7 Minute Read

There are a thousand questions swirling around in your head about what the coronavirus pandemic means for the U.S. economy, and for your business in particular. Everyone is in the same boat. We know there have been immediate changes, and we know there will be long term changes. 

What will those long term changes be and when will they happen? And, most importantly, what should I be doing to prepare for them? This article is meant to help you take the first steps in understanding what you can do to prepare your business not only to “make it through” but come out on the other side of COVID-19 accelerating your growth at ever increasing rates for years after it has passed.

Important Coronavirus Business Questions You'll Find in this Article:

COVID-19 Business Question #1: When will this all be over?

As much as I’d like to be able to give you a definitive answer on this one, I’m not a fortune teller. If Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, can’t put a timeline on novel coronavirus and its effect on our daily life, I certainly can’t either.

As Dr. Fauci has made clear, we “don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline.” So, while we can’t say exactly when all this will end, what we can say is that it will end.

Depending on the size of your business, you may be looking at completely different paths or post-COVID landscapes.

As a small to medium sized business (SMB), you can expect that some businesses won’t come out the other side, many will have to close their doors. Many businesses will weather the storm, and come limping out on the other side. But some businesses, those that properly prepare, will exit the other side at an all-out sprint, growing and thriving like never before.

If you are part of an enterprise or Fortune 100 or larger business, you are looking less at businesses closing doors, and more about how many degrees of separation you can put between yourself and your competitors. In your case, you are looking at what happens 2, 3 or 5 years after coronavirus has passed. Those businesses that planned early will be ready for what changes will have persisted across those timelines and have put themselves miles ahead of their competitors who didn’t. 

Only you get to choose which of these businesses you get to be.

COVID-19 Business Question #2: What will the market look like when coronavirus ends?

What has been made abundantly clear is that the changes that result from our nation’s battle with the coronavirus pandemic will not be temporary. We will see long-lasting, systemic and permanent changes to the way we live, our economy and the markets in which we operate.

There will absolutely be permanent shifts to the way we work, the behaviors we exhibit, and the way we interact with each other. Understanding how these permanent shifts will affect your business, or better yet how you can take advantage of those shifts, will make the difference between a business that merely survives and one that significantly increases their pace of growth in the years following the pandemic.

The way these changes influence and affect the markets your business operates in, for years to come, will be unique, and it isn’t something we can provide an overarching single answer to. What we can do, instead, is help you uncover what this means for your business and your industry using a framework that facilitates your own dynamic strategic planning process.

COVID-19 Business Question #3: Why should I be planning now for what comes after the end of coronavirus?

I know how you feel right now. You are in reaction mode. Each day brings with it new revelations that change every plan you thought you had. I understand that it is hard to think about the future right now. But you have to.

You have three boxes you can focus on at any given time:

  • Manage the present
  • Think about the past
  • Plan for the future

In order to be successful as an organization, you need to balance your time in each of the three boxes. Which means, even though you are probably spending a lot of time on the “present” box in reaction mode, and maybe a decent chunk of time in the “past” box wishing you could go back a few weeks, you absolutely still need to be spending time in the “future” box preparing for the other side.

If you don’t spend time in the “future” box, you can bet some of your competitors will. You will also find that some of those competitors will be stuck so much in the “present” box that spending even a little bit of time in the “future” box will help move you lightyears ahead. 

You may find that you actually have more time on your hands right now than you typically would, given that you aren’t commuting or traveling. If you find yourself in that position, what better activity could you do with your time then to help set up your future?

Additionally, this process will help you uncover some really interesting insights that may very well be able to serve you right now. You may learn through this process that there is even something that can benefit your business in the short term, during all of this uncertainty.

Lastly, and definitely least fun of all, you may be making some very tough decisions about your business right now. You may be forced to let people go, and faced with the choice of how many to let go or who to let go. Planning for what you will need as you come out of the aftermath of COVID-19 may help you make those decisions. It won’t make them any less heartbreaking, but it could make them a little clearer.

COVID-19 Business Question #4: What should I do to plan for the aftermath of coronavirus?

The first thing you can, and absolutely need to be doing, is staying on top of coronavirus news and updates that relate to your industry. Knowing what is happening right now is key to understanding what might happen in the future.

You can stay up to date on specific information that is important to your industry by subscribing to our completely free coronavirus updates sourced directly from our competitive intelligence platform, Knowledge360®.

subscribe to covid-19 intelligence updates

At Cipher, we facilitate workshops for organizations specifically meant to help them plan effectively by anticipating disruption, overcoming organizational inertia, and turning risks to opportunities. What bigger disruption is there right now than coronavirus? So, we wanted to share our methodology with you in order to help you plan around the biggest disruption we’ve seen in our lifetimes.


You can learn, in-depth, about each of the five stages in our series of Competitive Intelligence Maturity articles:

  1. 5 Stages of CI Maturity: Creating a Competitive Intelligence Plan [Stage 1]
  2. 5 Stages of CI Maturity: Competitive Intelligence Information Gathering [Stage 2]
  3. 5 Stages of CI Maturity: Organizing Competitive Intelligence Data [Stage 3]
  4. 5 Stages of CI Maturity: Information Analysis [Stage 4]
  5. 5 Stages of CI Maturity: Competitive Intelligence Production and Dissemination [Stage 5]

Right now, you’ll pretty much be living in phase 3, looking at the “here, near, and next” effect of coronavirus. You’ll want to run through the 11 macro sources of disruption, identified by futurist and author Amy Webb published by the MIT Sloan Business School, and think about how coronavirus will directly affect each of these 11 sources in your industry or market. The 11 sources to consider are:

  1. Wealth distribution
  2. Education
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Government
  5. Geopolitics
  6. Economy
  7. Public health
  8. Demographics
  9. Environment
  10. Media and telecommunications
  11. Technology

Look at how each of these changes to a macro source of disruption relates to your own business differentiators and identify your biggest areas of risk and opportunity as a result of that. From there you’ll be able to build a solid plan for how to act on those with the most opportunity.

If you’re looking for help or guidance through the process for your team, you may want to consider our free virtual event, Your Post-COVID-19 Business Strategy, where we will be facilitating workshops on this very process. We have a specific framework we follow, exercises we run through and cognitive methodologies that all help you work through each of the questions you need to ask yourself to identify the ripest areas of opportunity.

If you are ready to dive headlong into planning out your strategy for the next 5 years, and are looking for something more in-depth or customized to your team and needs, we do offer private (now 100% virtual) workshops for your team. Get in touch with us to learn more about our custom workshops.

COVID-19 Business Question #5: How are other businesses preparing for life after coronavirus?

All of this sounds great in theory, but until you see it in action, it is still just theory. So we wanted to walk you through an example of some of the things we worked with a client to uncover or consider during their workshop.

One of our clients, a leading paint and coatings company, uncovered some very interesting questions and ideas during a recent workshop, specifically around the after-effects of coronavirus.

One of the big disruptors they were able to identify was around the use of antimicrobial coatings, one of their core product offerings. Given the current landscape, and how clearly unprepared we were to control the spread of the virus, more and more places where many people gather will look to find better ways to control the spread of disease. Antimicrobial coatings, once only a product interesting to hospitals, will likely rise significantly in interest for a much larger marketplace.

Another very interesting insight that came out of their workshop related to the durability of coatings and paint. One of the biggest shifts we may expect to see in human behavior following this pandemic is a much larger emphasis on keeping surfaces clean. This means lots of harsh chemicals and cleaning products. There will most likely be a strong surge in the need for coatings and surface paint products that can withstand a much harsher cleaning schedule than in the past.

“Cipher demonstrated a strong desire to clearly understand our needs. The team asked the right questions to understand our market in a short period of time and their approach and research expertise were exemplary. Our time frames were very short and we were extremely pleased that each committed benchmark was met. We were very pleased with our first experience with Cipher and will certainly consider them for future projects.”

SVP Marketing Communications

These are just some examples of what can be learned from a deeply strategic look into market shifts and disruptors. Examples like this can change your product and business strategy, adjust your marketing tactics, and position your business for years or decades of growth.

Final Thoughts

If I can leave you with just one thing as we conclude our time together, please let it be this: if you aren’t thinking about what the next 5 years after coronavirus look like now, you’ll be too late by the time it is here. Yes, take time to focus on reacting to the things that are happening now. But, for the sake of your business, don’t let it reduce your focus on the future. Carve out some time to build your post-COVID strategy, or someone else will write it for you.