There is no doubt that we are living in uncertain times. The Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and disruptions to supply chains and business operations have forced us to respond in unexpected ways. These challenges make it seem nearly impossible to plan for the future.
Should we even be working on strategy when we can barely predict what will happen next year? Absolutely — and it’s never been more crucial.
Although uncertainties are challenging, they provide organisations with the opportunity to rethink their offerings in a way they couldn’t have before.
Last year, a venture that I invested years in developing was performing poorly. We had a great customer base, but the pandemic negatively affected our daily operations.
We had to choose between two difficult options. We could either continue doing what we were always doing and wait out the pandemic in the hope that things would go back to the way they were, or we had to rethink our strategy and give our customers something that would serve them in the future.
The key word here is “rethink”. For many business owners, rethinking a business strategy that took years to build and develop is no easy feat.
If I had to summarise what we did in the following few months it would be: reimagining a future for our business. We had to shed what it was, think about what it could be and how it could support our customers during uncertain times.
The exercise truly humbled us. As an entrepreneur, I always had my business’s best interest at heart. Sometimes, when I’m truly immersed in a situation and coming up with solutions to difficult challenges, I take a step back and remember that as much as I know my business inside out, it is the customers who ultimately know what they want us to offer. It’s as simple as that.
The first thing we did during our rethinking exercise was to go back to our customers and ask them what they expected from us, how they imagined us to be and how they wanted us to perform during these tough times.
Many business owners forget this part. They rely solely on the advice of experts. While that’s also important, the most valuable input you will receive is the one from your customers.
While gathering feedback from customers and devising a new strategy, it’s important to involve your entire team in the process.
Once we were done with these two important steps, it was time to dream big. We stretched our imagination. After asking our customers what they wanted, we thought of the best way we could deliver that.
And we didn’t stop there: we asked our friends, stakeholders and anyone else who could provide us with valuable insights on how we could serve our customers best.
When we pinned down our major goal, we broke it down into smaller goals that could be achieved by different team members and integrated into different processes — and then sought the best options to execute them.
We often limit ourselves when it comes to strategy, thinking how we can improve on what we currently have. But once we kept our options open, and imagined a new future for our business, it made all the difference and my venture performed better than ever.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi