3 Areas Leaders Must Apply Renewed Focus Following a Crisis Where to re-focus when long-term strategic plans are no longer relevant.

By Shannon Litton

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There's nearly always a moment in professional sports games where a player ends up motionless in the middle of a field. We wait to see whether the player will be loaded onto a stretcher or will accept a hand and be pulled to his feet as the crowd cheers and he or she walks away.

I feel like that player. It feels as if recent global events hit me like a defensive lineman. For awhile, I was lying on the field trying to determine if I was okay. Is my team okay? Yes. Clients? Damaged, but for the most part, yes. The business? I'm not even sure at this point, but I'm hopeful.

Related: 4 Ways to Find Opportunity in a Crisis

But at some point we've got to make the decision to get up. We've got to start walking again. We've got to move. But where do we go? To the sidelines? The locker room? The hospital? That answer depends on how badly you've been hit. Regardless of the impact, over the next 90 days focus is critical and might determine our success for years to come.

Here are three areas where you must have relentless focus.

1. Take extraordinary care of existing customers.

Depending on your industry and which study you choose to believe, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more costly than keeping an existing client. Yes, your customers might be hurting, too. But as they begin to shake themselves off and pick themselves up, you've got to show up. Author Jill Lublin based an entire book on the idea that "kindness is the new currency." Focus extreme amounts of your time and resources on showing up in exceptional ways for your customers.

2. Every dollar counts

Many of us immediately moved, as if by reflex, to big spending cuts. Now it's time to evaluate those cuts. Do they make sense? Are they deep enough? Or does the cut actually hurt us in the long run? This is also the time to evaluate the quick pivots we made. Is the extra revenue from a new line actually profitable in the long run? Could it be? Or are there other areas of innovation we should move quickly to? Every dollar in and every dollar out counts now more than ever.

3. Recalibrate and shorten your goals

Like you, I have a beautiful 2020 strategic plan, complete with KPIs and assigned-out action items. It is fairly meaningless at this point. My leadership team was just scheduled to do reporting on quarter one goals. Instead, we pulled together and created a simple, 90-day plan. We put our 2020 goals on "pause" and created a very focused plan to help us stabilize over the short term.

If you don't tell your team what is most important today and in the short-term, they're likely operating off of old thinking and goals. For us, a number of projects being pushed to the fall has created some unusual capacity for our creative teams. A potential project landed in front of us that just two months ago we would have passed on. Had we not recalibrated our goals – "every dollar counts" – and also communicated them to our whole team, we might have passed. It's critical revenue we would have lost if we were operating under January's plan.

Related: Every Era Brings Challenges. If You Don't Forget Your 'Thing,' You Will Prevail.

As always, leadership comes down to communication. It's not enough to create focused goals, it's about how clearly you can communicate them and how actionable you can make them. Teams need leadership and direction now more than ever. They're also more willing than ever to go the extra mile to help their organizations succeed. Make sure you lead your team to channel that into areas that will really impact your short term. There's just not time for busy work or activities that don't move the needle. Period.

Hopefully we'll all be dusting off those beautiful strategic plans soon, and I suspect by then we'll also have a new appreciation for the ability to think and act long-term.

Related: 5 Steps to Help Your Business Emerge Stronger From the Health Crisis

Shannon Litton

President & CEO of 5by5 Agency

Shannon Litton is the President and CEO of 5by5 Agency, a 2-time INC. 5000 listed-company. She has worked with over 300 organizations and is an expert in developing strategies that propel change down the street or around the world. Litton lives in Franklin, Tenn. with her husband and five children.

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