Archive for April, 2020

Planning For Post Coronavirus

April 1, 2020

Even in the depths of these dark times, planning for a positive tomorrow is important.

While the coronavirus pandemic spreads, it is affecting us individually, our families, our small businesses and our employees, plus our customers, suppliers and partners.

As we see every day, many things are happening to help us weather these tribulations.  Not the least is the CARES Act provides some relief.

Perhaps most importantly, as a small business leader, it is a priority for you to try to stay safe and healthy.  There are people depending on you to lead them forward after this pandemic is contain.

While focusing on today, it is also a time to start planning and positioning for what you as a small business Owner/President/Manager will be doing Post Coronavirus.

Consider your business, is it a viable on-going entity that needs to be repositioned and/or galvanized?  Or, should it be shuttered, sold, merged, or something else.

If you are going to soldier forward, craft a vision to focus and unify your business.  Importantly, share it with your employees, customers, suppliers and partners. 

Note: your resources (capital and personnel) might be limited so prioritize those projects that will give you the highest return.

Some things to consider:

Will you be a physical, online or combination business?

Answering that question, leads to a whole series of decisions about physical space, where workers will reside, enablement technology, etc.

If you decide to maintain a physical presence, your Local Community will play a role in your business not only surviving, but thriving. 

  • Letting your community know that you are open for business and your hours.
  • People will be hyper aware of cleanliness standards, so post measures taken to clean and keep your business clean are critical.
  • Donate to and support local causes.
  • Thank your local first-line-of-support people.

Your Staff is a critical success factor of your business. 

  • Acknowledge any personnel losses and have a plan for recognizing those who have passed either with a single donation or some other memorial.
  • Look at necessary roles going forward and determine who to keep, move to another position, let go, and hire.  Having the right people in each position is important to achieving your vision.
  • Thank those staying with you; ensure they have the tools and training needed to fulfill the job and your vision for the business.
  • Provide a reference for those being separated.
  • Put together an enticing company pitch and employment package for new hires.
  • Consider which staff you need on premises and those you want to work remotely.
  • Provide the remote workers with the support they need to succeed; set standards for measurement.
  • Consider a making portion of employee compensation based on the success of the business.
  • Decide whether staff be employees or via a PEO (see All About Small Business blog from May, 2018).
  • Being able to engage the team is essential; find ways to motivate people and make your unifying vision something that will engage your team and get them on board.
  • Be relentless at pursuing the task of building an unstoppable team (you cannot do everything on your own); having one will enable your business will thrive and the unifying vision will come to fruition.

In addition, Suppliers and Partners can help you fulfill your business vision.  Find collaborative ways to work together to meet the needs of your customers and business in today’s changing world. 

  • If you contract for a length of time and/or volume amount with your suppliers; ask for longer payment terms, volume discount, and/or additional services/products.
  • Should you get a partner or add partner(s) to help you fulfill non-core activities such as delivery, technology, marketing, staffing, among others.
  • Consider whether you should partner up to expand your offerings, reach a wider audience/customer base, and add capabilities.

Some Marketing and Sales activities might help rev your business.

  • Conduct customer and employee online surveys to learn strengths, weaknesses and areas of opportunities.
  • Your messaging should reflect your vision; consider adding data in messaging.
  • Consider having a Back-To-Business special.
  • If your had customers during the coronavirus outbreak, contact them to thank and offer them something special such as a free item/service.
  • During the pandemic, communicate with current and past customers on a regular basis.
    • Keep asking them how they are doing and is there anything you can do for them.  Remember, help in a time of crisis is most remembered.
    • Keep customers informed of your company’s plans and when they can expect a return of your business to ‘normal’.
  • If your business was completely shuttered during the pandemic, consider sending out a “we’re back” message along with notice of your hours, cleaning activities and any specials.
  • For past customers, reach out to re-engage through am email, snail mail, or personal visit as well as through attaching a communication to your services/products. Start by asking how they are doing and what your company can do for them.
  • For new customers, consider what is going to give you the highest level of engagement across all of your digital channels and how to avoid them second-guessing your messaging.

Examine your business’ use of Technology.

  • Should you be realigning, increasing your in house tech staff or outsourcing much of it?
  • Consider your user experience; assure ease of use and performance when using applications/systems and accessing business critical data.
  • Look at how well you are protecting your customers’ and your own proprietary data; make sure you are in compliance with GDPR, CCPA and other protection requirements that are applicable.
  • Do a benefits analysis of Cloud versus Traditional VPN.
  • Review your disaster recovery program; evaluate existing systems and determine if anything needs to be changed.
  • Check your security measures and consider (re)training staff.  Protect your documents and applications; guarding against COVID-related Phishing attacks and Ransomware.
  • Enhance communications with your workforce, which may be increasingly distributed: standardize collaboration platforms; set BYOD (bring your own device) policies, if you don’t already have; and establish Telework Best Practices.
  • Explore advanced technologies such as chatbots, virtual reality, robots, etc. to supplement your staff and provide a competitive advantage to your business.

Think about how you run and manage your Operations.

  • Should you be handling it all yourself, or should you bring on a partner to share the workload.
  • Select key performance measures (KPIs) to measure your business effectiveness.
  • Look at your schedule of operations and customer service.  Adjust to your new vision of business.

Look at your Property, Plant and Equipment; those are your long-term assets that typically have a life of more than a year.  Do they align with your go-forward business?

  • Examine what are your future needs for vehicles, furniture, machinery, etc.
  • If you own your business property, consider whether you should refinance (mortgage rates are lower), sell, or rent out part of it. 

Another possible long-term obligation is rent.  Think about if this is the location you want to be and how much space you will require; perhaps you can get a discount on rent and/or a new lease.

Your business’ Finances are the fuel to move your business forward.

  • Do you have the free cash flow to move forward with your plans?  Otherwise consider taking out a loan or getting a grant to help you.
  • Again, the CARES Act may help your business; let this Guide inform you.
  • Keep careful records of all expenditures, not only for repayment but also for filing 2020 taxes.
  • Be diligent on collecting receivables, but remember your customers are in recovery mode as well.
  • Ask suppliers for extended term for the remainder of the year.

It may seem dark now, but there is a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel.  Strive for it by preparing now, while staying healthy.  Your business, customers and employees, as well as suppliers and partners are depending on you.