Some business owners expect everything to go back to the 2019 rules of doing business, as they think the pandemic risk will soon disappear, never to return and nothing as bad will ever happen again. These businesses exist. For now. Their strategy is based on hope alone. They will certainly become non-viable businesses.

To survive and maybe thrive, every business needs to change its business model.

What is a viable business?

One with existing demand, and where

  1. People can work from home
  2. People do not have to congregate
  3. Business need not be conducted face-to-face

There aren’t many. Most businesses can deal with some of these points but not all, and not all the time. Even if they meet these criteria, there is no cause for complacency, as the rules of business may change again. We may find that our customers and team are getting used to a different landscape, so any hybrid model you are currently running, e.g. with a remote team, or some online delivery as well as face-to-face, may continue. But we may need to be more flexible.

We are lucky and we know it. Our business is still in demand, and we can work from home. Still, we are not complacent and are changing too.

Non-viable businesses now

Apart from not being able to fit the above criteria, some sectors are particularly badly affected – entertainment, events, most hospitality, as examples. Some cannot open at all and are supported by a supply chain with a lot of self-employed subcontractors, or lower paid, zero hours workers, who are also badly off. What can they do to survive?

Thinking by old rules

Some businesses are still hoping that ‘normality’ will return once the pandemic has passed. We all need hope and a strategy so that our hopes can be realised. We have already talked about this extensively in The Rules of Business, where we reminded you that there are Absolute Problems (affect us all) and Relative ones that just affect some of us, and how attitudes will change.

Thinking by old rules means trying to get more from the same, even though the rules have changed. There is no point in bemoaning the fact that only 50% capacity can be utilised in your establishment – you have to take control and make it work. As an absolute problem, these businesses might well survive, as everyone should be in the same boat. But soon, it will be a relative problem, and those that don’t or can’t adapt will lose out.

Adapting to new rules

We need to Build Resilience, Manage Risk and become a lot more flexible in our thinking. All of this will help us to become less brittle and susceptible to outside changes. This is always something we build into our strategy work with business owners.

Restaurant opening hours have been reduced, so it is difficult to manage 2 sittings. Open earlier if you can, do more takeaways, deliver. A lot of enterprising restaurateurs and publicans do, but some are still waiting for the sun to rise.

Businesses who are adapting will soak up the demand when the ones who don’t adapt die. Harsh, but a fact of business life.

Night clubs, for example, can’t have dancing and must close by 10pm. But they are empty all day with bar and coffee facilities and a big space where dancing used to be. Can it be used for something else?

Do you REALLY know the Job to be Done?

Your business may be prevented from opening in any normal way. There’s no one solution for all. Maybe this concept might help. Everyone should consider it anyway – it’s so important. We wrote the Job to be Done in 2016 and it has extra relevance today. It’s a big part of making your business viable.

What job does your customer, or potential customer need doing? Then, what skill set do you and the team have? Ignore job titles, they are usually meaningless. Include peoples’ skills outside the work environment. Find out what people can do, including you, not what people do now, or how they do it.

BestWork DATA’s Chuck Russell says “There are a lot of flight attendants out of a job. Your business doesn’t need flight attendants but may have a need for warm and friendly people who consistently follow procedures, pay attention to details, react to unexpected events, handle stress and manage difficult people.”

There are opportunities to multi-skill, which provides cover for critical functions should someone become ill.

Re-think your business model

Perhaps even re-think what business you are in.

With your skill sets mapped, ask yourself:

  • What are you good at?
  • Who needs it?
  • Why do they need it (job to be done)?
  • Where are they?
  • How can you deliver it?
  • What will people pay for it?

Local story 

Here’s an example of a company (DU) that facilitates corporate events worldwide. They sit between the corporate customer and the service providers abroad (DMC) who do all the work on the ground They know what each DMC can do, and what they can’t, so they can guide the UK customer to a solution which fulfils their needs. DU has no business right now and the DMCs aren’t paying them, as they have problems of their own. DU are good at curating shared experiences for team building, engagement and launches, and making sure that the experience is as expected. So, they are now developing virtual team building events for both new and existing customers where the event is delivered to each team member at home.


Shared experiences also help other issues faced by remote teams. About one third of people find the lack of social interaction very difficult, and again one third of managers find it difficult if they cannot gauge morale because they don’t see their teams together informally in the office. The Oscillation Principle describes how remote teams might be managed best, but still it can be difficult, particularly when there is so much uncertainly. DU’s shared experiences model should help mitigate this and bring people together more, whilst generating some much-needed revenue.

Strategic partnerships

Another solution you can explore is that of strategic partnerships where two or more businesses come together to fulfil a customer need. Now is maybe not the time for competition, especially if both parties are looking at an absolute problem – they are both in the same boat. We have helped clients do this successfully.

BH Fish found a way for local fisherman to sell their catch when restaurants were shut. Although traditional markets have reopened, they still deliver fresh seafood to your door, and have the resilience to survive should restaurants have to close again.

Helping hand

At Hixsons we make sure our clients are agile, flexible and resilient so that they are better able to respond to shocks. You can also read the helping in a crisis stories of how we helped 6 local businesses turn things around in the early days of the pandemic.

Our Virus Recovery Tool is still only £100, half price, in the spirit of helping our business community and if you need some general help please explore our learning centre where you will find various tools and templates for your business.

We will not ask for your data and it’s completely free.

Call us on 01202 520010 or email to secure a place on your recovery journey.