Practical ideas to navigate your business through unpredictability
Figuring out how to protect your business during this public health emergency is a top priority for many small business owners. Knowing how to pivot quickly to adapt while stay-at-home orders continue, adjust when commerce again begins to move at a regular pace, and thrive during the recovery period and beyond? That takes both sound planning and smart tactical execution.
Building a strategy to help you move forward in the next 30, 60 and 90 days can help.
As part of our Small Business Webinar Series, Brian Moran, founder and CEO of Small Business Edge offers practical and tactical advice with an actionable plan to help you navigate your business through these unpredictable times.
“I’ve talked to hundreds, maybe a thousand of business owners in the past five to six weeks. Everyone has faith within their business and their own wherewithal that they’ll survive this crisis. That’s what makes us business owners, and it’s important that we don’t lose that,” says Moran. “But not everyone has the discipline needed to get through the next 30, 60 or 90 days.”
There are five steps Moran recommends to create a rigorous 30/60/90 day business plan to help your business survive and thrive:
- Reconnect with your ecosystem. “Now’s the time to reach out to everyone who can help you reach your goals in 2020. That list includes your employees, customers, product suppliers, partners, technology experts, and vendors.” says Moran, recommending that first, in an act of kindness, ask how they’re doing. Then, find out if there’s opportunity to work together to achieve each other’s goals.
He recommends, too, checking in with your accountant, attorney, and/or business coach. “Take a hard look at your business to assess whether you should reopen. You might be throwing good money after bad if your debts are unsurmountable,” Moran cautions. “Every business has a chance, but you need a reality check and conversation about whether or not it makes sense“ to move forward with operations.
Moran suggests for sole proprietors and freelancers to talk to their customers. “You’re a line item on someone’s budget list. Reach out to everyone in your world and ask how you can move forward together right now.” Public relations contractors, for example, might find themselves in demand by devising plans to help their customers provide thought leadership and a humanized voice in their market to get through these weeks, without a hard sell while budgets are in flux.
Play financial offense and defense
Connecting with your creditors during this time is one of the first things you should be doing, says Moran. If business is like a game, “your offense is accounts receivable, where money comes in. With accounts payable you need to keep money from going out right now.” That includes negotiating with your creditors while making sure you understand the fine print in any modified agreement that results from your outreach.
Knowing the fine print is also important if you apply for any grants or loans, like the Paycheck Protection Program or any EIDL grants or loans. “But,” says Moran, “don’t count on those. Look at your local, state and city programs, too, since they have a vested interest in your success.”
Other community organizations worth checking into: Your local SBA Office, the SCORE chapter for your area, your local chamber of commerce or economic development center, among others.
- Review your original 2020 plans. Where did you plan for your business to be at the end of 2020? Brush off your 2020 strategic plan, suggests Moran.
“Review your plan and get clear on where you stand,” says Moran. “Cross out all of the parts that are blown up because of COVID-19, then highlight the parts of your plan that are still on track even with the obstacle in front of you.” Figure out which parts that were damaged by the crisis are salvageable.
- Write three mini-plans, one each for 30, 60 and 90 days. Once you have a sense of your current situation, you can start to figure out how to move forward.
Moran recommends creating three plans to help you identify where you want to be 30, 60 and 90 days from now and how you plan to get there. Reach out to your ecosystem to ask what is needed for the business to survive the next 30, 60, 90 days and formulate your approach. They’ll have perspectives that you won’t, but that will help you get to the root causes of problems and understand what to include in your plans.
“It’s important to analyze your business from the clouds, at that 20,000-foot view to see where the problems are, but you execute the plans in the weeds,” says Moran. “That means you ask yourself where you want to be at the end of April and identify the steps to take every day. That’s your mini-GPS action plan. You create your plans, execute, review and edit them, execute again, and hold yourself accountable to that plan.”
Adds Moran, “You don’t have to know what will happen. The whole idea of a mini-GPS plan is to create an action plan for your business and review it every day. We don’t know what tomorrow or next week holds. Things are very fluid and what you wrote down last week may not apply this week. If you treat your plan as a living, breathing thing, it will help you hold yourself accountable for hitting your goals. It will give you a way to adapt to change.”
- Seize the opportunity in chaos.
You’re likely familiar with the adage that there’s opportunity in chaos. “The chaos we’re looking at right now is global. The world has hit the reset button,” says Moran, “and all things have come to a halt. For many, you’ll never have more time to take the act on an opportunity you have wanted for your business, whether that’s learning social media, bringing in new technology, or even painting the walls.”
Doing so can help you be ready when the world starts up again, and maybe even in a better position than ever before, Moran adds. “As Andrew Sherman, author of Harvesting Intangible Assets: Uncover Hidden Revenue in Your Intellectual Property says, “find the Rembrandts in your attic.”
Those are the products or services you have available to you that with slight modifications can open whole new revenue streams for your business.
“I’m not suggesting that you abandon what you’ve built but there are probably products and services that could be used now or in the future when the country gets back on track.”
- Execute your plans.
Taking your plans from theory to practice is a big step. “This scares a lot of business owners,” says Moran. “When you operate in the clouds, you’re never proven wrong. But at some point you need to get back into the weeds of your business. Now’s a good time to try practice runs.”
Moran suggests starting slowly. “Pick out ten customers to reach out to, tell them what you’re thinking of doing in this new economy, and get their input.”
Additionally, everyone in your ecosystem needs to know the role they play so they’re all on the same page. Moran suggests checking in twice a week, even just for 30 minutes. “Ask how you’re doing with the plan. Then be proactive by executing, editing, and then executing [your mini-GPS plans] again.”
As a parting thought, Moran advises to connect with your team and express your appreciation that they’re with you during this chaotic time.
“Everyone on your team is critical to success. Let them know you’re glad to have them on your team and ask them what their fears and anxieties are. Give them the opportunity to vent to you or someone on the team. Don’t let silence be the elephant in the room. ”
Staying connected with your customers is also important. Ultimately, maintaining relationships and keeping a dialogue going even when you’re not selling can help ensure those customers will trust and rely on you again in the future, beyond the reach of your new 30/60/90 day business plan.
Get more insights on ways to help your business thrive from the Verizon Small Business Webinar Series.