In my office, a piece of art hangs on the wall, a Chinese, painted scroll I had commissioned nearly 15 years ago while I was working for a multinational manufacturing company with significant operations in China. The scroll represents two characters that, when spoken together, form wei-ji, the Chinese equivalent word for “crisis”. Throughout my career, this scroll has served as a motivation and a reminder to me in difficult times. In this year of global pandemic-induced economic losses and shuttered businesses, along with local hurricanes, fires, floods, or riots, the message of this scroll representing “crisis” is as powerful as ever.
The first character wei stands for “danger”, while the second character ji stands for “a moment of change”. While this linguistic insight dates much further back, it was more loosely interpreted and popularized in 1959 in a speech by President John F. Kennedy, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” What a beautiful insight – wei-ji: a crisis presenting both danger and opportunity!
At GAI, we have certainly experienced this phenomenon in our own business this year, from shifts in internal operational practices to new ways of getting deals closed despite the pandemic and hurricane Sally. And we continue to be inspired by you, our clients and partners, who have faced the economic dangers of 2020 and fought back by inventing, creating and realizing new opportunities. Numerous sectors of the economy have demonstrated robustness and inelasticity by capitalizing on wei-ji.
But the year isn’t over yet, and many businesses continue to reel from the events of 2020. Some parts of the world are seeing a second wave of COVID-19, the US elections are in less than three weeks, and local issues still abound (e.g. Pensacola’s bridge outage – an economic lifeline!). Reflect on wei-ji! What opportunities remain in your business? Is it finally time to:
- upgrade the phone/communication infrastructure so employees or customers can be better connected, remotely?
- upgrade to electronic invoicing or payments to accelerate your receivables?
- pivot to a delivery / contactless model?
- convert your product-offerings into service or experience-offerings or vice versa?
- introduce that new offering that you have been debating?
- consolidate locations to reduce fixed overhead?
- introduce more flexibility with employees and/or reconfigure job descriptions?
- turn your waste stream into an income stream?
- rent your excess capacity or assets to a competitor or complementary business?
- partner with another business on a product exchange or delivery service?
- create a bundle of products/services that present good value to customers?
- make the shift to an e-commerce/online platform to reach more customers?
Lean in with your teams and find ways to realize these opportunities. Of course, you may find that right now is also a good opportunity to focus on preparing to transition your business. If that’s the case, give us a call for a free exit planning consultation.