It goes without saying that we are in a fairly unprecedented time. Our current economic and social climate as we begin to hopefully come out of the COVID-19 crisis is rocky and shaken, at best. Many businesses are struggling to cope and make ends meet with the current closures and are facing issues in predicting what they should do next to best accommodate the stalling and movement of the slowly restarting marketplace. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to help ensure your business can survive the current crisis and perhaps even come out stronger in the end. Let’s discuss seven unique and powerful business strategies that might help you turn things around and start back in a new, positive direction despite the obvious setbacks all businesses are facing!
1. Welcome Self-Criticism
As you make your plan to hopefully minimize the impact the coronavirus pandemic has on your business in both the mid-term and long-term, it can be easy to convince yourself that you have it all figured out and are fine. In theory, some business can probably scrape by with just a singular plan but for most, there will be necessary adjustments to be made and perhaps even secondary and tertiary planning to help ensure all bills are paid, contracts are met, and other important aspects of the company are covered. Do not let yourself become lulled into a sort of comfortable discomfort; some stress can be a good thing in events like these, as it heightens your response time and helps to turn any potential downslide back around and start making the processions positive again.
Being able to criticize your planning and understand that there is no such thing as a perfect solution is key in ensuring you are ready for anything and everything this pandemic may throw at you. Even professionals who have studied countless different statistical and anecdotal accounts of previous pandemics and economic downturns are unsure of what to expect at the end of all of this and they have access to additional information we are not privy to at this time! You cannot anticipate a concrete ending when there simply is not one available yet so be sure to be fluid and ready to rework things as you may need to.
As stated before, these are unprecedented times. For the most part, those who have experienced anything close to this situation are few and far between so we are all flying by the seats of our pants here, a bit. You are allowed to change things and adapt to the given climate as it changes. You should do so! It just might save you in the long run!
2. Understand Your Budget
Ideally, you will have some understanding of the cash flow of your business, especially if you are a smaller operation or one without a proper accounting division. Either way, if you do not know how your money is spent and on what or how much money regularly comes in, it is time to sit down, break out the books, and have a good look at everything. With so many businesses struggling to cover their bills right now and turning almost zero profits on a good day, it is so important that you understand exactly how your money is being used, where it is going, and what you are bringing in.
Taking a hands-on approach to preparing your budget and approving any spending could be the difference between coasting through this hard time and having to bust out the defibrillators and try to bring things back to life later on. Lay everything out and trace your funds to get the full picture; this might be a time-consuming job if everything is not readily recorded or easily found but it will save you a lot of stress and time in the long run. This organizational measure will act as a guide for all of your spending decisions from here on out until things can resume as normal.
Once you have a good view of your budget and what funds you can work with, it is time to consider your spending habits. If there are areas where you purchase supplies or pay for things that are not necessities, you should exercise caution and perhaps consider disengaging until the crisis is over. Additionally, if you are unable to manufacturer things, be sure to limit your supply orders and other deliveries you cannot actively use right now accordingly. You do not need to spend money anywhere you do not have to since no one is sure how long this could go on.
Aside from that, it is a good idea to ensure you have around twelve months worth of money available to cover any bills and additional costs. Hopefully, this all resolves itself long before a year from now but it is better to err on the side of caution and have things in line for the long haul to prevent any scrambling, stress, and scraping for cash later on. This will also prove beneficial since we do not know exactly where the economic climate is headed after the coronavirus threat has dissipated, so it could work to help tide things over until you get back to a normal level of revenue.
3. Act with Urgency
While we would all like to heed the advice to “remain calm” during this crisis, this can prove to be rather ineffective. While you should not overly stress about what you cannot control, it is important, to be honest, and upfront with your staff, explaining that there is a dire need for union, loyalty, and high working standards during this time. Call everyone together and set clear expectations for what is needed to keep the doors open and a roof over the business.
Additionally, acting in an urgent manner will help quickly nip any issues and create a much more direct line of action for any problems that may arise. It will also force ingenuity and new ideas to flow since you will be more prepared to act fast to resolve pending situations. While you should not necessarily enter into a full-blown panic mode, it is a good idea to express the urgency and need for rapid-fire planning and innovation during this time to keep the cash flow moving and employment situation stable.
4. Create a Success Story
While there is a lot you cannot control during this time, one thing you can work with is your narrative. Even if things are not going well, you should not give up hope and outright say, “well, we probably are not going to last through this”. You need to spur hope in your team and keep them on board with you! This is crucial since people tend to fight for what they believe in and root for the underdog in most situations. It is the natural desire of a human to want the unlikely contender to succeed.
This does not mean you need to lie to your staff, though. It just means you should choose your wording carefully, especially when instructing managers and other higher-level team members on how to keep the lower-level employees informed. Try and create a positive spin on the situation. Tell them that while things are tough and perhaps not going smoothly, their hard work and loyalty is paying off and you expect to soon see an upswing. This makes employees feel included and pushes them to fight harder to succeed, especially if they have good relations with their managers and are generally treated well.
5. Freshen Up Your Staff
While not an incredibly popular choice on a social level, economically speaking, freshening up your staff can make a massive difference in the productivity and quality of the work provided, especially if you choose to replace higher-level management. This can be difficult and sticky to maneuver but many companies report success in removing managers and bringing in new members who can carry fresh ideas and new techniques.
This is especially good in more physical or complex industries where new ideas can help pull you out of a crisis and give you new stability and direction. If you are going this route, try selecting managers who play an important role but will not collapse the team or damage morale too severely if removed. This is not an option for every company but if things are stagnating in the crisis, it might be time to look at all of your options and consider trying to add some “fresh blood” to the mix to create a new life within your team. This also sends a direct message to the rest of your staff that you are willing to do whatever it takes to keep your business open which should light a fire to push them further into providing high-quality work during this difficult time, too.
6. Change Your Incentives
When you hire an employee, chances are you were clear upfront about their growth potential and when they can expect raises and bonuses. If not, that is okay, so long as they are aware of the likelihood of their expected growth and anticipated level of rising within the company. Still, now is a good time to begin reworking your incentives and perhaps reminding your staff that you value them.
This does not mean you should break the bank, as survival comes first in tough situations, but if you do have a bit of expendable cash or even a viable cashflow, consider offering incentives or small bonuses to help your staff out. Remember, they are likely having a hard time through all of this, too, and a little bit of extra cash or a promise of a future raise after the crisis has ended can make a world of difference in their quality of work and loyalty to your company. Show them that you do care about their wellbeing and value them as an individual component to your overall team. This respectful treatment will go a long way in such a hard time and your staff will certainly remember it.
This is also a good place to try and achieve the goals you have in mind for the company. If you need a specific volume of product moved during the crisis, incentivizing the sale of specific products or even creating a competitive atmosphere is a good way to encourage sales and help move everything along. It also offers a little reprieve from the slower work cycle that many are experiencing and gives your staff something to focus on, which will boost morale. Some companies offer extra vacation days or other post-crisis special prizes to help further incentivize the sale or production of specific volumes, so you may consider trying that if you want to explore new options that are less intrusive to your staff.
7. Be Ready for Tough Calls
This is not an easy time by any stretch. As stated before and obvious from the global climate, we are in a time where everything is new and terrifying for a lot of businesses and individuals, alike. People are unsure of what tomorrow brings and are trying to scrape together some semblance of normalcy while retaining their livelihoods and ensuring their families and assets are protected and safe despite the changing economic system and its expectations.
Like anyone else, you are going to likely have to make some very tough calls. Lay-offs are happening. People are being outright fired. Some businesses are downsizing drastically and keeping only core team members, cutting a lot of really good employees to ensure the opportunity to reopen after the crisis has lessened. None of this is fun. It is outright heartbreaking and difficult but it is necessary. As the boss, you are going to have to be ready to make the call when the time comes, if it does.
Survival of the Fittest
In the end, companies who fight hard and push for survival will likely make it. This is not an easy climate and nothing is guaranteed but if you want a fighting chance at reopening normally, you have to pursue it fully right now and make a viable plan.