The following post is courtesy of Diane Harrison who is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.
The last quarter push to the November elections is fully upon us and, while the market seems to be holding at robust levels of participation, it’s clear that all sides of the financial and political community are waiting for the eventual party outcome to be determined in order to plan and execute business with a long-term perspective.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s website, www.mackinac.org , provides an interesting bit of data about public behavior and conventions that seem extremely relevant in our COVID-19 extended ‘new normal’ operating environment for investment management and businesses in general.
As the website overview states:
The Overton Window is a concept developed in the mid-1990s by the late Joseph P. Overton, who was senior vice president at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy at the time of his death in 2003.
It is a model for understanding how ideas in society change over time and influence politics. The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support—they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. But the Overton Window can both shift and expand, either increasing or shrinking the number of ideas politicians can support without unduly risking their electoral support.
All of this suggests that politicians are more followers than they are leaders—it’s the rest of us who ultimately determine the types of policies they’ll get behind. It also implies that our social institutions—families, workplaces, friends, media, churches, voluntary associations, think tanks, schools, charities, and many other phenomena that establish and reinforce societal norms—are more important to shaping our politics than we typically credit them for.
If we apply the principles of the Overton Window to alternative assets, the impact of how we relearn to do business with a new set of remote operating practices, virtual and in-person meetings can be captured in what I term the ‘Cov-erton Effect,’ meaning the need to do things differently will naturally cause both the buy and the sell side of investment management to embrace new ways of working.
THE COV-ERTON EFFECT ON HOW WE WILL WORK
The following chart summarizes some of the Cov-erton Effect ways the alternatives business is impacted going forward. While many of these issues are still being defined and implemented, the trend toward decentralized work is here to stay. Those that embrace the change and help lead the way forward will be ready to adapt to whatever new shifts 2021 brings to the investment community.
§ Flexible work schedules
§ Part-time positions
More workers are forced to set up at home work bases and the lack of group-focused task forcing is creating a greater flexibility towards how work gets done. For example, the need for everyone to be present on a 9:00 to 5:00 schedule becomes less important; in fact, spreading resources out to provide support, operations, and coverage round the clock is a benefit to some of the business clients as well as workers. This virtual work environment lends itself to a greater need for partial hours or job sharing for those workers who also need to care for family members, supervise virtual schooling and still work. Where companies might have resisted having two skilled workers share one full-time job within an on-site work environment, the process is much more seamless when everyone is working virtually, and allows for better flexibility for those people with multiple time demands imposed on them by the Covid restrictions.
MEDIA TECHNOLOGY UPGRADES:
§ Focus on IT positions
§ Priority on IT support for all workers
The IT department has never been more front and center for all businesses, and whether or not a company determines to outsource critical technology functions or conduct the work in-house, the skilled people charged with keeping everyone else up and running is a daily top priority role. Ensuring you have the right people in place and the resources they need to perform at full capacity can make the difference between short-term coping with this business environment and long-term success at creating new pathways to peak performance.
§ Developing a range of channels
§ Committing to a regular schedule of information sharing
As we all adjust to a virtual business environment, what we say and how we say it becomes very meaningful to convey enthusiasm, energy, expertise, and engagement. The dynamics of communication have been forced to move onto web-based platforms, through proprietary sites as well as social media and other mechanisms. Thought leadership as a daily practice for all businesses, both internally among staff and externally to prospects and clients will need to take many forms and develop into a body of succinct messaging that clarifies what a business is doing, for whom, and why that matters. It’s not going to be enough to just do the work; the company will need to telegraph that effort and result out to the investment community.
ONE-ON-ONE INVESTOR MEETINGS:
§ Make virtual meetings engaging
§ Practice having a conversational tone with Q&A
While the first half of 2020 saw virtually all interpersonal meetings shut down and business travel shrivel to a bare minimum, the second half of 2020 has seen a gradual emergence of some forms of essential travel and meetings start up again. There will never be a more effective way to impact a client than by personally meeting with them, but for the vast majority of managers, they will need to rely on giving their clients a virtual experience that closely mimics the in-person format. Using a conversational tone and keeping the dialogue flow two-way will help engage clients on line in a webcast or meeting forum. Save the charts and graphs for supporting roles and use the talking points as the main medium to get your message across. Follow up with data and charts if needed post-meeting time.
§ Define the issues and solutions
§ Be a producer of practices when you can and not just a follower
There isn’t an established set of best practices for this era of virtual business. We are figuring it out as we go, some better than others, some quicker to adapt. Clients are looking for guidance and reassurance that managers know what to do and how to do it, and are prepared for adapting as necessary to this changing world. Anticipating what could happen and planning to address the change is a much stronger position to work from than reacting and waiting for others to figure things out. Be a true leader to your clientele and you will earn their trust through hard times as well as easy times.