Date: 15/05/2020 | By: Kevin Brent

We have a bit more detail on what emerging from lockdown might look like in the UK. 

So the question for all of us owner managers of small and medium sized businesses (and the larger ones too I guess!) is how can we best prepare ourselves for the restart?

It has been said many times that ‘We are all in the same boat’.  Actually we are not – but we are all in the same storm.  Our boats are different, some are sailing well, others are fighting the wind bouncing through the waves and it’s a rough journey, but they will make it through, and others still are in danger of capsizing and sinking beyond trace.  

Most would agree that we need to think and plan our way forward, set our course and set our hypothetical sails accordingly – if we don’t even as the storm calms down we are going to be at the mercy of the prevailing wind and tides with our sails incorrectly set – leading at best to a rough journey to an unknown destination, at worst to capsizing and sinking.

But we don’t want to spend forever below decks undertaking some complex strategic analysis and planning process.  We are after all, entrepreneurs and we like to take action based on calculated risks – but we do want to have some structure to our decision making and planning to make sure we aren’t going to run into unforeseen danger,  as well as hopefully identifying some potential new wins along the way.

So for an owner manager of an SME what is the practical way forward?

Essentially we need balance 4 key things:

  • Managing the very real and practical risks of coming out of lock down
  • Mitigating/ protecting our businesses against trends, new types of competition and new ways of working
  • Identifying and capitalising on new opportunities
  • Ensuring that keep control and remain flexible/ don’t set autopilot too soon

To keep things simple and manageable, we need to get in the habit of creating, implementing, monitoring and reviewing a 90-day planning cycle if we are not already doing so.  The core of a 90-day plan requires reviewing the current situation (performance, issues etc) against our longer term goals to identify a handful of company strategic priorities (the business ‘must achieves’) for the next 90 days, and then translating that throughout the team so that everyone has and is accountable for their own 90-day priorities (individual ‘must achieves’).

The differences now as we restart need a few additional ‘checks’ to ensure we have covered the essentials.  Below is an 8-point checklist:

  1. Identify ways to align what we are good at/ our strengths with the trends we are now seeing
    1. SWT Tool – Strengths, weaknesses and trends – see later
  2. How can you provide customers with safety guarantees that retain and build trust?
    1. What are the conditions required for a safe experience for your customers?
    2. How can you proactively communicate to customers about what you are doing behind the scenes to ensure their safety?
  3. How can you make sure your employees are protected as they transition to return?
    1. What can you do to ensure employee safety in your workplace?
    2. What can you do to ensure they are protected in the extended work environment – at home, commuting, on work business etc.?
    3. What can you do to motivate employees and encourage them back to work?
  4. How can you Identify ways of reviving demand?
    1. How can you identify and capitalise on pockets of profitable growth? Consider ‘niching down’
    2. How might you need to adapt your pricing. It is likely to be more tactical and may include payment plans for particular customers.  
    3. How does your marketing mix need to change to ensure your voice is heard with the right messages?
  5. What can you do to firm up your supply chain to enable operations to restart/ ramp back up?
    1. How has your supply chain been affected and how can you secure what you need?
    2. Demand is changing – how can you ensure you are able to spot changes and ramp operations up or down accordingly?
    3. How can you communicate to partners/ customers that you are able to deliver reliably?
  6. How do you need to adapt your IT/ technology to meet changing needs?
    1. What do you need to accelerate in terms of IT to manage new customer and employee needs?
    2. What does this mean for your planned IT projects and technology spend?
  7. How can you keep in control and remain flexible?
    1. How does your Business Rhythm/ communication rhythm need to change?
    2. How can you increase the speed of decision making?
    3. How can you make sure you have sufficient funds to invest where needed rather than just survive?
  8. How can you return to creating value/ re-build lost value?
    1. Begin re-focus on driving value vs. survival mode
    2. Identify the focus areas to re-build value for the long-term


The SWT tool is a useful adaption of the SWOT framework.  The aim is to identify opportunities by identifying inherent strengths and weaknesses within the business and considering them in the light of trends (rather than threats) to uncover potential opportunities that the business stands a chance of being able to capitalise on.

Strengths –  core competencies or inherent sources of success over time.  Essentially: ‘What are we really good at that gives us an advantage?’

Weaknesses – inherent to the company and that are unlikely to change over time

Trends – outside forces/ influences on the company’s long-term direction, health and stability. Think of acronyms like PESTLE for ideas  – Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental.

Using this in conjunction with the remaining checklist items will help identify opportunities, strategies and tactics to develop.

If you would like additional information on our 90-Day planning process and tools (including our Smart90 software) please get in touch by emailing