Block.IS: Strategy and Tactic for Startups after COVID–19

Author: Ismael ABEL VALLÉS – PhD. Professor of Strategic Thinking at EDEM.
Block.IS Business Strategy mentor for FEDACOVA.

The definition of strategy I like the most is very simple, intuitive, and powerful – “choose the desired future and make it happen” (E. Masifern, IESE). Perhaps this is not so easy now.

Suddenly we are in a context of maximum uncertainty, or, I even dare to describe it as ambiguity (VUCA). It is not only a health pandemic that has generated a planetary crisis (health, economic, political, social, etc.) but it shakes the foundations of the current model and most probably (at least, it is also what I hope) we are facing a new “Paradigm”.

  • Definition of “Paradigm”: Theory or set of theories whose central core is accepted without question and which provides the basis and model for solving problems and advancing knowledge.

The worst situation that a company (or startup) could have is when there is not a clear North, so it is not easy to make decisions and even doubt arise around the objectives and the strategy previously decided. Then it is the time to come back to the roots, to the basic PURPOSE, the MISSION of the company, why should our company (or the product/service we offer) exist?

Startups have it much easier since there are no exit barriers, structures, investments, fixed costs, or if they exist they are lower – and therefore, they are more resilient, agile and they can be adapted to more easily. I have recently read that in every major crisis, the most powerful solutions have come from “startups”, therefore it is a GOOD TIME for entrepreneurs.

History confirms that these transition periods are the most fertile ones to boost powerful companies, Microsoft and Fedex (1973), Revlon (1932), Whatsapp (2009), Bitcoin (2009), Uber (2008), so, let’s try to see holistic, detect new arising opportunities and take them.

My recommendation, also based on experience, as we are already working on applying this process with several projects is as follows:

  1. Hold on to the MISSION / PURPOSE of the project, startup or company, what is the real reason, why is it so important to exist, and this does not usually vary, despite changes in the environment.
  2. Review if the Vision that we had formulated of the desired future:
    • A scenario) It is still valid, but the deadlines will be delayed until it returns to the new (and remember, different) normality
    • B scenario) We have doubts about whether it will continue to be valid.
  3. In front of ambiguity, “Strategy” becomes “Tactic”

–    “feed two birds with one scone”.

  • Search for “mask_ opportunities”
  • Making sure that exploiting those opportunities we will have a good short-term impact and will lead us to a better future situation than the current one, whatever the new context or paradigm.

We can make a zoom on this step 3, which is the present time (spring 2020).

Whether 2 A) or 2 B) happens to you, there will have been uncertainties (we know what we do not know) or ambiguities (because we do not know what we don’t know).

In 2.A. case the vision is still valid, but we do not know when it will be and in the other, 2.B, we are not sure of anything; as a consequence, we need something else to be able to create our thinking patter (strategic thinking) for the short term, because we must continue making decisions, executing actions, adapting to changes.

Then we should come back to “Tactic”, and it is essential that we be clear about the principles that will facilitate decision-making.

  • Analyze if we find “new short-term opportunities”, let’s call them “mask opportunities”, taking the example of how textile companies have quickly reoriented themselves to take advantage of this “new need/market opportunity”.
  • Check if this new action (product/service/channel/process) belong to our MISSION and that it does not divert us from our ultimate PURPOSE, from our WHY as a company. Then we should check if “mask opportunities”, will be good for our present and if they will also strengthen the capacity of the company to approach us to a “better future”.  We can summarize this strategic reaction with a new saying, “feed two birds with one scone” (better than killing them with one Stone).

With several projects we have found among others some interesting “short-term opportunities” that have been prioritized: “Digitization” of business processes, online marketing funnel, adding a new direct logistics channel with the final consumer, solving “other” problems of our main clients, to generate with them complicity that in the future will be loyalty – I invite you that at this moment, you have clear models of “thinking” and be Smart with the identification and selection of opportunities.

Courage and luck, enterprising people are always on the side of the solution, now more than ever the social and environmental impact is intimately connected with the economic one.

Some interesting articles and references: