Running a business requires that you plan for any change in trends or eventuality way beforehand. This means acknowledging that the journey will not be smooth or secure throughout. While businesses put out the fires as they appear, it is advisable to prepare for unprecedented scenarios or possibilities.
Sometimes the freedom to make tough decisions falls not only in your hands. Especially when you have other employees under your wing that depend on you, so you have to do right by them and protect them. The current events have seen customers cut back purchases, revenues dry up, and some businesses plunge with no signs of recovery.
It’s an unfortunate and uncharted territory that we have found ourselves in. The nerves, anxiety and feelings of fear are all valid, but we must stay positive and look for ways to adjust to the economic consequences that might be felt for a long time.
As a business owner, these are the strategies you should rethink for yourself and employees to adapt and survive during this economic slowdown;
Slow down and take care of yourself
Before taking any action out of panic and fear, then regret later, you need to take a step back and calm yourself down. Practise mindfulness to relieve anxiety and stress and get enough sleep. Eat a balanced diet and get those exercises in for a healthy body and mindset.
Tap into your leadership skills that display resilience and character. Be the voice of reason; people are looking up to you for strength.
Create a three-month cushion financial plan
Deliberate with your trusted partners on the steps to take for the next three months and longer on how to control your spend. Alternatively, you can seek counsel from an external consultant. You need sober heads to come up with innovative ideas to push the business forward.
After deliberating on effective strategies, then you can take measured action to support your staff and family. Approach suppliers and the landlord to find out if there’s an option to spread out the cost or get partial deferrals. Some are understanding since they still want to do business with you.
Keep in mind that other small business owners also need to keep their businesses afloat so your payment proposal should be reasonable for both of you.
Cut down unnecessary expenses
Many small businesses can only survive with a few months of cash flow before they take significant dips. With staff and office rent sharing the highest cost, a majority of staff have either been laid off or sent on unpaid leave all over the world. It’s difficult to imagine how their families will cope financially when there’s no guaranteed light at the end of the tunnel.
If your business has taken a hit, go through your budget keenly and cut down on non-essential expenses that are bleeding your budget. Consider downsizing your office to afford the payment terms. You can share a co-working space and send the rest of your staff to work remotely from home. This saves up unnecessary operating costs.
Avoid hiring more full-time workers, instead hire freelancers on a project basis. You can use this freed up cash from reduced inventory and office rent to improve the payroll cost.
Upskill your staff
Try as much as possible to keep your team, they need you as much as you need them. If you have no additional budget for hiring freelancers instead of full-time staff, you can train your current staff on other skills to enhance productivity and efficiency.
Search for online courses that match your needs and budget. There are plenty of premium courses currently being offered for free. The staff can then use the gained skills to concentrate on other areas of business. For example, your sales team could learn new skills on how to market your products and services.
Utilize the resources provided by institutions and governments
Fortunately, for some countries, their governments and other financial institutions have stepped in to help support small business owners and ease their burden.
These initiatives and stimulus packages can help cut costs for small businesses. Take advantage of these resources if available in your country.
Find leads and opportunities ahead of time
This is not an invitation to capitalize on the events unfolding, rather a wake-up call to reinvent or reconsider your business model. Will your model survive the outcome of the crisis? What industry changes will be permanent? How will your customers behave after this? You can see the importance of generating new leads and customers here.
Start building a network of prospective clients now, and you will have a pool of potential clients to depend on in future. Show your current customers that you’re open, still going strong and on top of things. Your aim is strengthening their trust in you and your business and boosting loyalty.
Adapt your products and services to the current needs
Evolve or adapt your business to the current needs of your customers to stay ahead. You should analyze all the products and services you provide, rank them in order of relevance and profitability, then concentrate on them.
You can create a different product in your portfolio or digitize the one you have and offer it online. While you seek to improve margins, do not compromise on quality when making product changes. This could backfire.
With the current stay at home policy, many stores have faced difficulties protecting human connection. Being creative enough to brainstorm new ways to connect with your existing customers online is essential. Restaurants now offer free home deliveries and other deals to stay ahead of the competition.
Such smart changes, together with a shift in the sales and marketing strategy, could keep your business afloat. Also, consider pivoting to eCommerce because customers most likely will. Customers always value convenient buying methods, so remain flexible.
Keep communication flowing with online channels
When working from home, the channels of communication still have to remain open and efficient. Phone calls and messaging are neither fast nor reliable. Introduce online platforms for discussions and planning, if you haven’t.
These include Asana or Trello for business planning, Google Docs for collaborative documents to edit and comment on, Slack and Zoom for team communication and Coggle for file sharing.
Zoom’s popularity as one of the most used video conferencing services has soared during the coronavirus pandemic. With the influx of users [10 million downloads in December to 100 million], the conversation has moved to whether the audience will stay on after the outbreak.
Establish a controlled, consistent communication pattern to develop good habits. Daily communication to celebrate success, track numbers, rank priorities, identify areas that need support and offer encouragement. Weekly virtual meetings to track performance, share customer and supplier feedback, and provide solutions for tough challenges.
A crisis will run its course, but there’s no telling how that will happen and how long it will take. Do not quit your business; always demonstrate leadership. Remain positive and take measurable steps to resolve issues and adapt to the current situation. Those changes will determine whether your business will survive uncertain times. You’ll emerge wiser and stronger to grow yet again as you build new ways of working.
We will get past this.