The benefit of long-term thinking: How to make downtime valuable

How do you successfully plan in a time when no one knows what’s coming next, or what could change tomorrow? It’s a question many businesses are facing thanks to COVID-19.

In warehouse and distribution, some of us are in a more fortunate position than many other businesses. I am yet to hear (so far) of businesses in our industry that have been affected to the point of no return during this crisis.  We’re lucky that when the government is thinking about essential services, they’re considering supply chains too.

But if we’re realistic, no one will get out of this unscathed. It’s likely things will change for many businesses and at the very least you will face downtime or changes in workload. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

It’s important to resist the urge to think of reacting now, and rather use this time to your advantage and think long term. There are simple things you can do during this time to make the most of what you have, and support your business and those in it until we regain some normalcy.

Looking over the horizon

We’ve never experienced anything quite like COVID-19 before, so there’s no strategy or best practice to fall back on. It’s situations like this which are dangerous and can lead to short-term thinking. Fight or flight has kicked in and it’s tempting to go the later. But it’s not a good idea.

We’ve seen it happen a few times – sales go south and the panic sets in. Businesses get rid of staff, cut costs wherever they can, shut up shop straight away. I get it, it’s in a bid to stay alive. Or so they think.

But by doing this, managers and directors may not be thinking through all the options. They’re not considering that they have a role as a business leader to do something that’s not just about them. They have staff, customers and stakeholders to think about, too.

When this is happening day by day, people can feel like they have to make day by day decisions. But this isn’t going to work in the long run. COVID-19 is going to affect everything we do, but it’s going to pass. And we need to be ready when it does.

Your staff are valuable – use them wisely

Thankfully, the biggest hurdle many businesses have been facing has been somewhat mitigated by the government’s Job Keeper scheme. You can now possibly afford to keep paying most employees – that’s great.

But, if the work has slowed, changed or is coming in inconsistently, how can you use these paid employees?  This different period of business gives you an opportunity to understand what’s happening in the business and improve our processes moving forward.

If the work isn’t there but the employees are, it becomes about finding different, valuable things for them to be able to do. If staff capacity has changed, so has your ability to try different things. Have a think about:

  • Who is on the books?
  • What’s their availability?
  • What’s their ability?
  • How can you get them thinking about the future instead of thinking about what’s happening right now?

There are plenty of things businesses can do to improve their processes in the long run.  I’m 100% sure every business out there would have tasks and projects that they’ve been meaning to do, but have not had the capacity to complete. Now is the time to do it.

Futureproofing and process optimisation are an excellent use of your downtime. Need some tips on where to get started? We’ve created a checklist of ideas:

HARMONiQ Business Downtime Checklist

Download HARMONiQ Business Downtime Checklist

Change your thinking, change the outcome

In times of uncertainty and panic, putting your guard up can certainly feel like the best way to protect yourself. But right now, a better way to protect your business is asking “what can I do to improve my circumstances and that of all the stakeholders in my business?”

In the short term, this approach will help you:

  • See what’s good in the business, and what might need to change
  • Keep staff busy
  • Keep the business running
  • Achieve clarity around your needs and your capabilities

And in the long-term, it means keeping your staff and your customers, and coming out of this in a better position to run your business,

Of course, every business will need to deal with the effects differently. But it’s the thought process that counts. Long-term thinking will improve short-term decision making. Just as short-term thinking will create mayhem in long-term outcomes.

Keep people busy, keep business running, and put yourself in an improved situation to continue the best you can once things return to normal.

I’m sure you have a project you can go and execute. Or take one from the checklist. If you need help with where you should start or how to execute properly, efficiently and cost-effectively right now, reach out to me.

Author bio:

Robert Butler is the Managing Director of Micronet Systems and is focused on helping business leaders overcome inefficient sales, inventory, and customer relationship management practices by leveraging cutting edge technology. If you want to discuss how to best spend your downtime improving business processes, you can reach out via email here.