Someone hit the pause button - What do I do now!
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
The world just told us all to stop everything. To many small businesses, this seems like a huge setback. But small business-people are resilient. They overcome more in one week than employees of large companies do in a year! The world is on pause now, but at any time someone is going to press the play button and we are going to need you, the entrepreneur, more than ever. We need you to be there, at the starting line and ready to explode out of the gate when that pistol fires.
But what should you do now to ensure you are going to be around and healthy enough to perform? Here are a few tips from someone that has been through a few crises.
Preserve your needed assets - At all costs
Your assets are all the things you need to get the job done. If they are not there when it’s time to get to work, you have no way to make money. A common way to look at business operations is that it is a conversion of assets into revenue. So, you need those assets to survive the current stoppage. To do this you may have to prioritize what assets you need, and what assets you just want. The “need” assets are the important ones. Maybe you let go of those you just “want”.
Now, very important, I am not just talking about buildings and equipment. Your most important assets may be your people. Often, I use the acronym of PODO as a way to prioritize how you get yourself out of a jam and use the limited resources you have to maintain the ability of your business to operate. The letters stand for People, Operations, Debt and Owner.
First, People. Make sure your people survive the downturn and are motivated to get back to work. Second, Operations means to make sure you have maintained the ability to operate once business starts again. Whether that is equipment, systems, buildings or whatever you will “need” to launch your operations again. Third is Debt. There is a third party here that has a legal right to payment and must be kept satisfied for you to survive. This may not mean that you must be 100% current. Desperate times demand desperate measures. You may need to renegotiate with the company that holds the loan or let some leveraged assets go. What is important is that you keep the needed ones.
Finally, the owner is last. Ownership bears all the risks and enjoys all the rewards of their business. Right now, it’s a time to bear the risks. You should only reap the rewards after the health of your entire organization is strong. It is a terrible truth that owners continually damage the organization by drawing too much money from it. Embrace the responsibility and take action. You will be so proud of yourself and the victory will be all the sweeter.
Focus your plan
Things will be different. Some of your customers won’t be able to continue or will have scaled back their operations. This means you better do your best to be ready to give the clients what they need. This must involve some real thinking! Who are they going to be? What is the first service or product they will need from you? Finally and importantly, how can you make money providing it to them? In our world, money is survival! Your business needs that first inflow of cash to keep going!
What is your new world going to look like? People may be doing things differently and those may be your clients. Is this an opportunity for you to leapfrog your competition, or, will you be left behind?
Be ready and be focused! Your future depends on it!
Streamline your processes.
Take the time right now to think through all the processes you perform with a critical eye. Most business operations have grown over time to be the processes they are now. There may have been threats that no longer exist, opportunities that weren’t there a few years ago, new technologies, new competition or any number of changes.
So step back and ask yourself, “How would you do things differently if you built them from scratch?” Completely rethink things. You may be able to take advantage of new technology or new capabilities that weren’t there when you settled on the current processes. This effort will be paid back in spades when the economy kicks in again. There is nothing that impacts the bottom line better than efficient operations built from efficient processes.
Small business MUST make the most of every opportunity. Stated another way, you can’t miss this opportunity! Right now, you have been given a rare bit of space to work on your business. If you let it slip through your fingers you may be left behind!