Business Owners—11 Things You Must Do Now During the CoronaVirus
You did well in Q4 of 2019 to plan your business goals for 2020 but right now your 2020 plan just hit a wall and MUST change, or you may not survive. The time is now to be nimbler and more flexible in your responses to how this virus affects your business. The mentality of your customers is affected, and change is necessary. If you are slow in responding you will end up in the garbage heap of businesses that may never recover.
The stock markets are only a part of what is affecting your customers’ buying mentality since crisis and worry causes people to become conservative in their spending. However, unlike the 2008 recession this market downturn will be short lived because it is not connected to financial institutions and real estate. It’s uncertainty and will likely jump back.
But you must do something right now to keep your business operating, so it’s right now you need to come out of this with a new plan. If you do this right, you could be buying out your competitors in 60-90 days. I just sat in on a webinar with my friend Brad Sugars, an entrepreneur and author on business growth, and gleaned these ideas for your business.
Communicate with your team and your customers. Communicate daily, “Here’s what we are doing, Here’s what’s going on.” Communicate through your business networks and your suppliers. Communicate with your community. Don’t leave anyone out and don’t be quiet about it either.
2. Be Positive
Be the most positive person in the room; the most positive person on your team. Your attitude translates to your team and eventually from them to your customers. Look for opportunities and look for small wins; engage your team to be open with, “How do we win through this?” Lead your people through this. Negativity will be all around you, it is so easy to be the same way and absorb it. You MUST be the most positive person.
3. Know the Cycles
There are normal 7-10 year cycles in business. Equate this to the seasons of the year. Summer is when we harvest and reap the benefits of great decision making. Autumn is when things start to slow down like the current state of the stock market. Winter is when we see and feel that we are beginning to come out of it. China is coming to the end of the curve; turning the corner because of actions they’ve taken. Spring, time to plant—it will be less than a year, could be 60-90 days from right now if you are ready. Pivot real fast folks because you are smarter.
Get ahead now. You cannot wait, take action, lead. If you wait, it will be too late. Your current dissatisfaction and your vision for what you really need and knowing your first steps must be greater than the resistance to change or you will not do what you must.
Think about your Products, Services, Pricing, Delivery, Staffing. Ask yourself, “How can I do better now!” You have 90 days to get leaner and better. Your whole business may need to change. Immediate action my friends. You will benefit by being a better business when this subsides.
I hear owners say, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” or “I’m gonna do it the same way Daddy and Granddaddy did it because it got them through the past 17 recessions.” Let me tell you this, you weren’t watching and listening because they made hundreds or even thousands of little changes to address the needs of the market and learned to be flexible to survive. So, if it ain’t broke you may need to break it! Cause the change your business needs.
5. Cut Back
Cash is King. Stop spending on unnecessary stuff, but not your marketing or selling. Where can you reduce your outlays? Renegotiate now with your suppliers and vendors. At the very least, slow things down or postpone them. What would be so bad about waiting 30 days or so to make that big purchase or to continue with that expansion project. Instead, think how you can assist the 10 top booming businesses right now. Get cash up front. Do not offer longer credit terms.
6 6. Extend Your Credit
Borrow, go get it now while banks are still lending. Doesn’t mean you’ll use it, but banks are lending for now and lend best when you don’t need it. Get credit cards and credit lines even if you don’t use them. Personal as well for the business. Refinance now. Interest rates are very low. Find the lowest rates and do it before they close you out of it.
7. Staffing Cuts and Changes
This is going to be tough, but your business must survive or everyone’s going home for good.
Get the team to take vacations if possible and layoff where necessary. Do it all at one time or by attrition and don’t replace. There is nothing worse than being in a work environment where folks are being let go one or two at a time. It’s a morale killer. Make the cuts, gather the team and move forward. Sometimes you just must. Pay cuts are an option. Suspend Bonus Programs.
8 8. Work from Home
Skeleton staffs may continue at work, but technology will be needed. Teleworking will require new thinking and technology. Think of how you will now need to conduct meetings and reporting. Customer service, sales, marketing, banking and mail can all be handled remotely but requires new thinking. Communication is key when folks are not in the office. This may last a couple weeks or months.
9. Online or Deliveries
Can you add delivery to facilitate online ordering? Staff changes may be needed. You can make changes to packaging. All in all, your accounts may be different, but you will need to communicate with customers. Persuade them to postpone versus refunding.
. 10. Market and Sell
So many owners stop spending on marketing and selling in a downturn. Silly. It should be the first thing to keep doing and last thing you stop. You. Must. Keep. Marketing and Selling. Increase your marketing spending, not decrease. Let customers know you are upgrading your level of cleaning at the very least. Negotiate better marketing rates. Create new offers and rates, shift your own stuff and provide a fresh look.
. 11. Repeat Business
Oh my word! Repeat Business Equals Profit. You spent money to get a customer. You got them to believe in you after they shopped with you three times. Do not let them go without a fight. Keep working your existing customer base. Your team must know that existing customers are the best customers and must be treated like a rare commodity. Create deals just for them, let them have specials on bulk buys. Keep them at all costs, they are valued and loved, let them know. Communication is vital. If your team is standing around with time on their hands, then why not have them hand write and hand address a few thank you notes, birthday and anniversary cards, congratulatory notes; anything with a just a few handwritten lines. Handwritten notes are a lost art. Call them. Ask them how they are doing and what you might be able to do to help them through this. They will appreciate the effort.
12. Over Deliver on Customer Service
I know I started with 11 things, but this one cannot be overstated. Go way above and beyond. Maintain a clean and don’t touch attitude. Provide sanitizer. Put people first. Be nice and take a Chill Pill and don’t overstock on toilet paper!
Lastly, who are the 10 Top Booming Businesses that will benefit from this crisis and how can you serve them. Think manufacturers, distributors and packagers of gowns, masks, gloves, cleaners, paper goods. What about cleaning companies, HVAC companies, grocers and so many more. How can your business support these businesses? And if you are not in a business which can support them, then how can you provide community good will to first responders, hospitals, critical care units, families out of work, kids out of school, shut in elderly? Provide what you can for as long as you can; it will come back to you.
Your plans for 2020 just crashed and burned. Embrace change, pivot quickly, develop a new plan.
Take action today to be the business owner that survives and then Go run a Lap! Business is Fun.
Tony Marder is a Gastonia resident and President of ASM Ventures Corporation. His clients are family businesses who develop and implement new strategies to make more profit. Reach him at www.enjoyingyourbusiness.com