The most important thing you can do for your business right now is to start reconfiguring it for what the world will be after recession. Forget what your business was – that's irrelevant now.
I was struck by an article in Business Week magazine about how headhunter giant Heidrick & Struggles is completely redesigning their business model. CEO Kevin Kelly commented, “What keeps me up at night is not Russell Reynolds, Korn/Ferry, Egon Zehnder, and Spencer Stuart, our direct competitors, but what is going to happen to this industry. We have a 55-year-old business model, and how many companies do you know that survive, given a 55-year-old business model? How do we do something that is more transformational?” As a result, Kelly’s future plans call for Heidrick & Struggles' search business to be reduced from its current 95% to no more than 50%.
While I am not familiar with Heidrick & Struggles or with Kelly – I give them complete credit for looking at what their business needs to be rather than what it is. As I speak around the country to CEOs, I’m struck, and at times distraught, by how unwilling business leaders are to view their world from the prism from what is rather than what was.
At the risk of being trite, this recession represents a giant reset. Properly navigated, it also represents opportunity. I've said before that the underlying cause of the recession is a failure on the part of businesses to create value. Reality, at least as it exists today, has proven that much of the revenue and profits that businesses enjoyed were an illusion. Today, you must decide if you are going to pursue a strategy of real, sustainable profits or are you going to attempt to recapture the illusion.
If you are going to ignite your growth engine again, you must focus on your core business and your core customers above everything else. The problem is that many businesses don't know what their core business is (it got lost in the illusion) and even fewer know who their core customers are. How do you identify your core and reignite growth? Here are five questions to get started:
- List the problems you solve.
- From that list, what are the problems you solve uniquely well? (This is the answer to the question: What can you be the best in the world at?)
- List the types customers/clients you serve?
- From that list, who are the customers/clients you serve you uniquely well?
- Now, what would you have to do to build a business that focuses on the intersection of your answers to question 2 and 4?