When does the New Normal shift to the Here & Now?

According to Dictionary.com, ‘new normal’ is considered one of the top eight words or phrases people absolutely never want to hear again. The phrase ‘new normal’ is an oxymoron typically used to indicate a life event that is out of the ordinary and has a long-lasting or permanent impact on someone’s day-to-day routine. For instance, a couple who just had their first baby might tell friends and family they’re adjusting to their new normal.

But using the phrase to describe efforts to fight a global pandemic implied a sense of permanence that made a lot of people uncomfortable. This may have been one time when it was better to challenge ourselves to find a new phrase, rather than relying on one we already knew. If you check Thesaurus.com for synonyms for new and normal, you come up with, strange routine, unusual standard, and unfamiliar order. Those all seemed to better capture the inherent strangeness of the time.

Well, enough with new normal, and this from a person (me) who wrote what turned out to be a very popular article by the same name for the restaurant industry as lockdowns became the order of the day. If you’re interested, you can read that article which had been picked up by a number of publications HERE.

I was recently working with a client in evaluating her and her husband’s business with the intent of launching their brand into franchising. Their two quick service restaurants survived the pandemic quite well. Take-out and delivery kept both locations afloat as their small dining areas had been closed. They were very diligent in keeping their employees protected having made the investment to have plexiglass partitions installed at the counters. Packaging was improved for customer safety.

A decision had been made to use the time to make improvements. Kudos to these business owners! Both locations were remodeled. Equipment was evaluated and several items were replaced. Many parts of the business were addressed to improve the customer experience as well as to improve revenue and profitability. This included a new website, an improved social media and branding strategy, a revamped loyalty program, and expanded local marketing efforts.

As supply chain issues raised an ugly head, efforts were taken to supplement and offset shortages. Menus were evaluated and modified accordingly. Several new items were tested to provide additional offerings with both business profitability and customer satisfaction in mind. The key to all of this was my clients’ focus on emerging from the pandemic period on an upswing.

They made the right decision. Their efforts proved fruitful. Yet, there has been recent concern as to what had been considered new norm problems remaining, seemingly requiring frequent attention. I had been hearing similar stories from other business owners. It appears the type of business doesn’t matter as the stories were consistent.

It got me thinking, are these problems existing because they’re being addressed from the perspective of how things were done prior to the pandemic as opposed to addressing things based upon what really has become a changed business environment? Has the new norm ended and instead of evolving, key parts of the business have changed almost overnight? Will moving forward be based upon reacting to recurring issues, or should a proactive approach be taken to address what has clearly become the here and now, the way it is… now?

After carefully reviewing the issues, it appeared obvious we needed to address today’s business as just that, today’s business, not yesterday’s business. It meant looking at the business as if it were being started today. In other words, not being reactive to the way it was and slightly adjusting but to look at it as being a new business.

For instance, if the business were started today; What would be on the menu based upon current supply chain and cost factors? How much would you need to pay employees today? What would you need to do to create a great customer experience? How would you attract customers to your new business?

Essentially, if your business were started today, you would need a current business plan, not the one you had when you first started your business 3-5-10 years ago.

So, the answers to the questions above must be the guidelines for today’s business. Sure, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy. For example, how could a business afford to raise employee wages from $10 per hour to $15 or $20 per hour? If the business were started today, it wouldn’t be a question because it is what it is. Other examples would play out the same.

The bottom line is it is necessary to evaluate your business as if you were starting it today. Use that as your baseline. Tweak your systems, processes, and procedures according to that baseline instead of from what the norm was previously, or that had evolved into the new normal. Proactively transform your business for today.

Maybe it means doing business with less employees. Maybe it means reducing or changing product or service offerings. Maybe it means a shift in how to attract customers or clients. Maybe it means revising certain processes in delivering products or services. Maybe it means looking at the business as if you were buying it today. What would you change?

The list goes on, but the answer really is it means doing all of it. It means looking forward, not looking back. It’s the only way to win. Otherwise, the best one can hope for is a tie.

Have a great day. Make it happen. Make it count!