Creating Business Agility in Times of Disruption

Creating business resilience has certainly been the topic of conversation in zoom calls and advice columns for the last year, and no doubt should be part of every decision made around your business during these shifting times. Being able to weather changes and bounce back is one thing, but another concept has been rising to the surface as fundamental to staying competitive in today’s marketplace – business agility.

What is business agility? According to a recent Forbes article, agility is part of your business culture rather than a strict set of plans and procedures.

“Agility creates an environment that allows your business to adapt at a rapid pace. It is the ability to identify, prepare for, and resolve disruptions with the least possible negative impact on your company. Agility is based on a culture of learning, renewal, risk-taking and re-invention.”

How do you know your company is agile, the article goes on to ask? By how the company culture responds to the stress of disruptions. Are you and your team able to transition and transform when circumstances change? Do you have a balance of creative and left-brained thinkers that can work together to develop and execute solutions?

SV SBDC Business Advisor Don Crawford addressed the concept of agility in a recent blog post, SALES SKILL: LEARNING FROM PAST LESSONS. He talks about the traits of successful business people that DIDN’T change because of the pandemic. Not only do agile businesses adjust and retool their internal approach, they also “work hard helping customers adapt to the new normal.”  Don lays out what he sees as constant in spite of the pandemic:

“Human resilience. We adapted. Great salespeople are creative. We have always found ways to succeed. Our focus on the needs and best interest of our customers never waivers. By understanding the present situation, we work hard helping customers adapt to the new normal. Great salespeople are empathetic. We can feel the customer’s pain. With our experience in dealing with a wide variety of buyers we offered help and hope to our customers. We know we are relationship builders. And the past lessons which have prepared us for this time helped strengthen the customer relationships we have. What we learned this year will help us survive and even thrive in the year to come. Because all great salespeople are lifelong learners. We use past lessons to prepare for the future.”

He continues with an example from his work with SB SBDC clients: “Great salespeople are optimistic. We believe when we work hard, apply our skills well and focus on the customer’s needs we will win. Even during the pandemic, the human spirit is alive and well. I’m doing business advising for the Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center. When I joined the SV SBDC in late spring, I thought I would be helping businesses figure out how to survive the pandemic. But I have a dozen clients who are starting new businesses. I am amazed at the optimism. These courageous people will take the lessons learned during this pandemic and create new, vibrant businesses.”

Virginia Small Business Development retail industry consultant Marc Willson echoes that sentiment of optimism, pointing out in an interview with the Winchester Star  that keeping a positive business culture and focusing on controllable aspects of a disruptive business climate like collecting data and being open to change can go a long way in developing a more agile business. Willson went on to explain the importance of businesses being able to accept that things will continue to change and pivot when circumstances shift again:

“Pivoting, according to Willson, means finding new products that you can sell or new categories all together that add to the overall revenue of your store based on how the customers’ needs have changed, what’s working and what isn’t working and what voids have been left open in your town.”

Willson goes on to affirm that continuing to build relationships and business model fluidity will be the key to success in 2021.

Is your business agile enough to roll with the punches? The SV SBDC is here to help you assess and develop your business to do just that. Contact us today to get started!  https://www.valleysbdc.org/contact/