COVID-19 caught everyone, and every company, by surprise. Some survived—and even thrived—while others closed. What were the key differences that positioned those successful organizations to find opportunities in challenging times?
Josh Richardson of Yale University teamed up with the Sterling Woods Group to find out. He conducted interviews and surveys with 40 executives across a variety of fields, from healthcare to manufacturing to utilities to software. The leaders helm organizations with revenues between $30 million and $1 billion.
In speaking with these executives, some interesting patterns emerged. Josh and Sterling Woods created a five bucket model for better categorizing the effects of the pandemic. The most interesting of those buckets were companies that were able to make their own luck. While the pandemic didn’t hand them a win (as it did for brands like Clorox or Zoom), organizations in this bucket found an opportunity to improve their businesses that they wouldn’t have unearthed without the disruption of the pandemic.
Those organizations that were able to make their own luck shared a few critical components.
First, they embraced diversification. Some operated in many global markets. Others targeted a wide range of industries with their products or services. Others had a diverse client base. The more diversification a firm builds into its business model, the more insulated it is from disruption. Diversification provides new avenues for growth, even when challenges arise in other areas.
Digital enablement, both for teams and customers, was another major contributing factor in an organization’s success throughout the pandemic. Firms that could reach customers virtually and keep up with work despite going remote were well-positioned to move ahead with new initiatives, sales, and other growth-focused activities.
A nimble cost structure was the third piece of the puzzle. Companies that could scale back costs quickly at the start of the pandemic were able to brace for impact. Then, once the initial shock wore off, those who could scale back up quickly leapfrogged others who were still locked down.
Finally, there’s the ability to break inertia and try new things. This can be challenging even in a great year, but with a global health crisis looming, some organizations struggled to get out of their own way. Those that innovated, either despite the pandemic or because of it, have become clear winners in their industries.
The COVID crisis is not yet over, but we’ve already learned a lot about disruption, innovation, and how to build an organization with staying power. If you’d like to read the full report, you can download it here.