Maintaining Long-Term Stability in VUCA Times

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Written By: Brendan P. Keegan, Chairman, CEO & President

CoastlineI’m not the first business leader to point out that we’re living in VUCA times – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. A phrase borrowed from the military, VUCA always seemed to have perfectly described the 4th Industrial Revolution, in which the evolutionary and revolutionary movement to digital has pushed us to be more CONNECTED. But over the last few months I’ve been surprised to find that it also speaks to COVID – where a global pandemic has threatened our economy, our jobs, and our businesses. While I’ve led companies through other uncertain times before, including the Dot-com burst and the Great Recession of 2008, COVID is something new entirely.

As a CEO, I’m constantly evaluating our landscape. Often that means scanning the horizon and evaluating if or how we should pivot our strategic direction based on how current circumstances may differ from the assumptions made during our leadership’s strategic planning process. I think I speak for every business leader when I say that COVID has presented new challenges that have pushed myself and other leaders to react quickly over these last few weeks. But despite the need to be reactive to changes in our circumstances and industries, one recommendation I have for leaders is this: step back for a moment and think about how your decisions in the short term will impact your future business.

Turn Short-Term Opportunities into Long-Term Plays

You may have read other pieces we’ve put out about my Tough Times Playbook. One of the “plays” in my playbook is to “Develop a Clear Action Plan” so that you may think & act proactively. But what if we combine plays 2, 6, and 7 together? You’d get: develop a clear ACTION PLAN that is FLEXIBLE TO MARKET SHIFTS that allows you to improve LONG TERM. It’s all about balancing those short and long term opportunities. Right now in the short term, you want to take advantage of new opportunities that are presenting themselves. For example, at Merchants, we have been in the last mile delivery space for the last few years, but COVID is creating new opportunities for businesses to join the last mile and we are certainly taking advantage of the need for essential businesses to stay on the road by servicing these clients.

Perhaps you have a similar situation – perhaps you have identified short-term opportunities as a business to help people or businesses during this complex time while also achieving profitability. You know that you need to react quickly to take advantage of these opportunities, but you also know that you need to make decisions that will ensure your long-term financial success.

For some companies, that might mean a need for vehicles to conduct essential business during this time where they never needed them before. For example, there are craft breweries local to me that found themselves needing to make deliveries of both their delicious brews and the hand sanitizers they whipped up as a result of trying to help their communities. That business might have chosen to pivot their model for right now but may or may not decide to continue that model long-term.

I’m proud that our short-term lease offerings allow businesses to make these kinds of pivots, especially in the cases where they are essential businesses, such as last mile delivery. Operations leaders can lease one or many units from us for just the amount of time they need it, whether COVID lasts another month or for the next year. And should that business decide that they want to change pivot their business model entirely because it becomes the pivot became the new normal, Merchants allows them to convert their short-term lease to a long term lease while often maintaining the investment they already made.

We don’t know when the effects of COVID-19 will diminish (or if you do, could you let me borrow your crystal ball?) but we do know that it will eventually come to an end. When this happens, you want to make sure that the decisions you made to respond to short-term opportunities today will impact your business positively in the long-term. What are you doing to ensure your company’s long-term success in VUCA times?

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