I opened my business not too long before the events of September 11th, 2001. It took years for everyone to get back to normal, but we did. Then the economic collapse of 2008 hit, and again, it took years to get back on track. But we did.
The point is that while this pandemic crisis is different, so was 9/11 and 2008. Both were life changing, cataclysmic events that altered the way America operated. Small business owners across the nation pushed through to even greater horizons than previously imagined. Not everyone made it through, but many did. The lessons learned along the way must not be forgotten now.
It’s hard enough to maintain a small business during good economic times, much less during a global pandemic. The hard work that was needed before is even more important during stressful and trying times. Business owners that don’t place a high priority on employees and customers may quite possibly doom their businesses to failure.
Since business failures are not discriminatory, stable businesses and new startups can experience the same grim future when operated without a Plan B in place. Just remember that plans can be quickly overshadowed when basic business fundamentals are forgotten or not practiced. It’s ok to shift to Plan B, just have a well thought out and well communicated Plan B.
It’s especially important during stressful times for business owners to not lose sight of the end goal… recover and build a strong foundation that leads to long-term success. Most business owners know (or should know) the basic principles needed to maintain forward momentum. Just don’t forget these during challenging times.
Concentrate on the following to help ensure business profitability now and for the future:
Remember your employees.
For all of your worries in unsure times, your employees are just as worried and stressed. Employees rely on you to lead them and take care of them. This can be an excellent opportunity for them to see that you have their back. Show them you will do everything you can to limit the impact of the situation on their lives. Treating them with disrespect carries over to customers and colleagues alike. When bad attitudes surface internally, they are typically projected externally as well. When employees worry they may be laid off, it’s difficult for them to have a positive attitude about their job and customers. Without you ever knowing, employees can turn away business by how they interact with customers.
It’s important to keep spirits as high as possible. When your employees know that you are doing all that you can for them, they will do as much as possible for you in return.
Remember your customers.
Unfortunately, during times of stress and economic hardships, some businesses treat customers as a nuisance, interfering with all of their daily responsibilities. Rather than being treated as the lifeline of a business, customers are instead viewed as interruptions or inconveniences that impede daily business.
It’s time to reflect on businesses that have been successful and maintained great reputations through the difficult times. What did they do in the past that put them ahead of their competitors? Why did they achieve success in the face of economic troubles? One reason, perhaps, is that they treated their customers as the lifeline of their businesses.
Get and stay efficient.
Being efficient should be the goal of every owner during both good times and bad. Reduce any and all unnecessary spending. Limit overtime and un-billable time. Reduce hours as you have to. Keep meetings to strict timelines with point by point agendas. Call your vendors and banks and work out alternative plans for payments. Don’t just assume they will, or even can, work with you in reduced cashflow situations.
Reduce or eliminate any and all old or dead inventory. Cash is going to be more important than ever for a while, so trade that inventory for money quickly. You can also trade old inventory to advertisers as payment on future advertising campaigns as “giveaways”. They can, and often will, trade you full retail for their services.
At the end of the day, your employees, your customers and your families will benefit from you remaining calm and calculating in your decisions. Just shift from Plan A to Plan B as seamlessly as possible. Call on other business owners to discuss ideas and options. Remember to call on your mentors to help you stay motivated and committed. Trust me, that’s what they live for.