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When a Sprint Pivots into a Marathon

By Bill Corbet, Managing Director - Strategy

COVID-19 hit the financial services industry hard and fast in March – and then the race was on to adapt to a remote work environment with no understanding of the duration, let alone considering the challenges ahead or the options available.

As we roll into September, we must now accept that we are no longer in a sprint – but a marathon and adjust accordingly.

Typically, September is the time when summer activities wind down, and we slowly start to morph back into a relatively normal routine. As vacation season ends, everyone is back in the office, budget season starts to kick in. The fall is traditionally a great time back at the office when firms have an opportunity to evaluate their year-to-date strategies to hit year end goals, while also starting to refine both short and long-term priorities.

Following a summer of quarantine, the fall of 2020 is already shaping up to be unlike any other. Requiring companies to take a deeper, more pro-longed pause, to reflect on the past 6 months and adapt what has worked successfully into their core operating principles.

If there is anything COVID-19 has taught us, is that moving forward companies must continuously re-define their core principals to effectively guide colleagues and achieve success. But how does leadership keep its pulse on these market shifts so they can adjust accordingly? The answer is simple: engage in steady conversations at all levels of the organization; meaning the discussion needs to shift from the board room to the front lines and smaller teams to ultimately make an organization successful.

Individually and in small groups solicit feedback on what has worked, what hasn’t, and why. In discussions with large and small companies senior leadership, we often find that line managers and employees have very different opinions on what has worked and what hasn’t – making solicitation at all levels of the organization critical (and don’t be afraid to engage your customers for feedback they are living with the same challenges).

As the feedback comes together it will begin to paint the picture on how to build an operating model that is adaptable, sustainable and profitable. Recognizing there are regulations, policies, etc. that define the box a business must operate within; empower the small action teams, who in most cases are closest to the customer, to help create the strategies of how the firm will achieve their evolving objectives. For example, when colleagues are remote, and potentially in different time zones, end of day can have very different meanings; is it 5:00 PM cause that’s the way Mary works? Or is it 9:00 PM because Steve is working crazy hours due to child-care? If this is not addressed the team becomes dysfunctional, if the team creates a solution that work for all, stakeholders can then thrive.

While those smaller team actions will do not define success; longterm success comes from taking those individual wins horizontally and vertically to create a business model that insures consistent, sustainable, and successful business models.

Companies that plan to operate in 2020 and 2021 with the same business model used ‘pre-COVID’ or ‘mid-COVID’ may survive – but don’t be afraid to build your company from the bottom up, you’ll then be in the group that thrives.

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