Advice for these uncertain times

According to an online survey of more than 1,000 businesses, almost three-quarters said they expect their revenues to reduce by more than 50% as a result of COVID-19 disruption. A further one in five expect a reduction of more than 20%.  [1]

Wow – those numbers are pretty scary.

And I guess, if you clicked on this link, you might well be looking down the barrel of a gun loaded with bullets containing similar bad news.

So what can I say that’s helpful?

Well, I thought I’d try and give an overview of what’s actually happening in business terms and then highlight a couple of things we should all definitely be doing right now. Unless of course, you’ve already decided to pull the shutters down. In which case, this article may not be that useful.

Please take this as helpful advice. It’s off the cuff and really not meant as a lecture, but I know that many of the clients I’ve been speaking to in the last couple of weeks are seeking reassurance, inspiration and support to do the right thing. If you need more, we will set up a call with you to help. Where ever or whoever you are – a helpful chat costs nothing… 

We also have a couple of clients who are experiencing unprecedented demand, again, this article isn’t for you but you may need to chat about other pressures.

So, to get started. Let’s deal with the first real problem. Or at least the first real problem from a small business perspective.

Is it COVID19? Economic Shock? Post flood recovery? Global warming? Changing consumer trends? Death of the High Street? Brexit? No! It’s more basic… It’s fear!

There is nothing, for most of us, as frightening as loss of control and uncertainty. It’s strange how we can be in a relatively good position or be relatively comfortable.

But WHAM, all of a sudden, the spectre of uncertainty creeps in and we start to worry subconsciously that everything we currently enjoy might fall away and become a memory. So the first thing to do, to fix a problem like this, is to start to try to understand it!

Start with a bit of 101 psychology:

Let’s think about what our subconscious voice tells us. What it whispers to us over and over in the background. 

Our subconscious voice feels like our “honest voice” – it calls us out on EVERYTHING. But this isn’t alway helpful. Our subconscious is driven by instinct, not by reasoned decision making.

It tries to warn us of danger and to convince us that our success is fragile and temporary. It tries to protect us and tells us over and over just how vulnerable our business actually is…

So, if we cut a corner or have a sub-optimal process for doing something that is important, we might tell ourselves that ‘all will be fine’ but our subconscious will feel it knows better.

It labours away quietly, in the background. It runs all the possible scenarios. All the different versions of disaster that might result from our lack of attention to detail.

All those wonderful feelings that we can experience whilst we struggle to sleep and stare hopelessly at the cracks in the bedroom ceiling!

This will often result in you feeling overwhelmed or that you can’t come up with the solutions.

✅  The simplest first step to beating this self defeating internal narrative is to add the word “yet” to your sentences…

Maybe, you are repeating to yourself that you just don’t know how to continue your service! Now add “yet” and you get, “you just don’t know how to continue your service yet.” It indicates that there is a solution but you just haven’t worked out what it is yet… It puts you back in control.

If left unchecked, this subconscious voice will take over. It will convince our conscious mind that its many disastrous versions of our future are real. 

Our sub conscious has a habit of underestimating its sibling, ‘conscious thought’

The big limitation of our subconscious is that it runs the scenarios based only on what we currently know. It ignores or is dismisses how resourceful the ‘problem solving’ version of ourselves actually is…

✅  So, dig deep and allow conscious thought to be in control. Let it act quickly to mitigate pending problems or to stop a current ‘bleed’. And then let it assess the resources you have at hand. Equipped with this information you can then consciously evaluate the opportunities in front of you. It’s time to put a blank piece of paper on the desk and to think differently…

YES – You’re now back in ‘problem solving’ mode!

Step 1: Complete a health check:

✅  Asses the cash position of your business.
Evaluate the strength of your reserves and see what you can do to help short term cash flow. Check for government support. There’s helpful information about this in the Saturday Strategy podcast edition that decodes what the government is providing and how we can access it.
[Link to podcast >>]

✅  Do whatever you need or can do to safeguard the position of your staff… This might mean some tough decisions. Be honest with people and treat them with respect and as grown ups. If it means reduced hours or being stood down completely – do it well and be as helpful as possible. Provide what support you can. Take advice and follow the correct procedures. There is every chance you might want these people to come back. Some of the government support available might enable you to maintain your staff whilst your business weathers the storm.

✅  Review contracts with suppliers to see what you can cut if needed. Then review contracts with customers to review where you might get cut if worst comes to worst…

✅  Work out what is and what isn’t allowed? Follow the news and adhere to the official guidance.

✅  Take a good look at your competitors – not just the ones on your doorstep – look further afield and seek exemplars of good practice that you can use as inspiration.

Step 2: Assess your resources:

In small business, our biggest challenge is usually “resource scarcity”. In other words a lack of time, people, skill, knowhow or money. So imperfection is probably an inevitability…

And this becomes critical or more visible when the business is under pressure.

The good news is that we don’t need to be perfect. Nobody has that expectation of us. But we do need to know what is most important to our customers and then reliably deliver those things. You’ll have heard this a hundred times, but we need to be brilliant at the basics.

✅  Strip back what you do to the very core – those things that your customers value most highly. And then think about how you can guarantee that you can continue to deliver them…

You might be reading this and thinking this is will be near impossible – but there are still perhaps things that you can do:

💡  If you run a restaurant and have had to close, perhaps you can deliver a dinner party to four houses who can meet up online and enjoy a meal together?
💡  Perhaps you can provide a celebration meal for a family that is self isolating…
💡  If you are a decorator, offer interior design advice and offer to deliver equipment and materials to help people do home projects…
💡  If you have a care business and staffing is a problem, advertise for short term contracts which may be a relief for some of those people laid off from bars and restaurants…
💡  If you provide services that can continue, promise a skeleton service regardless of staffing issues. People will appreciate your honesty…

Step 3: Reach out to your network:

✅  Start with your best existing customers. Really think about them and seek to understand how they are feeling right now. They probably have fears and anxiety too. So a message like, “We’re fine, it’s business as usual…” might demonstrate a lack of empathy…

Instead, contact them to ask how they are affected and what you can do to assist. Let them know that your service is not something that they need to worry about because you have given them priority status…

✅  Then speak to your bread and butter customers and your lapsed customers to ask the same – assure them that you are thinking of them and check in regularly.

✅  Think about what you can do right now during these hard times to thank them for the support in good times and to cement your relationship with them. These best customers are your friends! Maybe take five minutes to read an old blog we just re-posted about snow shovels – it helps a lot 🙂 
[Read the blog >>]

Step 4: Innovate - quickly:

As I said at the beginning – we need to think differently. ‘Business as usual’ just isn’t good enough.

✅  Do what it takes to survive in the short term and to thrive in the long term.

✅  Move your meetings to Zoom or similar. Change the services you are providing to enable you to give more value in these tough times.

✅  Think of other ways you can assist your customers that will make your business more resilient.

✅  Involve your team in these plans – they are heavily invested in the survival and long term prosperity of the company too.

Finally (or at least enough for today):

✅  Take time to look after yourself and your family. Encourage your staff to do the same.

✅  Be empathetic – this crisis has, at the heart of it, the loss of many loved family members. Lots of people are very scared.

❎  Stop trawling social media feeds for advice.

❎  Stop reposting a rumour or a useful tip that someone shared on WhatsApp.

✅  Follow the official advice from the government
[NHS Link >>]
[Government advice for business >>]

✅  Check the date on the advice you are reading. It’s changing fast and scientists are learning fast. 

✅  Embrace the way we are currently working and keep motivated by setting targets and helping everyone to remain productive…

[1]  Small businesses need more than financial aid to beat coronavirus: Elitebusiness (online) 19th March 2020
[Link >>]

Has this article got you thinking about your business and how you want to grab the reins and drive it forward but you struggle to find the time or feel that you lack the skills or knowledge to do so?

Are you looking at your screen wondering how or if Good2Great could possibly help you to build a better future for you and your company?

If so, why not check out free ways to learn more either at a seminar or in a free one-to-one business health check.

Either way – click this link to learn more about Free support from Good2Great

OR – perhaps you’re still at the start of your business journey – check out the Business Start Up Bootcamps

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