Planning Ahead – Revive or Thrive


Authors Alex Frisby & Lucy Unger

The business world is in survival mode, but as the crisis wears on, survival through reactive decision-making risks ‘death by a thousand cuts’ in the short term and missed opportunities in the longer term.

Putting strategy into action means thinking proactively now so as to be fit for purpose when our business activity returns and we enter what may be considered as the ‘new normal.’

It’s important to start to consider what your next steps are: is it to thrive, or revive? Giving structure to this thinking will help business focus on the core questions and drive decisive, relevant and positive action.

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These are unprecedented times and COVID-19 is disrupting so many aspects of the global economy. As we watch events unfold, we’re seeing personal and professional lives changing almost daily. As a result, every business is forced to some extent to adapt to survive.

This could mean many different things depending on the nature of your business. We’re all experiencing marked culture changes, costing cutting and cash preservation measures. Many are thinking about clients, supply chains, what the business can sustain and even what it might look like after the pandemic recedes.

Simultaneously, there is a huge amount of contextual volatility and ambiguity making confident decision-making extremely difficult. However, as the realisation sets in that this may not be a short-term phenomenon, businesses risk ‘nibbling away’ at their resources and damaging potential future value.

We see a need to look beyond the immediate short term, without wasting time trying to predict the future, to enable strong proactive leadership even when there are more questions than answers.

Giving structure to the “what next for our business” question will help. Our suggestion is to consider two scenarios – surviving to revive and surviving to thrive.

This distinction can be applied either to the whole business or to a small component of it, either way understanding the thinking behind each trajectory is of vital importance even while fighting for survival. Doing so successfully will create focus in the short term, make recovery more likely, and could open unforeseen opportunities even when things are looking their most bleak.

It’s strategy in action.


This is inherently a decision that says the business model will not retain viability in the current economic climate, but will be again, once the crisis dissipates and business activity resumes. Businesses will roughly need to follow a three-stage process:

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The risk is to assume that the world will be the same on the other side

The opportunity is to use the down time productively

The unknown is how long the hibernation will last


In this scenario, a customer proposition remains or becomes more powerful during the current climate. Perhaps this is because of shifting customer requirements during the lockdown, or increased demand for a non-face-to-face delivery mechanism. The role of leadership is to accurately identify any potential opportunities and adjust survival decisions to maximise them without taking undue risk.

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The risk is that these elements are overlooked while businesses are in survival mode

The opportunity is to deliver value in the short term, plus innovating and investing in the new-found opportunities that may carry over from this lockdown period

The unknown is consistent for all business innovations – how do we know this will work and whether the demand is sustainable in the ‘new normal?’


Consider each component of your offer to customers and adjust your survival strategy as needed.

  • For Survive to Revive – quickly create a plan for the three basic steps. Make decisive steps where needed to protect the core. Then use the intervening period productively.
  • For Survive to Thrive – understand customer needs and balance short term survival with benefits of optimising and innovating in relevant parts of the business

Our advice– while doing whatever it takes while in survival mode, it’s important not to lose sight of the ‘After Covid-19’ world and what this might mean for the business.

Our request–Get in touch and let us know what questions you’d like us to delve into further in the next blog where we will share real life examples and feedback from clients, our network and the wider world. We are all in this together.


Alex Frisby is Associate Director at SaturnFive Vancouver and leads our operations in Canada. Lucy Unger is our Associate Director in London and a member of our UK lead team.

SaturnFive® Consulting works with organisations to develop and implement their strategy so that they are well placed to exploit the benefits of a changing marketplace in a fast moving world. If you would like to know more about SaturnFive’s strategic services call us:

UK +44 (0) 1865-950799   Canada +1 778-358-5202   South Africa +27 (82) 320-3540


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