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Updated by Charles Bystock on 07/14/2021

Everyone has some pandemic-related battle fatigue; 2020 was the opposite of “business as usual.” The volatility we experienced last year is expected to undergo a force multiplier in the coming years. Labor shortages, an increase in cybercriminal activity, and tumultuous weather events will all continue to threaten the economy. External forces of this magnitude necessitate new approaches to business. If you’re not thinking ahead to new partnerships during these volatile times, you’re not prepared.

Rapid innovation during COVID

“Iterate” should be the word of the day on every C-suite executive’s calendar — now more than ever. Every enterprise should adopt startup thinking models — including regular innovation and iteration — to evolve their business. It’s much easier to operate in this fashion with four employees than with 400,000, but thinking creatively, at every level of your organization, is a sound idea.

The truth is easy to say — and much harder to do. Enterprise organizations must learn to adapt more quickly than they have in the past. The retail industry learned this lesson the hard way. Last year, several crisis-related trends forced retailers to shift gears faster than they were accustomed to moving. Examples include:

  • Sudden increase in online spending over in-store shopping
  • Adjusting to keep in-store customers protected from the virus
  • Meeting new demand for employee scheduling flexibility

Keep in mind these changes occurred almost overnight. The significance of this rapid pace forced retailers — and every other enterprise — outside their decision-making comfort zone. Retailers who capitalized on these trends survived by:

  • Increasing user-friendliness of their online e-commerce brand
  • Developing touchless service and entry/exit points
  • Providing in-store sanitation stations
  • Allowing for employee schedule flexibility whenever possible

Studying the response of big box retailers is one way to determine how companies rapidly adapted to crisis and found, or created, new models to keep the lights on. Pursuing and forming new partnerships — within and across industries — proved an especially effective response strategy.


Agile partnerships yield better revenue numbers

Before COVID-19, all sectors were changing digital priorities and strategies to meet evolving demand from consumers. The pandemic caused a sudden, drastic acceleration in digital transformation — proving, once again, the longstanding connection between opportunity and revenue.   

The supply chain crisis of 2020 illustrated our weaknesses and created a shift in thinking around traditional partnerships. Agility ruled the day, and organizations that didn’t have it failed. Creative partnerships and marketing strategies evolved as businesses fought for survival:

  • Restaurants ordered less produce, so many started selling groceries as part of their takeout service to help produce suppliers stay afloat.
  • Small businesses offered “COVID care kits” to stressed families during a time of crisis.
  • When workout equipment and pajama pants became the rage, retailers changed their marketing tactics.
  • Uber Eats and Nimble teamed up to deliver pharmacy prescriptions straight to customer doors.

This kind of innovation was already standard strategy for the big players. Prior to the pandemic, Amazon partnered with Kohl’s for local pick-up of e-commerce orders. The profit margin on these ventures is there for the taking if companies are willing to consider new ideas and partnerships to complement existing products and services — and meet changing consumer demands.

business collabs

What’s next for business collaboration?

Instead of limiting focus to core offerings, companies are learning to evaluate and tap adjacent opportunities to offer more customer value. Creative partnerships attract new audiences by offering unique products and services, but companies must realize these partnerships are potentially less than long-term.

Business collaboration today is anything but static. Companies must be flexible enough to move on to more lucrative opportunities when they arise. Consumer demands are fickle, but there are also threats from rogue viruses, adverse weather, and cybercriminals — all of which could be detrimental to the wellbeing of your business. Build redundancy into your strategic partnerships, particularly from  supply chain and distribution perspectives. Your new business partnerships will be successful — until they aren’t. Proper planning will keep your company agile enough to weather any storm.

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