COVID19 Related Business Blogs
If I had to choose one word to describe 2020, it would be Disruptive. The nature of a disruption does give us an opportunity for at least one thing – Change. Earlier this spring, the word we kept hearing is pivot: the need to shift our focus, products, delivery methods, finances, even how, where and when we were working. That agility was necessary and effective, but is it a long-term strategy?
In talking with dozens of business owners over the last few weeks, the idea that “Everything has Changed” came up multiple times, so I spent some time talking with a group of my business coaching clients about what has really changed and what has not. We were not addressing the government mandated closures/limits on some industries, which are having profound impacts on some industries. We focused our discussions on what has changed for businesses that are open and operating at a reasonable capacity at this time.
How many virtual meetings have you had recently? There is a lot of talking going on, but how much are we communicating? Communication is two-way. The measure of effective communication is the response that you get. The same principles of communication apply to both virtual and in person conversations; however, there are just a few nuances when you are not face-to-face.
I am listening to many people who are struggling to focus right now. The challenge of working remotely, disrupted schedules, and the demands of caring and schooling children have been stressful for many. Add the regular occurrences we call “life,” (blocked toilets, flat tires, running out of milk) and you have the makings for a distracted mind. So how do you keep moving forward?
As a business owner, you are frequently surrounded by chaos. Throw in a pandemic, civil unrest, and elections and the regular chaos can easily become a maelstrom. So how do you, as the person steering the ship, navigate the storms? Ignoring the situation is not an option. You may be tempted to abandon the ship, but that creates a whole new set of problems. So where do you start?
Some people are naturals at connecting with other people. They easily find common interests, and genuinely enjoy meeting people. They are masters at working the room with a friendly smile and a firm handshake. They have built their business by creating trust, relationships, often friendships, with customers and suppliers. Then COVID-19 happened. “But I’m a people person. I need to talk to clients in person!” “I don’t like talking to a computer. It’s just not the same.” “I’m just not comfortable with technology.” We have all been in a virtual networking meeting where either everyone talks at once or no one speaks because they are being polite. It is a challenge. So what is the People Person to do?
This article is meant to be a simple checklist to review and consider during times of challenges, specifically for the Covid-19 Pandemic which is affecting global operations. The document is not all-inclusive with many areas of business not addressed. Additional discussions should occur with all areas of a business, including human resources, regarding the actual situation occurring in your business and with your team.
- First, don’t panic. Think calm, cool, collective thoughts; this checklist will help. Read it completely before taking action, then act, DON’T over think. Communication is one area that needs to occur quickly in any panic situation.
- Don’t argue with facts. The fact of a pandemic is fact, not hearsay. This means that yes, other factors make this situation seem stupid or silly. The fact is the news, the politicians, even local and global leaders will do things that don’t make logical sense, yet they still do what they do, likely to make the matters worse, not better. The situation will change, the rules will change; learn the new rules and play your business game based on the new rules.
- Put your personal care first. Be sure you are healthy; physically, mentally, and financially. This is critical as you are the driver of your bus. You can’t help others if you are challenged in these areas. This is a very big area and without minimizing the importance be sure this is done before working on the other items.
- Understand your supply chain. You have a full supply chain, from acquisition to distribution to consider, let’s start with distribution.
- Does your distribution model need to be changed? With this pandemic, or other supply chain issues, you might need to change the way you distribute (or sell or deliver). Do you need to deliver the product/service in a different model? Will your customer buy the product the same way? Don’t wait for the customer to find alternative sources. By the way, don’t try to argue with the logic of the situation – if the situation is global panic or global recession, you won’t win the argument regardless of irrationality.
- Getting your product/inventory. Do you have to find product someplace different than your prior sources? In many situations the primary source for product or inventory no longer can provide the quantity or timely delivery. This may be an opportunity to make a change that was already needed.
- Operationally what is the weakest link? If you step back (and up to 30,000 feet) and look at your entire operation, where is the greatest point of single failure? For some it will be sales, others it is creating the widget (product or service), and others it is getting the team to do the work. Can technology or another solution eliminate or minimize this greatest single point of failure?
- Finance challenge or opportunity? In some cases, you may have the ability to leverage debt at a lower cost, meaning this pandemic could be very beneficial. Re-financing debt at a lower cost is a frequent opportunity that can be a huge benefit. A decrease in cash flow that comes from slow payments (higher accounts receivable) might mean a greater use of borrowed capital. A disaster/pandemic or other type of “emergency” as defined by local or national governments frequently frees up large amounts of cash to keep economies stable. Whether a hurricane, tornado, floods, fires, or a pandemic, look for finance to be an opportunity that occurs rarely yet is a clear opportunity if you are prepared.
- Your team’s morale is crucial! Given the situation is likely “dire” in the eyes of the news media, communicating your business changes to the team becomes critical. Without communication the FUD Factor kicks in (fear, uncertainty, and doubt), which means panic can escalate. In this case, no news from the leadership is news itself – not good news either.
- You had better keep selling, and you better keep marketing. People will still buy product and services. There will be taxes due, and restaurants open, and travel happening. Those who market and sell better than their competition will be the winners long term. This is an opportunity to take customers from the competition. You might want to change your marketing messaging to help customers continue to do business with you. You might want to help your customers understand now is even a great opportunity to do business with you. Are there opportunities due to the situation that allow you to increase your marketing and sales efforts? Look for the silver lining – I suspect there are several!
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