Why it is flexibility and not survival of the fittest that counts in the COVID-19 crisis 

Darwin is often misquoted as saying evolution is about “survival of the fittest”. Instead, this was first quoted by English philosopher Herbert Spencer, who read Darwin’s works. Darwin’s thoughts were more measured:

 “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

COVID-19 struck us all out of left field. It is destructive and has caused an array of different problems. But this is the new reality for us all – we have to deal with it. It is how we all deal with these dramatic changes that determines how well we will survive these very difficult times.

As a simple strategic structure – we have to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. From listening to so many people over the past 6-8 weeks, there are three core areas to focus in on:


Cashflow: Cash is king – especially as we continue to experience weak market conditions. Businesses do not go bust because of a lack of profit they go bust because of a lack of cash. Focus on cash, cash, cash. This does mean that some unpalatable decisions may need to be made to keep the lights on. Of course, there will be challenges in assessing these difficult decisions – but without them cash will dry up and no-one will benefit from a business that is forced to close. Plan your cash requirements very carefully and act accordingly.


Sales: Revenues are going to fall as contracts either do not get signed or are cancelled. We have to accept that these challenges will happen and will continue to happen. Non-essential products or services,  i.e. discretionary spending, will always under threat when uncertainty prevails. All organisations will focus on what they need rather than what they want. Just think of your own actions – if cash is tight you might visit the hairdresser every six weeks rather than 4, or have one coffee day instead of two. Your corporate clients will work in the same way. So, if you have the right skill sets – or can bring them in – look at what your customers need rather than what they want. If you are looking at new customers, just be aware it is going to be much harder to close deals. It also means you have to work harder to win the new customers. In the two recessions I have been through most organisations cut back on advertising or marketing. Personally, I say market more – but do it in smart ways – leverage your skills – do livecasts, get on panels, write articles. The only real costs are that of time to produce these or to get involved. Think smart not hard about your sales and marketing processes.


Flexibility means adapting to the dramatic changes we are facing. If we can’t meet people at events, we have to find alternative ways of developing contacts. Equally, think of a classic sales quotation, if a client says jump you say how high? Listen to your customers – what do they need right now? Current sales will be increasingly driven by the biggest pain points. Is what you are offering your clients a painkiller or a vitamin? If you or I have a headache we need a painkiller now; vitamins are nice to have but not essential. Find your current or new client’s pain points and dig into those.

Flexibility also means adjusting your business models. Alcohol producers are producing hand sanitising solutions, offline event holders are now going on-line, talk shows are being run from the home of their hosts. Business has to go on as far as possible, but flexibility is required in every area to be able to move into new opportunities.

Overall COVID-19 is teaching us a lot about ourselves and represents a time of dramatic change. As Darwin said it is about how we adapt to our new environments that determines our survival. The crisis will end at some stage, hopefully soon, but the changes you make today will make you even stronger in the future.