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As Businesses Reopen, a Good Plan and Flexibility are Key

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As Businesses Reopen, a Good Plan and Flexibility are Key

With the economy trying to overcome the effects of COVID-19 and the nation’s political unrest, business leaders face a challenge like never before as stores and offices reopen and try to lure back customers and clients.

“Even before our current crisis, it’s always been important for businesses to respond to unanticipated changes in the market that threatened their product or business model,” says Adam Witty, the ForbesBooks co-author of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant.

“Now, a willingness to adapt to changing consumer habits and ways of doing business will be more important than ever. One big challenge will be that businesses need to have a plan as they work to return their operations to normal, but they also need to remain flexible and willing to change that plan as the circumstances around them change.”

At the same time, all of this will need to be done while following CDC guidelines and taking into account the concerns of employees and customers, says Witty, who also is the founder and CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com).

“I’m a big believer in making decisions based on facts and data,” he says. “But if you don’t stay on top of what has been a very fluid situation, you could end up making decisions based on information that is already outdated.”

Going forward, Witty says, businesses need to:

Play the long game. It’s easy to get into a “survive-the-week” mindset, and certainly businesses need to make some things happen now to see them through the crisis. But as they ride out the difficulties in the short-term, Witty says, they also need to create a plan that will help them prosper over the long haul.

Be ready for the worst, hope for the best. With 41 million people who want to work out of work, the path back to normal will not be easy, and most people are predicting the recession will continue at least into early 2021. “Some businesses aren’t going to be able to reopen at all, and that includes big retail chains and local mom-and-pop stores,” Witty says. “That’s going to have a ripple effect in the economy.” So, as much as everyone may hope for a quick turnaround, it’s still best to make your plans based on the idea that the economic downturn will last a long while, he says.

Stay optimistic. These are the most challenging circumstances any business has faced in at least the last 50 years, Witty says. Despite that, business leaders and their employees can’t let gloom rule their feelings and emotions. “When you’re going through tough times,” he says, “it’s better to have an optimistic attitude than a pessimistic attitude.”

“As a businessperson, my hope is that we’ve already seen the bottom, and that each month going forward the economy will get better,” Witty says. “With that said, there is no playbook for this. But the businesses where leaders and employees all work together, plan carefully, and try to keep a positive attitude are the ones most likely to emerge in good shape when this is over.”

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Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant, is the CEO of Advantage|ForbesBooks (www.advantagefamily.com). Witty started Advantage in 2005 in a spare bedroom of his home. The company helps busy professionals become the authority in their field through publishing and marketing. In 2016, Advantage launched a partnership with Forbes to create ForbesBooks, a business book publisher for top business leaders. Witty is the author of seven books, and is also a sought-after speaker, teacher and consultant on marketing and business growth techniques for entrepreneurs and authors. He has been featured in The Wall Street JournalInvestors Business Daily and USA Today, and has appeared on ABC and Fox.

shippers'

Shippers’ New 2020 Priorities

While cities and states are slowly reopening, there is still significant uncertainty surrounding the global economy and when we’ll head towards recovery. Shippers are experiencing never-before-seen challenges and, in maneuvering them, realize it’s vital to understand the change in consumer behavior and how it impacts the supply chain.

A recent Consumer Brands’ Association Coronavirus Survey found 68% of Americans are optimistic about the next 6 months and the United States’ ability to reopen the economy. Despite consumer mentality improving, shippers’ concerns on COVID-19’s impact on the supply chain remain top of mind.

While some industries experienced a surge in demand, including healthcare, grocery and consumer packaged goods (CPG), this hasn’t been the case across the board. Some faced a reduction or, in some cases, a complete halt in business. These new challenges and concerns have led shippers to shift their strategies and develop new priorities for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

Shippers’ Top Priorities

As reported in the recent Q2 2020 Coyote Curve Market Forecast, the truckload market has likely already hit the bottom in Q2 at a -9% spot rate, and contract and spot rates should more or less converge from here. Due to the circumstances, the rate environment will most likely be more forgiving than usual, but it will definitely be volatile; and, with rates regularly fluctuating, shippers must keep their key priorities top of mind.

First and foremost, shippers’ top priority is keeping their people safe during this unprecedented time. They’re also focusing on keeping team members productive despite disruption, making necessary strategic shifts in production, managing rapid and frequent shifts in demand, and maintaining operational efficiency.

The priorities for those experiencing an influx of demand are quite different from those seeing a decrease. Shippers in surging markets are focused on supporting frontline employees by ensuring their facilities have necessary crucial safety items like personal protective equipment (PPE), testing kits, and sanitization products.

The industries experiencing a downturn, such as durable goods, have been focused on keeping their businesses operating and their people productive. They’ve had to prioritize repurposing available capacity to streamline operations, while others have turned to private fleets to haul less-than-truckload or full truckload shipments. To support COVID-19 relief efforts, some industries even shifted their production lines completely, like automotive manufacturers producing ventilators or clothing manufacturers making masks and scrubs.

Other shipper priorities include managing increased production output, despite lower processing rates. These lower rates come from new facility regulations mandating safety procedures, social distancing, and fewer employees per shift, resulting in less efficiency. Shippers are also dealing with a less frequent transportation schedule and imbalanced inventory, adding to the struggle of keeping supply chains running smoothly.

A new 2020 for shippers

Regardless of the industry a shipper operates within, the outlook for the remainder of 2020 is much different than originally planned. The entire supply chain realizes the importance of developing new strategies to adhere to the current situation and prepare for future disruptions.

Shipping processes will inevitably change to improve supply chain visibility and automation and update future inventory and warehousing procedures. These new plans and strategies focus less on short-term, cost-based decisions, and more on proactivity, flexibility, and efficiency.

Shippers have rewritten their 2020 plans to address these new priorities. While some tactics have higher initial costs, investing now will allow shippers to better recover from future disruptions. Other new strategies include:

-Collaborating with other shippers to garner insights and best practices

-Creating pop-up fleets at surging origin points

-Focusing productions on the lines making the most, the fastest

-Working with 3PL providers that offer flexible, instant capacity to haul freight

-Moving live-load pick-ups and deliveries into temporary drop trailers

-Reducing number of SKUs to eliminate unnecessary variety

What comes next

 Some shippers have found it easy to identify ways to better prepare their businesses for future disruption and have established new processes to do so. However, this doesn’t mean they have avoided uncertainty altogether. Shippers are asking themselves three key questions:

-How do I keep my employees healthy and safe?

-How do I keep my facilities up and running efficiently?

-How do I limit disruption to my supply chain?

Since COVID-19, shippers immediately made shifts to maneuver the unthinkable. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer as to when or how shippers will see less market volatility, and they may even see more complexities in the meantime. This brings additional geographic and industry disparities.

As the economy moves towards recovery, we anticipate a surge in demand and a corresponding increase in volume. Industries, especially those whose shippers slowed down, will have lean inventories and, when demand rises, need to increase production. While shippers’ results may differ from their original 2020 goals, we believe a recovery in consumer demand will be here soon.

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Nick Shroeger is the Chief Network Solutions Officer at Coyote, a leading global third-party logistics provider headquartered in Chicago. Since joining the Coyote team in July 2009, Nick has been a key leader in identifying challenges of the supply chain industry and developing and scaling solutions. In his current role, Nick leads Coyote’s research and innovation efforts for both shipper and carrier solutions as well as network connectivity with Coyote’s parent company, UPS.

How Businesses can Adapt and Prosper in a Post-Pandemic Economy

As the economy restarts after the forced shutdown caused by COVID-19, businesses face a litany of unknowns. How quickly will shoppers return to their buying routines? Will temporary measures – working remotely, eating at home more, using delivery services – become permanent for large numbers of Americans?

“Many businesses won’t be able to return to their old way of doing things, but in some cases that might be just as well,” says Bill Higgs, an authority on corporate culture and the ForbesBooks author of the Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale & Succeed in Your Business (www.culturecodechampions.com).

Often, those old ways probably weren’t working, says Higgs, a founder and former CEO of Mustang Engineering who recently launched the Culture Code Champions podcast.

“Many companies have problems within their corporate culture that keep them from prospering the way they should,” he says. “They hire whoever is available instead of seeking out the best talent. They communicate poorly. They have silos within the company that create a lot of rework and foster competition instead of cooperation.”

Now is a chance to do better, Higgs says, and he recommends a few thing business leaders should do as they work to bring their companies out of the economic downturn:

Be a visible presence. Higgs says he has known instances where, during a downturn, leadership goes into hiding. “They would just disappear,” he says. “They didn’t want to face the music with their people. But as businesses struggle to recover from our current crisis, owners and CEOs need to get out and talk to their people. I call it ‘management by wandering around.’ They need to engage their team and discuss how everyone can pull together to get through this.”

Understand this could be an opportune time to hire. The unemployment rate spiked upward as the economy went into freefall, but that means there’s an opportunity for businesses that want to build a strong team, Higgs says. “During just about any downturn, the people who lose their jobs include top-notch performers,” he says. “Be on the lookout for that talent. Snap them up if you can. But even if you can’t hire right away, it’s important to be aware that those top performers are out there so  you can go after them when the time is right.”

Don’t get comfortable. One problem businesses encounter when good times return is that they revert to bad habits, Higgs says. They aren’t as diligent about eliminating waste. They keep poor-performing employees long past the point where they should have parted ways. “Companies by necessity run lean in the lean times,” he says. “But they also need to run lean in the good times, so they will be in better shape the next time the economy goes bust. Staying lean in the good times is a game changer.”

“One more mistake businesses make in good times is that when they get really busy, they stop selling, or at least aren’t as motivated to sell,” Higgs says. “I always say you should sell while the shop is full. That way when your salespeople are in a client’s office, they don’t come off as desperately begging for work. Instead, they are talking about all the fun stuff and good stuff you’re doing at your company. That makes a big difference in how you are perceived.”

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Bill Higgs (www.culturecodechampions.com), an authority on corporate culture, is the ForbesBooks author of Culture Code Champions: 7 Steps to Scale & Succeed in Your Business. The website and book provide methods to self-implement a culture that will improve a company’s bottom line. Higgs recently launched the Culture Code Champions podcast, where he has interviewed such notable subjects as former CIA director David Petraeus and NASA’s woman pioneer Sandra Coleman. Culture Code Champions is listed as a New & Noteworthy podcast on iTunes.

Higgs is also the co-founder and former CEO of Mustang Engineering Inc. In 20 years, they grew the company from their initial $15,000 investment and three people to a billion-dollar company with 6,500 people worldwide. Second, third and fourth-generation leaders took the company to $2 billion in 2014. Higgs is a distinguished 1974 graduate (top 5 percent academically) of the United States Military Academy at West Point and runner up for a Rhodes scholarship. He is an Airborne Ranger and former commander of a combat engineer company.