As life slowly returns to normal, vaccine distribution becomes widely available, and mask mandates and other pandemic-norms fall by the wayside, small and medium-sized businesses may be rightfully uncertain of what comes next. Indeed, the transition out of the pandemic has been relatively tepid; while many small businesses have recovered, the Small Business Administration confirms that many “continue to lag” or have recovered “only to experience subsequent declines.”
Now is the time for business owners to reorient themselves to post-pandemic conditions and hit the reset button. This means readjusting roles, shifting their perspective back to growth, laying out a plan for incremental change and, most importantly, developing a fresh vision for long-term growth.
Time for CEOs to shift gears
The overall transition within the organization must start with a change in mindset at the top. This change should be a conscious effort. In response to the pandemic, many CEOs and business owners had to dive into day-to-day operations, working closely with clients and rolling up their sleeves to work through the numbers with their finance team.
Now, however, it’s not only safe, but necessary, for CEOs to shift out of survival mode and back into growth mode, while also maintaining healthy business operations. CEOs should slowly pull back and start to think about where their organization is going over the next two or three years, how it is going to change and what needs to be done to be prepared for the next 10 years. It’s impossible to answer these questions if CEOs stay in the short-term reactionary mode they’ve been forced to operate in over the past year.
Finance teams can bridge the transition
As CEOs pull back, CFOs and finance teams should rev up. During the pandemic, finance teams stepped up to play a more strategic role within the organization. Going forward, they should maintain that position. They worked closely with CEOs and successfully navigated their dual mandate to maintain tactical operations while thinking strategically—managing everything from Paycheck Protection Program applications to tight cash flows, re-forecasting and grant submissions.
CEOs should keep their CFOs close during this time and lean on their finance teams to help bridge the business transition. In order to do this, finance teams should be empowered to play a central role in organizing the roadmap to reach long-term growth targets. Ultimately, it’s the CEO that drives the future vision of the business and the CFO that builds the scaffolding that allows that growth to happen. And that scaffolding starts with goal setting and goal management.
A formula for incremental progress towards long-term goals
Nearly 90% of CFOs are already working to strategically leverage their financial insights to actively guide the overall business trajectory. But how can CEOs foster an environment that encourages the finance team to take more of the reins, while, in turn, freeing themselves up to focus on the long-term outlook?
The solution is a thoughtful goal strategy. This includes visionary goals set by the CEO and senior leadership as well as short-term, interim goals that make progress towards achieving the long-term ones and seed the future vision of the business.
Coming out of the pandemic, many CEOs and finance teams are especially attuned to their businesses, making it an ideal time to address the lingering pain points and seize a competitive advantage in the market. Maybe it’s time to expand store footprint, elevate market status, increase product distribution or pursue new strategic partnerships. These are all great goals, but they take time and careful planning to achieve. Short-term organizational goals should ladder up to long-term ambitions; they might include new hires, product development, market research or relationship building.
Empowering finance teams to plan and manage business goals
CFOs and finance teams are ideally positioned to oversee goal management and planning; they’re the aggregators of the organization’s financial data, they oversee resources, and they have ongoing insight into important business inputs. Recognizing their strategic vantage point, CEOs should task finance teams with working with individual department heads to help them set and manage their goals.
IT may want to invest in new technology or automation. HR may want to roll out more new hiring initiatives, and marketing may want to propel sales and build brand awareness. Finance can help categorize these goals and align resources and budgets across departments. Regular KPIs, progress tracking and a written plan not only reinforce the finance department’s blueprint for long-term goals, but also help ensure that across the organization, everyone is aware of and accountable to their respective objectives.
Start your post-pandemic transition today
When is the right time to start planning for the future? Today! Although it may feel abrupt coming right out of the challenges of the pandemic, businesses can’t afford to wait. As CEOs are already intimately aware, the future comes fast. We’re already halfway through 2021. Businesses should be focused on laying out 2022 milestones that progress towards 2023 goals.
With the economic recovery already underway and consumers eager to get back to normal life, businesses need to capture the opportunity now. Those organizations that already know the direction they’re headed in and have a step-by-step plan for how to get there will be best positioned to leverage the momentum of this moment for long-term, transformation and growth.