Survive and Thrive Strategy for Business

In a pre-COVID world, your business was probably doing well, and you and your team had planned on how to improve and grow the business. However right now most businesses are going through the COVID shredder, where most are facing a significant drop in demand.

Even businesses that are in growing markets are struggling. For example, a client in Scotland who has increased demand of 10 times is going through the shredder because they cannot access reliable supply.

Attempting to survive by looking backwards at yesterday's business model is a formula for disaster. Why? Because there will be a post-COVID world and it will be different.

Just surviving is not enough. For example, past crises such as the GFC, Katrina, Australian bushfires and floods and 9/11, have taught us that the peak of bankruptcies happen 12 to 24 months after the crisis has abated. This is because surviving is an event and it does not build a sustainable future for your business.

So how do you plan and execute in these turbulent and highly uncertain times? You need to concurrently build both a Survive Strategy and a Thrive Strategy.

Can I survive first and then worry about surviving later?

NO – because the decisions you make now will have an impact on your ability to respond to and thrive in a post-COVID world.

Working globally with thousands of companies over two and a half decades has taught us that the most successful companies work backwards from a desired end state. This is equally true in a crisis.

The desired outcome you need is to be able to thrive in a post-COVID world. The “new norm” is likely to be more online, more local and more bio-security constrained. This will have implications for how you work, where you work, what your customers will demand and how your supply chain will need to be structured.

Therefore, viewing the world through a pre-COVID lens may result in you dismissing or removing the very assets or capabilities you need to be successful in a post-COVID world.

To quote a recent Harvard Business Review article called Are You Leading Through the Crisis… or Managing the Response?

“Imagine leading and managing as two circles in a Venn diagram. At the moment crisis strikes, the two circles largely overlap. As the event unfolds over the arc of time, the two activities move apart. The two circles are never fully separate because the present and the future are interdependent. The most effective leaders in crises ensure that someone else is managing the present well while focusing their attention on leading beyond the crisis toward a more promising future.”

The four survive and four thrive strategies we recommend you adopt are:

Survive Strategies

  1. Protecting lives and livelihoods

  2. Radical financial adaption

  3. Supply chain continuity

  4. Client engagement and support

Thrive Strategies

  1. Virtualise your business

  2. Collective innovation

  3. Repurposing Assets and Capabilities

  4. Post-COVID readiness

There are some great examples of businesses concurrently implementing survive and thrive strategies successfully. An example is Allshelter who make large scale industrial shelters and were able to repurpose their assets and capabilities rapidly to build innovative COVID testing stations.

Allshelter will continue to manufacture and supply industrial shelters post-COVID but they will have opened a new market in small scale shelters that be erected in a matter of few hours.


Your assets and capabilities will be different as will the opportunities presenting in new markets. The challenge is to think about your business not in its pre-COVID form but as a separate set of assets and capabilities that can be combined in novel ways to create value for existing and new customers. This will allow you to find ways to not only survive but also thrive.

Kevin Nuttall

Director, Waterfield

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