4 minute read 24 Nov 2020
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Why private boards should encourage a reset mindset

By Ryan Burke

Global EY Private Leader

Global leader helping companies grow and profit in this transformative age. Passionate about eradicating child illiteracy and raising neurodiversity awareness. Father of two.

4 minute read 24 Nov 2020

With the new normal still emerging, private businesses need to remain agile to prepare for what lies ahead.

In brief
  • To ensure their survival, private businesses must look beyond recovery mode and prepare themselves for whatever comes next.
  • Businesses should re-evaluate existing business models and devise new strategies for navigating unchartered waters.
  • By doing so, private company leaders have a unique opportunity to build a better post-pandemic enterprise.

The disruption caused by COVID-19 is deep and far reaching. Even so many months after its eruption, many businesses may still consider themselves in recovery mode. But as we continue to push through the pandemic, if privately held enterprises truly want to thrive and grow, boards must look beyond survival toward the future without trepidation.

The focus of business strategy can no longer solely be on stabilization, leaders need to shift significant energies to building resilience, so they are equipped to withstand whatever comes next – whether that be a second wave or some other disruptor that upends business as we know it. The new normal is still emerging and private companies need to prepare for what lies ahead. This requires re-evaluating existing business models and devising new strategies for navigating unchartered waters. Boards can aid in these five re-focusing efforts by pushing the C-suite to adopt a reset mindset.

1. Rethinking customer engagement

The shuttering of store fronts and other face-to-face businesses has transformed the way consumers interact with brands and make purchases. To maintain customer bases and earn loyalty, private businesses need to hit the reset button on how they see and connect with consumers, devising innovative ways to communicate and sell their services and wares.

2. Digital transformation

While a technology push was already happening, COVID-19 accelerated digital plans. The overnight move to a remote workforce, which fostered the adoption of videoconferencing and cloud-based tools at scale, enlightened businesses as to the types of activities and processes that can be done virtually. Wise organizations will invest in researching and developing how to build upon this transformation through such things as artificial intelligence and analytics.

3. Reviewing supply chains

The pandemic sent a shockwave through supply chains. While devastating, this was also eye opening for leaders as it revealed weak links that should be addressed to build resilience moving forward. Restructuring and encouraging collaboration among suppliers can bolster capabilities.

4. Workforce planning

The quick shift in technology utilization is forcing a reset. Where digitalization will be implemented and how people will be working need to be examined. Retraining may be required to retain the top talent pool necessary for growth and innovation.

5. Anticipating the coming shift to more robust tax collection

Governments around the world responded injecting more than $27 trillion into their economies. Much of that money was borrowed. As a result, expect tax authorities to begin pivoting to more robust tax enforcement to close budget gaps. Businesses should monitor attempts to collect new digital services taxes and understand the tax implications of workplace shifts and new supply chains.

6. Cost control

The transformation to a remote workforce is causing leaders to reconsider their leases and real estate assets. Although re-thinking physical footprints and cost base are on top of mind, this should be balanced against how giving up a physical workplace may impact the ability to attract and develop talent.

Private business boards have a unique opportunity at this time to hit the reset button and build a better enterprise that will emerge stronger than it was at the beginning of 2020. More on these 5 areas are detailed by Suwin Lee, EMEIA EY Private Leader, in her article How private businesses can reset their strategies in the wake of COVID-19.


By looking beyond the disruption caused by COVID-19 private boards can thrive and grow and emerge from the pandemic much stronger—by thinking beyond just surviving and working to build a better enterprise.

About this article

By Ryan Burke

Global EY Private Leader

Global leader helping companies grow and profit in this transformative age. Passionate about eradicating child illiteracy and raising neurodiversity awareness. Father of two.