Australian CEOs and business leaders need to adapt a 'war time' mindset to grow over the next 24 months respected business consultant Lyndall Spooner said. 

Founder of a strategic research and consulting agency, Spooner said that those that don't adapt a 'war time' mindset won't survive. 

"Going into the next financial year, Australian business leaders will have to adopt a war-time mindset, forcing Australia’s CEOs to be insanely protective and obsessive over their business’s success. 

"Those that don’t, won’t reach desired targets and simply won’t survive," she said. 

Since March, consumers have undergone a significant change and their shopping behaviour is very different compared to pre-COVID. 

Spooner said that many businesses had been riding the wave of growth and had been able to push past poor data decisions or weak metrics before COVID and the subsequent recession hit. 

"Australia has experienced an incredible run of uninterrupted economic growth for nearly 30 years.

"As a result, many businesses are unprepared to compete in a declining economy for a more discerning consumer.

"Since March, consumers have undergone swift and lasting change, and so must businesses to remain relevant and competitive.

"How businesses respond will be highly dependent on the quality of their consumer intelligence. The reality is that many companies are making decisions off poor data.

"Simple consumer metrics that worked up until now – won’t work moving forward. 

"When the economy was growing, intelligence based off a single weak consumer metric did not have a big impact on overall company performance.

"The benefit of a growth economy is that it can hide and forgive poor management and useless consumer metrics. A recession economy fires a blow torch on these things.

"In a time of economic war, accessing the strongest consumer intelligence with the right KPIs is fundamental to survival.

"Right when consumer intelligence will become critical to developing winning compete strategies is when businesses will realise whether they have been working with the right or wrong metrics," she said. 

Spooner believes that in the next 24 months, there will be more predatory takeovers, mergers and acquisitions, disposals and businesses going to the wall among companies not moving quickly enough to adopt a war-time mentality. 

She adds that a 'war time CEO' - a term that was coined by author Ben Horowitz in 2014 - must be flexible in adapting their metrics and KPIs. 

"In the retail environment our data shows the return on investment of consumer metrics can vary between seven and 150 per cent.

"But few CEOs are willing to change their metrics once they are in place – especially if they installed them in the first place.

"A war-time CEO must be willing to replace existing consumer metrics and KPI structures for the right metrics that will enable the identification of stronger compete strategies, direct investment to the right areas and refocus the business at speed in a rapidly changing consumer landscape. 

"Most importantly, a war-time CEO is adaptable to change and is willing to drag their business in the direction they want it to go.

"If something isn’t working, a war-time CEO will make the bold call to change tack.

"They may even bypass the standard channels of decision-making for the sake of a swift decision," she said. 

And when it comes to consumers, Spooner said that many previously loyal customers will be willing to break their brand relationships in order to find a better deal. 

"The post-COVID-19 consumers will be like nothing Australian businesses have dealt with before.

"Consumers will be far more scrupulous in how they spend their money.

"They will be far more willing to break their existing brand relationships.

"The consumer of the post-COVID-19 era will be more open-minded about trying new brands if it means greater convenience and lower cost.

"Not only that, the new post-COVID-19 consumer will be more aware of their environmental footprint.

"They will think more about how their spending habits impact society.

"A lot of businesses are going to thrive in this new environment, but even more are going to struggle.

"The onus of guiding businesses through these new conditions will inevitably fall on leadership," she said. 

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