoughts on how to achieve growth in the period of uncertainty, even if sometimes it seems extreme.
1. Take quick decision not always supported by data
In the traditional business practices, the companies tend to plan for 5-year horizon, look at the historical data and evaluate all risks and opportunities. In the time of uncertainty, it doesn’t really make much sense as the historical data is becoming irrelevant, and the external conditions may change dramatically in 5 years time . Of cause the long-term planning may stay in place, but the short -term decision making should play the important role.
Garry Klein in his book Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions shared his observation on how people like firefighters, pilots, chess masters, and nuclear power plant operators make high-stake decisions in real situations with time pressure, limited information and changing conditions. Apparently, they don’t compare any options. They took the 1st reasonable plan that came to mind and assess it quickly for possible problems. If they don’t fine any they follow this plan.
2. Decide what does growth mean in the current conditions
Sometimes to achieve long-term goal we have to follow quite different goals in the short-term. For example, in some cases to maximise profitability the business needs to achieve the critical mass. This means, in the short term the lower profitability must be acceptable if the number of users or the sales in absolute value is growing.
In some cases, we need to stop invest into certain activity and reallocate resources to other types of activity. For instance, investing into sales advertising having serious logistical problem will not be the best decision. Even in the conditions of the uncertainty the basics of the business should be in place, and the business model should function through all stages of the sales funnel.
It’s very important to define what is important for the specific company and specific business, and not necessarily follow the common things. It is important to differentiate your business from the competition often using alternative distribution channels, communication strategy or pricing model. Uncertainty it’s a perfect opportunity for transformation and industry disruption.
3. Always think about your consumer
The consumer is also facing the uncertainty. Think about how his/her priority have changed. What are their needs today? How can they benefit from your products/ services in the current conditions? What values do you share with your consumers? Based on this make the necessary modifications in your products/ service or communicate differently and focus on the parameters important for your customer today. I would like to give an example from my personal practice. When I was airport business of the famous beauty brand, my team shared that often the purchase of makeup at the airports was done by the user’s family member or friend. Therefore, the purchasing process for such cases needed to be simplified and speed up. Based on this feedback we developed a merchandising unit highlighting the top selling SCUs with the clear product name indication and stock available on this unit. The “family and friend” didn’t need anu more to wait for makeup artist to find a product, and the sales of the most popular SCUs went up thank to this self-service opportunity.
Be authentic and transparent. Offer the best you can. For example, if they love your brand, but find it expensive in the current conditions, research their needs and preferences and offer either smaller sizes at lower unit price or larger sizes at lower price per ml or propose additional benefits (e.g. expert advice, easy replenishment, etc.).
4. Go in small steps. Experiment and analyse the results
When the present and future are not clear it’s crucial to “touch the water” searching for the new growth opportunities. These opportunities can lay in different areas – product functions, communication, distribution channel, pricing model, user experience etc. Conducting small experiments and failing a few times you can find a little thing that works very well and enables the growth. The results of each experiment must be measured and documented. Each experiment ideally should be focused on 1 metric.
According to Growth Hacking methodology, the experiment should last for 2 weeks to see the results. Through such experiment the business can find the sources of growth not that obvious initially. The best is to run such experiments at zero or minimum cost, they should be easily reversable in case of the failure find quick wins and scalable solutions.
5. Stay positive and look at the uncertain environment as at the massive opportunity
Human beings tend to imagine the worst things and don’t like to exit the comfort zone. However today we need to stay resourceful and positive, we shouldn’t afraid trying new things, changing career path, failing or just being not perfect. Eventually the uncertainty gives us perfect real-life conditions for personal and professional development, growth, discoveries, and new achievements. Of cause such soft skills as communication, emotional intelligence, agility, curiosity, and braveness are important to succeed. It’s also important to celebrate even little wins and find the positive moments every day even if it was not that bright. Being in the growth mindset will definitely help you to achieve growth in business and make your own life as well as the life of your customers and partners better and filled with positive vibes.
Share this article on the social media and please express your opinion. What does growth mean for you? At what extend growth of your business is affected by uncertainty today? What are you suggestions to navigate business growth through the uncertain conditions?