Assessing whether to pursue a project postponed due to the pandemic requires in-depth analysis of the businesses resources that exist today—not what was available a year ago (Getty Images/aldomurillo)
One year into COVID-19, many aspects of our day-to-day lives remain on hold.
But not everything that was put on pause for the pandemic has to stay that way; you might still have projects that are worth dusting off and pursuing.
Here are six ways to lift a postponed project off the ground.
1) SHIFT THINKING
A year’s worth of interrupted operations, reduced revenue and staff redundancies can take its toll on motivation.
Before relaunching suspended activities, a shift in attitude may be necessary to move out of complacency into an action-based mindset, says marketing expert Craig Lund, president of Marketing Talent, Inc. and co-chair of the Mentor Exchange Program, while also weighing how your business situation has changed.
The thinking should be: “We can’t operate like that anymore. We need to start investing in and building out our teams again,’” he says. “You probably have very different circumstances. You might have chewed through a whole bunch of capital over the past few months just to keep the lights on.”
Regardless of the shift, adds CPA Frank Fazzari, managing partner of Fazzari and Partners LLP, Chartered Professional Accountants, when it comes to assessing whether a project warrants pursuing, it’s business as usual, despite the pandemic.
“Stick to the ABC’s of starting [new] business,” he says. “I’m not suggesting the pandemic is to be ignored, as it must be factored in the updated business plans and cash flow forecasts, but there is no shortcut for doing your homework.”
2) EVALUATE IMPACT
Factoring in how the pandemic has affected your business requires analysis.
Begin by reassessing the project’s purpose, says Laura Aveledo, business planning and international trade adviser with Small Business BC (SBBC).
Do you want to expand your product or service offering, or perhaps help a client develop theirs? If so, how and why?
Understand what you are trying to achieve under existing conditions, while ensuring that this remains in line with the company’s (and/or client’s) mission, objectives and business model now and projecting forward.
“The question I ask [my clients] is, what does this project help or enhance?” says Aveledo. “As you head into it, you really need to understand the project [as a whole].”
3) TIME IT RIGHT
Timing is everything when it comes to any business venture, particularly during periods of uncertainty and flux, stresses Aveledo.
“[Ask yourself], is this a good time to start doing something new in the business, where you are at right now?” she says.
Look inside and outside the organization to determine whether the project is concurrent with what is going on around the business. What conditions and trends exist within your industry and the broader marketplace? How are your competitors responding?
Do the required research, then adjust and set new plans and goals, Aveledo adds.
“Look at the environment. Look at what’s going on,” she says. “What has changed that makes it look more attractive? You have to take a fresh look.”
4) ASSESS CAPACITY
Assessing your organization’s capacity requires evaluating available resources, including infrastructure, leadership, talent pool and skillsets, time available and financial capital.
Depending on your findings, project adjustments may need to be made based upon what’s possible and how it fits into the broader scope. According to Aveledo, this is where setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) goals in line with the new situation is important.
“Take the time to plan and identify what other resources you need. Weigh the risks...and identify any obstacles that might prevent you from moving the project forward,” she says.
If funding is an issue, you may need to access loans or other resources through partnerships, suggests Lund.
“You have to look at your project from a pricing [perspective], estimating your revenues and the cost profitability, if it’s worth it or not,” he says. “This also takes understanding the cost of finding financing.”
5) RE-EVALUATE TALENT
People are your strongest asset. If those once leading the project are no longer available, you will need to fill in these talent gaps.
“Find out if you have any access to that talent at all,” says Lund. “If they’ve moved on...is there a way for them to freelance or do consulting work to provide confidence to your clients that there is the same thought leadership and vision as when the project was first pitched?”
When filling vacant roles, new staff must be qualified, aware of the expectations and well versed in the project’s purpose. Explore other recruitment avenues, such as staffing services that can tailor skillsets to roles or, given the remote work situation, look to a broader range of candidates beyond your locale.
“When you don’t need real estate [office space], that frees up cash that could be spent in other ways,” he says. “A little bit more money spent on hard-to-find talent sets you apart from the competition.”
6) FOSTER RESILIENCE
If there is one certainty it’s uncertainty, particularly during a pandemic. Keep this in mind as you move a once-grounded project forward.
“The world will [remain] different,” says Fazzari. “Things like working from home, use of technology, less travel, some of this will permanently change the way we do business.”
Therefore, recognize the fluctuating environment and react resiliently, adds Aveledo. Identify the project’s triggers—things that must be in place for it to run smoothly and aspects that allow for some flexibility. Develop contingency plans to propel the project forward.
“In these transitional times, understand that there’s a cost to change,” she says. “I keep on telling my clients to keep an ear to the ground.”
Resilience also comes in the form of acceptance, adds Lund. Acceptance that a project should be shelved, perhaps indefinitely.
“[You need] the intuition and the confidence to say, ‘this one’s going to the trashcan’, while restoring faith in the company and your employees that it’s the right decision and moving on in the next and right direction,” he says.
BUILDING UP BUSINESS
Searching for new ways to support your staff during the pandemic? Here are some practical tips. Women have left the workforce in record numbers. Find out how to help them thrive at work during this uncertain time. Strategize your business’s resilience in a post-COVID-19 world with this brief from CPA Canada.