According to a New York Times article on July 2, only eight out of our fifty states in the US are reopened after COVID-19 shutdowns. An even more sobering fact is many states that had reopened are locking down again due to a rising number of cases.
With the variables in the game constantly changing, business owners face a great level of uncertainty about their livelihood and the future of their business. I hoped that by this point, I could write an article about how to build a re-opening strategy for your business. However, at this time, I decided that would not be relevant to most of my readers. Instead, I’m writing an article to help you think through how to create your own certainty and take charge of your business’s future.
So take the reins and let’s create your own personal certainty plan.
ASSESS HOW LONG YOUR BUSINESS CAN SUSTAIN ITSELF DESPITE SHUTDOWN
An important aspect of running a successful business is knowing exactly what your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are. What key aspects do you measure to determine your business success or lack thereof? KPIs can be different depending on the type of business or department, but some common examples are monthly revenue, number of customers encountered, number of units sold, cost of goods sold percentages, etc. Here is a dashboard of examples that could help you define what KPI’s fit your business model best.
Chances are, you might have to adjust your pre-COVID KPIs and do another diagnostic dive to determine how the bottom line of your performance has been affected. What’s the new percentage of KPIs you need to hit in order for your business to break even? In order to bridge any gap in performance, you must be 100% real with yourself about where you’re currently at.
Once you’ve reset your KPIs, it’s time to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. If you’re like most businesses, your KPIs have taken a massive hit. This could be in revenue, number of sales, profit margin, etc. You can still be successful though! You just need to embrace the fact that we’re in a new world, with new rules. Things aren’t going to be the same again, which means you can’t operate like you once did in your business. You have to play a new game.
With your newly adjusted KPIs (meaning what’s realistic for you to hit right now), you need to adjust the rest of your business around them which likely means making your business as lean as possible. There are hundreds of ways you can cut expenses… even if it doesn’t seem like it. For example, are there any services that you pay for on a monthly basis that you can pause right now? Do you have the same level of inventory or labor that you did before? Remember, the faster you adjust to the new reality, the more likely you are to thrive in it.
Lastly, if you’ve looked at your KPIs and are having a really hard time making the numbers work, ask your community for help. COVID-19 has made transparency in business more of a norm than ever before because for the first time in history, the whole world is fighting the same monster. Don’t underestimate the power of asking for help. Whether it’s a collaboration with another business, or being transparent with your customers about where you’re at, your community could be your secret weapon right now.
INNOVATE TO STAY RELEVANT
Innovation is more important now than ever before. What your customer prioritized and valued five months ago has probably shifted significantly. I think of a surfer taking on big waves. They have to go to the wave before it’s even fully formed so they can catch it in time to ride it. his chase takes swift navigation. Applying this type of movement to business means that you stay lean and flexible so that you can shift and turn as the market changes. Staying nimble and innovative is your best chance at staying relevant.
Make COVID-19 work in your favor. There’s always an upside somewhere, you just have to find it. For example, the RV and boat industry is booming right now because people are looking for a way to have fun this summer while still maintaining social distancing. The businesses in these industries that have realized this are starting to market for the occasion. What does your customer desire in relationship to your industry?
No matter if it’s a big or small way, there is a path for you to make some aspect of this situation work in your favor. If you want a breakdown of the steps of innovating and pivoting, check out this article I wrote near the beginning of COVID.
DECIDE YOUR BUSINESS’S FUTURE INSTEAD OF LETTING SOMETHING ELSE DO IT
I think we can all agree that certainty isn’t going to drop in your lap during this time, you need to create it for yourself. A lot of business owners, myself included, were waiting till the “dust settled” to make any big business moves. Well, I think the dust is as settled as it’s going to get for a while, folks.
I’m a big believer in making decisions based on the numbers and the data when it comes to business. I don’t think you’ll have much long-term success using any other metrics. What are the black and white numbers and data points of your city, business and industry as a whole? A lot of industries simply aren’t going to make it through this because of lack of relevance in the new world. The sooner you realize what camp you sit in, the better. Whether it’s choosing to stay the same, pivot, re-open or shut your business down, take the reins and decide instead of letting someone or something decide for you.
A few things that can arm you with more wisdom to make the right decision for your specific situation are the following:
- Relationships are always key in business, but now more than ever. Build relationships with people on your city council, your bank, other business leaders, etc so that you can go to them and get the inside scoop on guidelines and rules. Also, remember that everyone is making this up as they go because this is uncharted territory. Businesses everywhere are submitting ways they can personally open up safely, and if they’re good enough, they can make it up the chain to the decision makers. Don’t underestimate your voice in this. You could change the rules on opening up for your industry if you have a good plan in place and the relationships to get you in the front door.
- Research, research and more research! Read the stories of other businesses in your industry who are a little farther along than you. Where is the general market headed? Is there a wave you need to swim towards catching before it’s too late?
- Don’t be afraid of failure. Maybe while reading this, you’re starting to realize that your business just wasn’t well positioned for any of this. Don’t worry, thousands of other businesses are in the same boat. And guess what? When we fail, we get to gather the wealth of knowledge in that experience and apply it to a clean slate of what’s next. Don’t let the failure of one season dictate the rest of your seasons. If you know in your gut that shutting your business down is the right thing to do, then make that decision before outside factors make it for you.
No matter what we go through in life, you always have a choice in how you choose to view it and the decisions you make to navigate your situation. For some of you, this could be the best thing that ever happened to you because your industry is booming! For others, this could be the most painful season because your business is failing. No matter what camp you sit in, you can choose to view this season as something that’s happening for you, not against you.
Create your own certainty and proactively take action towards whatever direction you decide to walk in. Remember, no season lasts forever and everything really does happen for a reason if you choose to believe so.
All the best and stay strong,