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Understanding the business basics for post-pandemic growth

Hungry Jacks founder, Jack Cowin, was asked how the fast-food chain had changed because of COVID-19. Mr Cowin noted that what customers wanted from Hungry Jacks had not changed at all. They still wanted quality food that was served hot, quickly and with a smile! 

Instead, Hungry Jacks expanded its offering to include vegan and vegetarian menu items, contactless pick-up solutions, and a lot of updated back-end systems to ensure the smooth functioning of their entire supply chain. Mr Cowin hit on an important point. Regardless of what may be happening globally – COVID-19, bushfires or political turmoil – the core elements of business remain the same.

Here are some recent trends I have seen in each of these elements of business.

Products

Companies staying ahead of the pack post-COVID-19 have become more efficient and effective at producing and delivering products or services that customers need, want and value. 

The rollout of more innovative technology and new material means that businesses can deliver high-quality products in a shorter time. Buildings and houses are increasingly prefabricated, education is more personalised and delivered online, and monitoring and calibration are being done remotely. This use of technology may come with some upfront costs, but the long-term savings will prove invaluable and ultimately help support growth.

Customers

You don’t have a business if you don’t have customers willing to pay for your product or service. As demands evolve in a post-COVID-19 world, it is even more important to find new customers who want to buy what you are offering or change what you sell to be something they do want. 

The biggest hurdle for business owners, CEOs or MDs is the realisation that all customers are not equal. Identifying your ideal customer is like peeling the layers of an onion. The outer layer is those customers who generate the most revenue. The next layer is customers who generate the most profit. A smaller subset is those who are strategically important to the organisation. And the heart of the ‘ideal customer onion’: people you and your team enjoy working with. As we emerge from the pandemic, understanding who your ideal customers are will help you focus time and resources on customers who will enable you to grow. 

Read more: Food sales approach pre-COVID-19 levels at home and abroad

Organisation

People are at the heart of any company’s success. Accordingly, there is a premium on finding the right people, getting them to want to join your company, and keeping the right people once they’ve joined.

Once you have the right people on board, an organisation needs to build systems that allow them to perform their best. Well-developed people systems that effectively recruit and retain employees will help organisations grow exponentially. Work needs to be organized, with different groups having different responsibilities with built-in repeatable processes and systems that are not dependent on one person or change every time the job needs to get done.

 In other words, you need to build an awesome organisation that can get the work done efficiently and effectively and deliver great products to those ‘ideal customers’. 

Finance

There are four ways to finance growth:  to borrowinvest profitequity investment or government grants.  The Australian Centre for Business Growth’s in-depth longitudinal research study shows that 86 per cent of CEOs are currently investing their own profits to fuel company growth, 39 per cent have taken on bank debt, 47 per cent have sought out government grants, and 16 per cent have borrowed from personal finances. 

As businesses look to capitalise on the opportunities in a post-pandemic world, business owners are becoming better educated about understanding which funding option makes sense for them. The trick is for business owners, CEOs or MDs to clarify their personal goals and vision for the company and then approach the right type of funder that will enable you to achieve your outcomes. It’s useful to remember that the cost of money that you might borrow is the lowest a in several decades, so it may make sense to borrow what you need to fund growth. 

Leadership

COVID-19 has had three impacts on leaders. Some business owners have decided to fold up shop, some business owners have benefited from government programmes and hope to return to “the way we were”. Other business owners took the opportunity to step back, look at their processes, identify which products were selling, and decide what they needed to do to become better at manufacturing, producing and delivering.

Many shifted leadership style from “command and control” to listening more openly to customers, working with their executive teams, and relying on data when making a decision. If history is right, these are the companies that will surge ahead in the coming years. 

Research undertaken by the University of South Australia has shown that business owners, CEOs/MDs and executive teams are the most important element in determining a company’s growth. They are the ones who make the decisions about which products to offer which customers at which price, which systems to put in place to support people to make the organisation more productive, and which funding to take from which source under what terms and conditions to enable the company to fuel growth.  

Our longitudinal research shows that owners and CEOs/MDs who have been through our programs have emerged with enhanced leadership skills: 96 per cent of CEOs are now working to keep all parts of their company aligned, 94 per cent are doing a better job of delegating, and 91 per cent are playing the right leadership roles. 

Business owners, CEOs, MDs, – recognise your importance to the success of the company and get yourself ready to be the leader of a growth company that will deliver great products and services to your ‘ideal customers’, when they want them, and make sure you provide great customer service – with a smile!


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Jana Matthews

Jana Matthews

Dr Jana Matthews is the ANZ Chair in Business Growth, Professor, and Director of the Australian Centre for Business Growth at the University of South Australia, part of UniSA Business

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