Is it a visionary or administrator if we speak from the perspective of the company management? In fact, each time needs its leader.
In early March, we discussed with our clients the development projects, the plans for the coming 2-3 years, the upgrading of the existing capacities and the expansion of production. We lived in the world that rushed forward and we had to be simultaneously in two places – in today and in the day after tomorrow. The owners told about their dreams, plans and specific steps, including new product testing, laying the foundation for a new production, CRM implementation, registration of the company in another country. Small and big success stories. Small and big ambitions.
In the face of rapid growth, the companies need a leader who bravely looks ahead, who feels confident about the future, is not afraid to experiment, and most importantly – is eager to invest in experiments, know-how, brands and ideas. Some of these ideas might become a failure, but with a talented leader, the income gained from good ideas will more than outweigh the losses suffered because of the bad ideas.
If at this time a conservative administrator who is used to control expenditures and to spend a lot of time taking strategic decisions takes the lead, the company might lose the key time factor for the implementation of a new business idea. Moreover, we saw how good ideas of the owner-visionary were brought up for longstanding discussions, and when the decision was finally made, it was too late for their implementation, thus bringing no competitive advantage for the company. There were also cases when companies hired a good “administrator” with a perfect CV fit for a visionary position, but later their relations turned into a row of mutual recriminations and unfulfilled expectations.
Then coronavirus came. Not all of a sudden but unexpectedly. Even when it was easy to assume that COVID-19 would spread around the whole planet and every business would be somehow affected by the pandemic and its consequences, not many companies prepared for plan “B”. The visionary leader who could foresee the development of his/her company for years to come found himself in the situation when he/she still could see the top of the mountain, but the path to the top was unclear. At first, the visionary was distracted. The plan of conquering the mountaintop turned into the plan of avoiding the sudden rock fall.
The main task during the “rock fall” is to hold the ground: one needs to earn something and to lose less financially, without losing key clients and the most valuable staff. Just a few have the time and what is more important – the sufficient courage to think about the future in which the rapid growth and development seemed very natural a week before.
Will the visionary leader be capable to react quickly and properly? Will he/she forget about (at least for some time) his aims, plans, and in general will he/she carry out untypical activity, such as ensuring strict control and carrying out critical appraisal of any steps and expenses?
What would the leader-administrator do in such case? The administrator with clear mind and a detailed strategy for the coming month, week, and day would take the management in his/her hands and set his/her rules during the first weeks of the quarantine. He/she would support the most necessary processes, implement the strict cost-management, carry out daily control over the activity, as well as other standard steps. Almost everyone did that. The theory proved practically relevant – the companies headed by administrators managed to concentrate quickly and took the situation under control. What is more, they continue their work without any panic. The administrator clearly understands and implements the needs of the company at a precise moment.
What shall the companies headed by the visionary do? Shall he/she resign, at least for a while? How shall the owners and corporate management bodies react to such situation?
When answering this question we must take into account the fact, that this crisis is unusual by its nature and from the perspective of consumption especially in B2C markets. In general, the consumption diminished and became scarce, the channels of acquisition and delivery changed. There emerged the need for new products; it means that the market structure is changing significantly.
Nowadays we observe a quick restructuring of a number of businesses, switching to the production of more necessary goods, the appearance of online stores in a matter of days, delivery of restaurant food, carrying out online trainings, education and telemedicine. Some spheres are more profitable, some are less. However, this is an opportunity to provide the employees with work, to pay salaries and to attract contractors to provide services and manufacture the products. Moreover, this is a good opportunity to stay in touch with the customers and keep them for the future.
Even the businesses the activity of which is impossible due to the strict quarantine conditions offer new products to the customers. Pay your attention to tourism and the industry of entertainment – they offer virtual tours and online concerts. Would it be so interesting for us 2 months ago? The company does not make money on it, but the visionary holds his/her customer and paves a new path to the top of the mountain when the rockfall ends.
This situation requires symbiosis. The visionary is able to quickly rebuild, make an intuitive decision to launch new products and offer them to the market, to work every day rolling up the sleeves. “Now I am a driver for the cooks in the morning and in the evening and a courier delivering orders in the afternoon,” the owner of one of the restaurants in Kiev wrote on social networks. At the same time, no visionary can cope in such conditions without a good administrator nearby who will keep the rockfall and allocate funds to launch new products, avoiding in the current conditions of restrictions the financial pressure for the company.
“We are responsible for those we have tamed” – this quote is not entirely correct in relation to the employees, but it perfectly reflects the leader’s responsibility to the staff at this time. To unite the most valuable employees in order to go through this difficult period, to prevent chaos and survive – this task is very difficult for the leader. It is a good administrator who can precisely plan how to keep the company afloat in the nearest future and communicate the next steps of the company as well as negative prospects to the staff.
When one stands on the top of a mountain, he/she can argue who is cooler: a skier or a snowboarder, and after descending to discuss how many times each fell. Having survived this rockfall, it will be possible to conclude what manager and with what qualities will win in the fight for the company. However, I think that the companies led by a visionary who works out all possible scenarios and trusts a critically thinking administrator, will pass this rockfall with minimum losses. After all, each period of development needs its own leader.
Natalia Pasichnyk, Senior Business Analyst