Finding the ‘New Normal’

By YeeLing Chang

How businesses and individuals can evolve and adapt to the new normal

As the saying goes: ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies a great opportunity.’ Since you are reading Jumpstart, then you are probably in the group of savvy entrepreneurs who can make good of the current situation–whatever the extent. 

While some industries will have to change how they operate, those that have undergone some degree of digital transformation are seeing the trend accelerate. Travel and food and beverage will unlikely return to normal in the foreseeable future, but retail and education are growing. 

That said, there’s no formula to getting through the pandemic unscathed, so I spoke to two business leaders to discuss how they are tackling the many challenges it presents in their unique way. 

The VUCA framework

Strategic recruiter Sandy Su specializes in executive search for succession planning and business re-engineering projects. She alludes to the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) framework–which is typically used in military warfare situations–to explain her approach to remaining resilient. 

  • Volatility: One has to devote resources to preparedness. While expensive, the investment should match the risk. For example, the countries that established travel restrictions earlier on (e.g., New Zealand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong) are seeing lower Covid-19 cases–but at a high cost to the economy. 
  • Uncertainty: A lack of information or knowledge means investing in information gathering, interpretation, and sharing would ease some of the effects.
  • Complexity: With so many interconnected variables, trying to understand them all can be overwhelming. Here, one would need to look at restructuring, such as hiring experts to carry out digital transformation.
  • Ambiguity: The key is to test things out before making any significant decisions, as so much is unknown. Treat the situation as a pilot project, where lessons can be drawn. 

Adaptive strategies

I also spoke to Sheraton Hsinchu Taiwan CEO Cecily Liu. The hotel’s clientele is mainly business travelers from the semiconductor industry. Given that business travel has come to a standstill, I wanted to know how Cecily and her team were managing. 

By early February, she already introduced procedures to ensure guests and staff safety, including but not limited to investing in personal protective equipment (PPE). She also reached out to government agencies for accurate and up-to-date information, and put the hotel in the position to receive financial support. 

Cecily took this opportunity to streamline operations and upskill the team. She also experimented with new initiatives, such as implementing curbside pickups for hotel restaurants and launching promotions to attract domestic travelers. 

Tough calls still had to be made, including a pay cut at the executive level. With a flatter management structure, Cecily had the advantage of being able to make decisions swiftly. Some of these practices, such as training teams to be multi-functional and lean. The team also took the opportunity for cross-learning with the group’s newest project, MOXY Taichung. 

The MOXY brand targets millennials, and is set up to be a self-serve model as much as possible. Overheads are lower, and less staff is needed. These approaches have inspired Sheraton staff to review old habits and learn how to operate more efficiently. 

Covid-19 will be with us until there is a vaccine, which will likely take over a year. If we manage our expectations, be adaptable, and remain socially responsible, we can emerge from this pandemic more appreciative of what we have. 

About the Author

YeeLing is Content Director at CAREhER, the only bilingual platform that takes a comprehensive approach to personal and professional development for women. CAREhER offers personal branding and coaching, and resources for learning, such as interviews with successful women. She is also an entrepreneur with over 12 years of experience in the F&B industry.

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