There are many things that you should be doing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. At the top of the list is to be proactive. Now is the time to be thinking about how best to position your business after the economy has returned to something near normal. Now is not the time for self-pity. In fact, not preparing for the relaunch of the economy will cost you.
In David Finkel’s recent Inc. article entitled, “10 Things Every Small-Business Owner Needs to Do to Deal with the Impact of COVID-19 on Their Business,” Finkel outlines the 10 key steps business owners should take immediately. Finkel is the author of 12 business books and CEO of Maui Mastermind business coaching company.
There is no way of knowing how long the COVID-19 fueled economic downturn will last, and that means time is of the essence. Business owners, regardless of their particular sector, need to prepare as though the economy could relaunch tomorrow.
Finkel’s 10 Things:
- Take steps to protect your staff and customers from getting sick.
- Tell your customers what safety steps you’re taking.
- Educate your staff on how to stay healthy at work and at home.
- Engage in scenarios planning to deal with how markets could change.
- Enlist vendors and suppliers for help. You should ask them to negotiate payment terms.
- Take steps to plan out your cash flow.
- Open a dialogue with your management team.
- Go on the offensive and look for opportunities.
- Get your team together and brainstorm.
- Be sure your key leaders communicate in a united fashion.
There are definitely some commonalities amongst these 10 important steps. You’ll notice that communication and education are at the heart of most of these points.
There is a lot of fear and uncertainty out there. More than almost any time in modern history now is the time to communicate. All business owners should be advised to communicate with their customers, clients, suppliers, staff, and management team in a clear fashion. Effective communication based around a consistent and logical message can help to reduce fear. The fear sections of the brain are driven by our primordial ancestors’ dread of the unknown lurking in the darkness. Part of being a good leader is to reduce those fears whenever possible.
Another common thread is planning, which includes looking for new opportunities. Whenever there is chaos and fear, there are also opportunities. You should be looking for those opportunities, whether it is improving your own business practices or looking for other companies to buy.
Good communication and planning can help you navigate these choppy waters. Planning for the recovery from COVID-19 pandemic could be the difference between staying in business and going out of business.
One of the many, many changes that COVID-19 has ushered in is the extreme uptick in people working remotely. Social distancing has made working from home a necessity for millions.
The technology that is allowing remote working to take place has matured greatly in the last decade. Today, it is possible for team members to work from virtually any location. Of course, as with most technologies, there is a potential downside. Accountability can become a significant challenge with remote workers. Of course, the more remote workers you have at a given time, the greater the potential challenges will be.
Many businesses are struggling with the phenomenon of remote working, as it is something new for them. Under normal circumstances, large numbers of employees working remotely simply wouldn’t happen. In a recent article, “The Right Way to Keep Your Remote Team Accountable,” author Elise Keith, Co-Founder and CEO of Lucid Meetings, explores the key steps businesses should take to help ensure that their employees stay on target while working from home.
Keith believes that for remote working to be effective that there are 4 major mistakes that should be avoided. One of the biggest mistakes that employers, especially those unfamiliar with remote work, make is that they demand too much productivity right out of the gate.
She points out that remote teams can, in fact, be very productive and even outperform their in-office counterparts. Summed up another way, remote work can be extremely productive. Keith’s perspective is that businesses should “identify the highest priority tasks right now and relax the rest.” Business owners need to remember that they are not the only ones under stress. The simple and undeniable fact is that your employees are feeling the stress of COVID-19 as well.
Getting Good at Working Remotely
The second major mistake she points to is that people are assuming the current pandemic situation is temporary. Other crises will occur in the future, and it makes sense to be prepared. As she phrases it, why not “get good at working remotely?” Teams with good remote working skills are proving to be rather resilient right now.
Being Open to Technology
A third mistake she points out is businesses shouldn’t disallow the use of non-approved tools. In short, now is not the time to worry too much about what software tools people are using. Instead, she suggests creating an expedited process for the adoption of new tools. If your team finds a new tool that boosts productivity, you should consider buying it.
She astutely points out, “Software costs pale when compared to the costs of lost opportunity.” At the heart of this point is the fact that now, more than any time in decades, is the time to set aside restrictive thinking and become more open-minded and flexible. After all, your number one goal, and the number one goal of your clients, is to stay in business until the pandemic has passed.
Keith’s fourth mistake centers on management’s design to dictate hours and response times. Remote work is, by its nature, going to be more flexible. Trying to micromanage every move digitally is simply not a savvy move and will hurt morale.
Instead, she feels businesses should opt for having a daily meeting via phone or videoconference with the team. Additionally, she puts forth the idea of having a one-on-one meeting with every team member as well.
For many businesses and many situations, remote work may be the “only game in town.” Trying to carry on business as usual is only going to cause headaches for everyone. Remote work can be highly effective for you, especially when used correctly.
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As of late April 2020, there is one thought at the forefront of the vast majority of businesses around the globe, namely, what steps do I need to take to stay in business until the COVID-19 pandemic is over or recedes? There is no doubt about it, this is the “big question” of the day.
The global economic structure hasn’t seen this much uncertainty since WWII, and some would argue that we’ve never seen this level of simultaneous global economic disruption. Knowing what steps you need to take to keep your business up and running is of paramount importance.
In short, business owners must be sure that their businesses are in good shape. You should take every step possible to position yourself for when the economy is back up and running at full steam. Right now, there is a degree of chaos and uncertainty, but this will not last. As a business owner, you need to focus on getting your house in order.
Now is not a time to take a vacation. Instead, you should be focused like never before on the inner workings of your business. You should be striving to find ways to improve every single aspect. Of course, this is easier said than done. There is a real psychological hurdle, as for many people it seems as though everything has “stopped.” While customers, clients, and staff interactions have been dramatically reduced, now is not the time for you to “check out” mentally and wait for things to get better.
Rarely, if ever, has it been more important for owners to invest as much of their time and energy as possible. After all, as a business owner, you have already shown a great deal of drive and determination, as well as at least some level of out of the box thinking. You have proven that you have what it takes to get through the recent challenges.
Many will feel dejected right now. But you should pool on the same skill sets that allowed you to create a successful business in the first place. What obstacles did you overcome in life to create your business? Was your business created during a prior economic downturn? The odds are that you already have skill sets and strengths that will allow you to survive the fallout of COVID-19.
For business owners who truly want to survive the economic stress of the pandemic, ultimately, focus is key to survival. The odds are excellent that there are revenue streams and different approaches that may have been overlooked. Your job is to identify and then exploit those avenues.
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Developing Your 90-Day Plan
Those who want to make sure their businesses survive this pandemic will want to achieve a laser-like focus. It is important to realize that the forced downtime triggered by the pandemic affords you the opportunity to work on potentially neglected aspects of your business.
Summed up another way, now is the time for dynamic and focused action. In this article, we’ll address what you can do to help your business survive this unusual time period.
Reevaluating Your Business
It’s time to step back and look at every aspect of your business, including your processes. You should be encouraged to find new ways of doing things. In short, now should be viewed as a time of opportunity to reboot your business. That way when the pandemic has subsided, and your business picks up once more, it is more efficient, more effective, and more competitive.
Scott Bushkie, Founder and President of Cornerstone Business Services, recommended that business owners create 90-day plans where they look for ways to innovate. This strategic plan should focus on what they are going to do and what they want to accomplish. It is critical that there is an actual plan that achieves tangible results and not simply a list of things that should be accomplished. Listed below are a few questions you should be pondering.
- How can I outperform the competition?
- How can I innovate?
- How can I increase my use of technology?
- How can I deliver my products and services in a different way?
- How can I reduce my operational costs?
- Have I reached out to my suppliers and creditors for assistance?
- Have I applied to applicable SBA COVID-19 focused programs?
- What do I want to accomplish in the next 90-days?
It’s Time to Reboot
The main point is that businesses should not look at this pandemic situation as some sort of “miserable and stressful vacation,” but instead as an opportunity to reboot what is not working, and look for ways to make improvements in every aspect of your business. This process begins by asking the right questions and striving to find the answers.
In answering these questions and finding ways to help boost your rates of survival, you should turn to every asset at your disposal. Why not ask your management team as well as all of your employees for ideas that could help their business? Everyone should understand that owners are looking for ways to keep their business healthy while navigating the pandemic.
Now is the time for reflection, short-term and long-term planning, and tangible actions. Business owners should also consult with a range of business professionals, including, of course, business brokers and M&A Advisors. Brokers are uniquely positioned to help business owners through this crisis.
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There can be no way around it, Inc. contributor Brian Hamilton’s April 2020 COVID-19 centered article, “6 Actions to Take in the Next 90 Days to Save Your Business,” isn’t pulling any punches. Hamilton, Founder of the Brian Hamilton Foundation, believes that the next 90-days could be make or break days for business owners looking to navigate the choppy waters of the COVID-19 pandemic. His latest Inc. article provides readers with 6 actions they should take now to survive the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tip #1 Vigorously Control What You Can
Hamilton’s first tip is to “Vigorously control what you can. Vigorously ignore what you can’t control.” As Hamilton points out, you can’t control the economy; instead, you need to focus on what you can control. His view is that there has never been a more important time to focus, “More than ever, you’ll need to go to war with things within your control.” Now is the time to exercise control.
Tip #2 Guard Morale
During tough economic times, employee morale can be a real issue. This brings us to Hamilton’s second point, “guard employee morale.” Significant drops in employee morale can lead to serious problems with your business, which is exactly what you don’t want to see right now. Hamilton notes that you have to be the general that helps his or her troops rise above potential panic.
Tip #3 Preserve Cash
Hamilton’s third tip is to “preserve cash where you can.” He states, “Right now, your motto should be: Live to fight another day.” The pandemic means that you need to keep expenses down and watch every dollar. No one knows what the next few months, or the next couple of years, could have in store.
Tip #4 Be First in Line
“Be first in line,” is Hamilton’s fourth point. Hamilton wisely pushes business owners to be the first in line for government assistance. This is very good advice, as SBA and other funds are likely to be limited.
Tip #5 Get Back to the Basics
Fifth, Hamilton recommends, “Get back to the basics…starting with monomaniacal customer service.” As always, customers, whether existing or new, are the lifeblood of your business. You can’t afford to lose customers now and for this reason, you need to have a laser-like focus on customer service.
Tip #6 Pivot your Product or Service
Hamilton’s sixth tip is to “Pivot your product or service to new conditions.” Small changes to your business can open up new streams of revenue. Even if these streams of revenue are comparatively small, they could mean the difference between sink or swim! Try to step back and look at your business with fresh eyes and strive to find ways to offer something new to your customers. Whatever you offer should be based on your existing goods and services and not require a new, large expenditure.
The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously disruptive, but it won’t last forever. Hamilton’s advice of focusing intensely on the next 90 days is sound advice. You won’t regret looking for ways to safeguard your business for the next 3 months.
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