As we transition from our nation’s greatest-performing economy in history through the worst possible three-month business shutdown — all to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus — we are now positioned for most businesses to reopen. Yet lots of challenges remain.

Large and small companies have tragically closed their doors permanently under Chapter 7 (liquidation), not Chapter 11 (reorganization) bankruptcy. Few, if any, businesses are picking up where they left off as though nothing had happened in the interim.

Each and every owner and manager is confronted with the question: What do we do now? What is our plan?”

How this question is addressed will determine whether your doors can stay open or may be closed permanently.

To assure a positive and profitable outcome, certain leadership tools can be helpful and can make a major difference in the outcome. No “cookie cutter” nor “one size fits all” solution will work. Yet identical leadership tools can be used to draft each of the multitude of unique plans for each unique business — plans that work!

My reference to leadership tools as opposed to the more common management tools is a major, intentional shift in terminology and the overall point of this article.

Most businesses do a good job of management. The management function has been defined for decades as: planning, organizing, directing and controlling.

Leadership is an entirely different, yet complementary, concept. All too often, the elements of leadership are overlooked. Today, in the wake of COVID -19, every business must excel in both management and leadership to emerge successfully from this challenging health care and economic disaster.

I repeat: excel in both management and leadership are essential!

The differences are not difficult to understand, yet it’s critical that they be clearly understood. The traditional definition of management is above. A more contemporary definition is:

“A set of systems and processes designed for organizing, budgeting and problem solving to achieve planned outcomes of an organization.”

Of the many definitions of “leadership,” my preference is one who: “Creates the mission (purpose) of an organization and its vision statement of what it will look like three to five years in the future and then works with others to accomplish both.”

We often hear the expression “visionary leadership” as the basis for differentiating the two terms by saying simply a leader’s view is “from 30,000 feet — plus over the horizon.” A manager’s view is “at ground level.”

Each definition has merit. However, both need to include the preference for demonstrating proactive — not reactive — action. This is an essential component.

This current shutdown is an opportunity for innovation. Many are discovering new, cost-effective ways to conduct business that are to the benefit of all! Different, yet continuously improved, ways to get a job done.

Examples abound, like Zoom business meetings and other communication opportunities, special opening hours for special groups (e.g., seniors), employees working from home, online employee training sessions and customer webinars with great graphics, to mention but a few.

So what leadership tools — as opposed to management tools — are available? Here are some suggestions:

A SWOT analysis of your organization will show you how you and your team today see your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Your answers will assuredly be different now than they would have been a year ago, or even three months ago! Doing so helps set the stage for your use of the next leadership tool.

A strategic plan is a leadership tool that includes your mission, vision and values statements, along with your long-term strategic goals to accomplish your vision. These steps are focused on what it is you want to accomplish, not how you intend to do so.

An annual operational plan is a management, not leadership, tool to draft annual objectives for each long-term strategic goal. This extension of your strategic plan determines how each is to be achieved. Very importantly, each is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).

A business continuity plan is of great value to any business that wants to hit the ground running through this overall innovative, proactive and visionary planning process.

Use of these leadership tools can greatly facilitate successful resumption of operations on an innovative, proactive basis, yet do so in full compliance with old and especially new regulations.

Both complimentary counsel and a digital template for each of the above leadership tools are available by registering as a small business with our local CSU Bakersfield Small Business Development Center at www.csub.edu/SBDC.

Try it today!

John Pryor, CPCU, ARM, AAI, AIS, is a consultant for CSUB’s Small Business Development Center. During his business career, he co-founded two businesses still operational in Bakersfield. He is a former president of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, Mid State Development Corporation, Bakersfield West Rotary, Stockdale Country Club, Kern Leadership Alliance, Kern Community Foundation and other local organizations.

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