Greville Commins, previous Entrepreneur in Residence: Avoid ‘Target Fixation’ and steer where you want to go

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Greville Commins

Advanced Driving instructors will tell you that if your car gets into a skid you must firstly correct the skid and then steer where you want to go. One of the common problems car drivers have in a crisis situation is they stare at the object they want to avoid and often crash right into it. This is called ‘Target Fixation’.

In this time of business crisis there is a similar risk. Of course, we must do all we can to mitigate the cause of the crisis, removing as many factors as we can and survive but we must also steer where we want to go. If we only concentrate on the cash crisis, we are in danger of target fixation and unwittingly steer into the crash.

Apart from doing everything we can to survive we also need to ask ourselves are we doing the right things for the future beyond the crisis? If you have a long cycle time business you could also be losing next year’s customers as well. We need to be memorable for doing the right things in a crisis and helping customers with their challenges.

Firstly, you need to look after your existing key customers, have you assessed those who will survive the crisis and helped them in some way. Have you reached out to them? Have you spoken to them in detail? Do you know what they need? Have they shut down and gone quiet or are they still active? Will they remember your actions afterwards? Will they be next year’s customers?

Secondly what can you do for people who are not your customers right now? Is this the time to reach out to them? Yes, they may be working from home but they may also have more time to consider new propositions and looking themselves to the future. Have they been let down by their current suppliers?

Is this time for a new proposition to your existing market, maybe a free version in order to support your customers through these tight times or even an offer of something new to new customers? Is this time to promote rather than stay quiet? Can you offer a limited feature version or limited time version to those new potential customers?

Maybe a change in your business strategy is called for. Have you reviewed your approach to the market, maybe the future, post crisis, will be different? Have you tried to project ahead into the future and speculated if any major changes in your marketplaces will occur? Will this create new opportunities for you? Can you be ready for those changes? Should you be making some decisions now that enable you to seize the potential opportunities?

Look outside your own organisation for inspiration to other companies and sectors. They may not be operating in your market but they have had a similar thought process and used some of the same tools available to you in the current circumstances. Although there are pretty much the same tools in everyone’s toolbox in business, it often matters how and when you use those tools that matters to the success of the business.

There maybe some useful data points amongst your peer groups, companies in a similar position as you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and communicate. They will probably be in a similar position. May even be a potential partner.

You need to decide where you need to go and have a clear strategy that helps the business beyond the current short-term crisis, it will pass, and rebuild the business for the next year. However you must still keep an eye on the cause of the crisis and survive in order for there to be a future for your company.


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