The importance of thinking differently.
Published: September 03, 2020

When I was a Partner at an ad agency, after every pitch we used to ask, next time what can we do differently? That wasn’t because we’d lost the pitch, or it had gone badly, but because we wanted to continually improve. The change didn’t have to be huge. Perhaps shifting the order of the presentation, or the people doing the presenting, or the pitch room, or the pitch doc. What were the benefits of doing this, you ask? It stopped us becoming complacent, or worse still, stale. It kept us on our toes. It made us think about the client, because, no two businesses are the same. It made us better. It helped us win more pitches.

The latest pandemic has hurled endless curved balls at business owners. It’s hard enough to think straight, let alone think differently. But now is precisely the time to stop ploughing that same furrow, give the horse a break, and do something different.

Here are some areas to consider.

Strategy.

Your strategy may have worked for you in the past. But has it become a comfort blanket that you cling to in times of need or a tool that is going to improve your business and drive it forward?

Now is the perfect time to dust off your strategy, take it apart, and ask yourself – is this really working? What could I be doing differently that will make my business better?

The trick is not to explore the areas you like best. It’s vital to explore everything. Look at sales, marketing, operations, finance and talent. You should have a strategy for each of them, and that strategy should be implemented regularly. If you’re not implementing it, it’s not a strategy, it’s a wish list.

Take time to examine all aspects of your operation and ask yourself – what could we be doing differently? You may come to the conclusion that everything is fine. But you owe it to your customers, suppliers, staff, and, of course, yourself, to ensure that you’re doing the best you can in all areas.

Running your business.

Since the initial panic of lockdown, you’ve probably got yourself into a nice little routine, breakfast; followed by a day spent looking at different people’s home furnishings. Things may be going okay. But ask yourself, could they be better? Your team may enjoy working twelve feet from the comfort of their coffee machine, but is this the right solution in the short, medium and long-term? What are the alternatives? Have you tried them, or are you happy following the status quo?

The important thing about thinking differently is that it’s a process you need to go through. You don’t necessarily have to act differently. But you need to have considered all of the alternatives. Stone no leave unturned – re-arrange into a well-known saying.

Customers.

Remember them?

Okay, you may not recognise them in their masks, but they’re still out there.

The approach to your customers will almost certainly have changed because of the conditions imposed by the pandemic. But what are your plans going forward? Are you in regular contact with your customers? How have your communications changed? Have you found new ways to keep them loyal? Have you created new products or services? Have you developed a strategy to grow more leads?

Allocate time with your team to ask – what can we be doing differently? What are your customers doing differently? Is there some common ground that can benefit both you and your customer?

You.

The pandemic has been kind to some, and cruel to others. But whatever the impact, it’s important that you have a plan going forward? As the business owner, it’s vital that you’re in a happy place. A bitter, disgruntled owner isn’t going to win friends and influence people. They’re going to have a negative impact on their business and those around them.

You need to think about what will ultimately make you happy. This may require you to think differently about your approach to work, and to life. But, like taxes, it’s something you can’t keep putting off. Pencil a meeting with yours truly, and brainstorm what you really want, and how you plan to get it.

The problem with work is that it gets in the way of doing other things. You’ve got so much on your plate, there’s no time to stare out the window, and have a good old mull. But finding the time to think differently is vital for not just for your own well-being, but the well-being of your company. Time to dig out that thinking cap and see if it still fits.

Malcolm Duffy is Creative Director of BGI.

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