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Coronavirus business survival – the steps you need to take

Coronavirus business survival – the steps you need to take
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Coronavirus business survival – the steps you need to take
Julian Weekes - ActionCOACH by Julian Weekes - ActionCOACH
Business Coach - ActionCOACH

The coronavirus crisis has impacted almost all business, but in different ways. Whether your business has been forced to close, is continuing to trade but with significant adaptations or has not had to make many changes, there are some key steps you can take to get it into as strong a position as possible for when the economy begins to pick up again. Experienced business coach, Julian Weekes of ActionCOACH, has pulled together his guide to helping your business survive the coronavirus emergency.

The coronavirus lockdown has taken over how we behave and how we transact business. Whether your business has been significantly impacted by the current crisis or not, there are changes that you need to make to make it as strong as possible in this current situation. 

While ‘normality’ might seem a world away, the situation is temporary – it will come to an end.  How your business is positioned when that happens will depend on the steps you take now.

The five business cycles of adapting to lockdown

I believe businesses have five phases to negotiate in surviving the coronavirus.

  1. Lockdown – Adapting to lockdown
  2. Transition – Things to make your business stronger during lockdown
  3. Preparation – End of lockdown announced: getting everything in place for when lockdown is over
  4. Go – Lockdown over – Business back to ‘normal’
  5. Grow – Some businesses will thrive: some by virtue of their product or service; some due to the preparation, planning and change driven by the attitude of those involved.

11 steps to navigate your business successfully through lockdown  

There are 11 areas to consider in navigating your business through the coronavirus:

Step 1 – Positive Communication

No one wants to be in this situation, but we are, so you just have to accept it; concentrate your efforts on what you can control and influence.  It’s vitally important to support your team, colleagues, clients, suppliers and family; they will be looking to you for guidance.  Business owners need to be giving clear concise messaging on how the business is going cope, developing a positive attitude in all of your communication.  Things will change along the way; you will have to react accordingly.

Step 2 – Change your business model

If your business has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus lockdown, surviving – and thriving – will depend on changing your business model:

  • Do you need to change how you deliver your product or service?
  • Will you have to look to totally new things to create some revenue?
  • Do you and your team have skills that you haven’t utilised up to now?
  • Do you have an idea that’s been on the back burner, that never took flight because you never had the time?

What could changing your business model look like in practise? I have heard of a wine merchant that has started to take orders over the phone, with customers either collecting their wine or having it delivered.  Included in each delivery is a simple ‘thank you’ card together with some information about the purchase and some useful advice.  The wine merchant knows that they had to create a link with their new customers so they will retain their business when things return to normal.  It’s this ‘out of the box’ thinking that has the potential to create the ways to generate new / replacement income for businesses.

Step 3 – Virtual is the New Normal

I have often thought how we might have dealt with the coronavirus if it had occurred 20 years ago, in the pre-Zoom LINK TO ZOOM BLOG age.  Today we have the great advantage of technology being on our side.  For those that can work from home it is allowing many businesses to continue. 

But it’s important to keep your team close in the virtual world.  Imagine how they feel if working remotely is new to them; the lack of social interaction LINK TO SOPHIE FORREST BLOG can have a huge impact on a group used to working as a physical team.  If you didn’t have regular team meetings before coronavirus, you need to now. 

I recommend a short virtual huddle at the beginning and end of the day.  This helps replace the social interaction and ensures that everyone knows what’s expected from them.  Managers and business owners receive daily feedback, enabling them to make better decisions and take appropriate actions in the business. Make sure there is a structure to these meetings, getting the team involved in providing input; with this in place the huddles should take around 15-20 minutes.

Step 4 - Cashflow Management

Know your numbers. Any business can be represented by numbers, including financial, operational, sales and other KPIs.  The most important of these are the financial figures: profit and loss, balance sheet and, most important, a cashflow forecast.  It’s only when you properly know your numbers that you can make sound decisions about your business.

Review your costs, cut unnecessary expenditure, extend your credit terms, postpone what you can.  Make sure you are taking advantage of the Government’s support packages.

Communicate with important suppliers and partners.  If you hold stock, review your inventory; do you hold slow-moving stock that could generate cash?  Now’s the time to consider alternative avenues; would the likes of Ebay LINK and Amazon LINK provide a way to create some additional cash for the business?

Step 5 – Marketing must shift

What are you doing with your marketing? Have you changed anything? Have you stopped your marketing? 

Two things are important in your marketing decisions:

  • This is temporary
  • People either currently still want to buy what you sell or post-lockdown they will want to buy what you sell. 

If you just go quiet you have effectively shut up shop; the only people thanking you will be your competition. 

That said, it’s highly likely you will you need to change your message, the media you use and your budget.  You will certainly need to create new marketing if you are providing a new product or service.  It goes without saying that you need to be mindful of your cashflow, however, now is not the time to tell the world you are shut.

Step 6 – Sales with compassion

As your marketing message has changed, so might your sales process.  Your clients and prospects are living in a very different world, just as you are.  Their need for your product or service may well have changed; they might need more, less or none.  This is a time to build relationships with your prospects and clients.  The trust you build now will pay dividends for a long time to come:

  • Your customers may be under financial pressures and might need to extend their credit terms. Might now be the time to accept card payments to allow customers to pay using credit cards?
  • If the demand from your existing clients has reduced, you need to be looking for new clients, possibly with your new offerings.
  • The language you use will almost certainly need to change. Your sales process needs to be far more effective.  If you don’t have a sales process, create one; it will make you more successful. 

Step 7 – Customer service and repeat business

It’s always been easier to keep existing customers than to find new ones, so providing great customer service can be seen as an extension of your sales process.  It’s worth looking at your customer service with a view to improving it, moving it from good to WOW.  

Remember we are in a different world, so what was working might need to change.  You need to ensure you make the ‘invisible’ visible, so clients continue to use your service.  Let them know what you have done for them.  If you provide SEO your clients need to know what you have changed to attract traffic to their website and how many leads this generated?  If you provide cyber security, how many attacks on your client’s systems did you prevent? 

Excellent customer service not only retains your existing clients and builds loyalty, it can be the source of new customers.  Do you have a referral programme where existing clients can recommend their contacts to you?

Step 8 – Get the most from your people

It’s in crises such as these that business owners need to step up as leaders.  Remember a leader’s role is to support the team, enable them to perform and provide the guidance that will instil confidence and set the direction for the business.  Leaders eat last; it might be your business, but it’s their livelihood.

Take a look at your team, who creates revenue and who provides a support function.  As a temporary step, can you use some of the supporters to create revenue or assist those responsible for bringing in business to make them more effective and able to create more sales?  You may well have to provide some additional training to allow you and your team to operate in this current environment.

And, crucially, make sure your communication with your team is at its best right now. 

Step 9 – Build a strong mindset

Build a daily routine, including the daily huddles to communicate expectations, results and feedback.  Find the wins every day, even small ones; they will boost your mindset and be a boost to your mental health.

In the transition and preparation phases, when you are looking for ways to improve your business during lockdown and in anticipation of it ending, this could be the right time to include some personal development to help you with your mindset.  The current situation is temporary; treat it as an opportunity not a crisis.

Step 10 – Plan for 90 Days

The next 90 days, we hope will see us through the coronavirus.  Your focus must therefore be on the next three months so successful business owners will prepare a business plan for the next 90 days:

  • What will you market?
  • How will you market?
  • What will you change?
  • What can you save?
  • What’s in your cashflow forecast?

Ensure your plan considers the five phases that businesses will need to work through.

Step 11 – Look to invest

We all know that the economy is subject to cycles: unfortunately, what goes up, must come down, with recessions often triggered by financial crises, such as in 2008.  Awareness of this is key, enabling you to build it into your long-term plan to your advantage.

The first stage is to ensure you have funds available to see you through the next recession or a plan to create funds.  The second stage is to have sufficient funds available to invest.  There are many opportunities to invest and buy assets at incredibly beneficial rates during a recession, enabling you to build your ongoing returns. 

If you have the resources, act now and look to see what investments you can make that might otherwise cost you considerably more, or even have been out of your budget just a few months ago. If you don’t have the funds to invest during the current downturn, look to your long-term plan to prepare for the next time.

Your next step – Act now!

The coronavirus crisis has been significant for businesses of all shapes and sizes, but it’s moving fast – already the agenda is developing to how we start lifting the lockdown to protect the economy.  Waiting to take action is not an option if you want your business to be well positioned for when normality – or our new, post-lockdown normality – starts to emerge.

Of the 11 steps listed above, some will be more relevant to your business than others. Work out which are your top priorities and list the five ideas you need to take action on today, then devise how you are going to deliver the solutions you need for each of these, broken down into bite-sized chunks.

Trying to deal with a crisis of the magnitude of the coronavirus may seem overwhelming, but by identifying the top five ideas you need to act on immediately, you can create a manageable strategy to make sure your business survives, and potentially thrives.

MEET THE EXPERT

Julian Weekes of ActionCOACH helps business owners achieve the lifestyles and retirements they want through helping them work smarter and more profitably. During the coronavirus crisis, he is offering free one-hour consultancy video calls to help businesses define their 90-Day Plan. To book a session with him, email julianweekes@actioncoach.com

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