Business Bites: Crisis driven change and making it stick

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO sector skills development officer

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” John C. Maxwell

The Covid-19 crisis has certainly brought disruption and change, but can you see opportunity where others see disruption? Are there new views on risk and resilience? Do you really want things to return to exactly how they were or should you be taking the opportunity to remodel the way that you operate and look for ways to grow?

With this particular crisis, we have seen accelerated trends that we would never have otherwise experienced for many years. How many businesses and employees anticipated working from home? How many of us anticipated speaking with family, friends and colleagues via Skype, Zoom or FaceTime as being an everyday normality?

Will we also see trends accelerate in the ways in which we interact with our patients in terms of hygiene matters, time spent with each patient, greater personalisation of service due to more time with the patient?

So what should a business be aiming for?

  • Short to medium term: operational excellence
  • Medium term: search for growth
  • Medium to longer term: understand future drivers

Operational excellence

Previous processes, routines and environments may no longer be appropriate in the time we are starting to expand services. It would be easy to assume that things could carry on in a reduced capacity but you should take time to think about the views of your team and patients.

Listen and actively engage with ideas and concerns, especially if it is resistance led. Anxiety is a very normal response to change and you should use you communication skills and empathy to understand and resolve issues.

Search for growth

Is there a new model for productivity? Traditionally, we may have measured it by how busy someone was. Multi-tasking was seen as good when, in reality, the person most likely delivered several things but not to the best of their ability.

Link this with the ‘always-on’ mindset and the pressure to be constantly available, burnout could be the result.

Look to build an eco-system of people and know-how that you can build the business off.

Delegation to members of the team illustrates empowerment and trust. Get the right people with the right skillset working on the right areas, be that IT, social media, marketing, clinical areas, leadership and management or any of the other key areas.

Managers and leaders can look to get the best from their team.

No matter how unique opticians may feel that businesses are, realistically all offer the same products and services, albeit through different brands. The real differentiator is you and your team.

Learn from the ideas of the team; you may even find yourself with a budding intrapreneur who you can develop and nourish – as they will in turn help the business to develop and grow.

Understand future drivers

Is this the tough one? How could people have ever forecast the impact of the current crisis?

What jobs will children starting school at the age of five this year be doing when they leave school? The likelihood is that many will be doing roles that don’t even exist today and using technologies that also don’t exist today.

Think about what can be done, utilise technologies that complement you and your patients’ wishes. Mentioned earlier was the pressure to be constantly available. How can you utilise your website and social media to have a 24/7 availability through educational information, through having appointment booking/requests available, by having online galleries showcasing products?

Consideration should be made for how various app-based technologies may help in a world of social distancing and a need to disinfect samples that are handled or worn.

Being on top of patient desires now will make it easier to identify future trends and drivers.

Making it stick?

It will be mainly about buy-in from your teams. By having the team involved and leading in certain areas, that ownership will without doubt make any changes stick and become the norm.

Kotter’s eight-step change model1 could be helpful as a tool to manage the change.

Nothing motivates more than success. Give your team a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame, you’ll want to have some ‘quick wins’ that your team can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure.


Establish if you are ready for business growth. Kappel2 writes about five ways to tell if you are ready for business growth as does Podolsky3.


1. Mind Tools: Kotter’s 8-step change model

2. Forbes: Five ways to tell if you are ready to change your business

3. Forbes: Five signs you’re ready to grow your small business

Other useful sources