It’s no secret that your business contributes to the world beyond just servicing your customers. At no time has this reality been more evident than during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Business leaders are doing their best to keep the lights on while keeping their workforce safe. Grocery store workers and healthcare employees are regarded as heroes. Restaurant owners contemplate what empty seats and city/state regulations mean for their existence. With each new piece of information, come new, and often very dire, consequences.
It’s a brave new world, one we’re walking through together.
To walk this path as a business leader of a meaningful business means being Human-Centered every step of the way.
Doing this will strengthen the ecosystem around your business, helping you provide better value to your customers and your bottom line. It will also ensure you fortify your business as best you can against forces outside of your control.
Business Goes Beyond Serving Customers
The default answers you hear when asked how business contributes beyond serving customers usually are:
- My business creates jobs.
- My business empowers families.
- My business contributes to the community.
You hear these for good reason. They are true.
However, what these default answers fail to address are the external factors surrounding your business. Meaning, they don’t take into account that your business is never just about, well, your business.
It’s Never Just About Your Business
When business is humming along, you may forget to look outside of your four walls to see your place in your business ecosystem, your industry, or even the world at large.
Instead, you run your business, pay employees, aim to grow and progress, and, if you fail in any of these aspects, it’s on you. You as the business leader take sole responsibility for any failures and any successes your business incurs.
At least that’s what some business leaders think.
But, this is never true. Your business doesn’t exist in a silo. You are never 100% responsible for the successes or failures of your business. You are responsible for most of the success or failure, but never for all.
The coronavirus pandemic exposed some extreme, but clear, examples of the “It’s Never Just About Your Business” concept.
The first example highlights how thousands of businesses were forced to close their doors through no fault of their own, as state and local governments implored customers to stay home.
Restaurant owners saw their revenues plummet overnight. Whereas, grocery store operators watched their business numbers soared.
In both cases, it didn’t matter whether the businesses were actually being run well or not. Customers couldn’t go to restaurants and were also scared and needed supplies. One business suffered while the other saw products fly off the shelves.
The Disturbance Isn’t Just Analog
Another example shows the disruption the virus is having on digital marketing ecosystems.
Not only are online ad revenues projected to fall as businesses pull back on marketing spend due to “anxiety and uncertainty about the virus”, but major in-person marketing events and conferences are either being cancelled or hosted online, forcing teams to base their customer acquisition rates on a entirely new, online, model of interaction.
It’s a brave new world.
What Can You Do NOW to Survive?
You need to take back your power, and take responsibility for the outside factors that are within your control. To do this, you need to be Human-Centered now more than ever.
Start by looking outside of your business, understanding, defining, and taking advantage of your business’s place in the current ecosystem.
1. To do this, start with mapping your business ecosystem. Much like how you map a customer’s or employee’s journey to identify gaps and opportunities your business can fill, you need to do the same for all the forces outside of your business.
This doesn’t have to be a complex, arduous process. Rather, take practical measures to think through and jot down all of the inputs and outputs that your business relies on for success.
The types of questions you’ll want to ask here are: Who are my partners, suppliers, and competitors?, and Who do I rely on to serve my customers?
Once you have an idea of all the actors in your ecosystem, sketch out a quick visual that gives you a birds eye view of the environment.
2. When you have your visual sketched out, take a step back to look for any Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats within your ecosystem. The types of questions you’ll want to ask here are: Where else can your business provide value? And Where is there a threat to your business’s well being?
3. Finally, document the potentials (a spreadsheet will do), and then go through your list and prioritize their impact.
Congratulations! You now have a bird’s eye view of the ecosystem surrounding your business. Having this view enables you to be proactive when events or circumstances in your industry and the world change.
But, being Human-Centered means having more than an outside-in view.
You Also Have to Be Meaningful
During these chaotic times, and to prepare for future unpredictable events, you also have to look inside your business. A practical, Human-Centered way to do this is to gain an understanding of how customers’ and employees’ experiences contribute to your business performance within your ecosystem.
You can gain this understanding by following a similar approach.
1. First map your customers’ and employees’ experiences with your business. Again there’s no need to make this a complex, drawn out process. For our purposes you can simply sketch out what you know their journeys to be.
Some questions you’ll want to ask yourself here are: What is the process my customers go through in using my product/service? and What do my employees’ work days look like?
2. When you have the journeys sketched out, again take a step back and look for any gaps or delights throughout their experiences. Note where you can better serve your customers/employees and also where you are already doing a great job.
3. Document all of your insights, and work through them in priority order.
Obviously these processes can be much more detailed, and for good reason. But for now, you’re working to take a quick pulse on where your business is both internally and externally so that you can kick off your Human-Centered business approach.
NOTE: For more details on creating a Human-Centered business, we recommend diving into this piece.
Fortifying Your Business by Being Human-Centered
By understanding your business ecosystem, defining where your business can add value, and having insight into where business threats could occur, you make yourself aware of the external influences that can impact your company.
You take back your power.
You also put your business in a better position to both withstand negative impact and take advantage of positive impact.
By looking inward at how you service your customers and employees, you solidify (and make more efficient) the operations and experiences within your company. Your business adds value and stays in business, thus helping your customers, employees, and communities prosper.
Taking both of these factors into account, you are becoming Human-Centered.
This means that the next time a crisis strikes, you’ll understand exactly where your business fits into it. You’ll be able to see the opportunities and threats ahead of time, and will be better positioned to address them.
Throughout it all, remember that fortifying your business by being human-centered isn’t just good for you and your business to stay in business, it’s what’s best for all of us; our families, our industries, our ecosystems, our world.
Because in this brave new world, we really are all in this together.