How will your business survive the COVID-19 winter?

Are you an SME? Do you have a COVID-19 strategy? A crisis of confidence is still a crisis. Particularly if you are an SME or start-up

How will your business survive the COVID-19 winter?

How will your business survive the COVID-19 winter? 729 522 Visible Pathway

Author: Mark Cotgrove  |  Reading Time: 6-7  minutes, if you never read another blog post, you might want to read this one

Here is our COVID-19 business survival strategy. There are  3 components.

  1. Communication – the most important bit
  2. Focus – the hardest bit
  3. Technology – the easiest bit

 

COVID-19 business survival

photo courtesy unsplash.com

Communication is the overarching key element here. Be as transparent as you can with all the key cohorts – staff, customers, suppliers and investors.

COMMUNICATION – STAFF

  • be a leader, not a manager
  • be transparent, be honest, explain the impact on the business in really simple pragmatic terms, no spin, just facts
  • outline your survival plan with them, get their feedback, input and ideas, GET THEM INVOLVED
  • remember existential events such as these are not your fault
  • share good and bad news
  • make them aware that you may have to lay people off if the situation does not improve soon
  • people take bad news much better when they have been prepped and it is managed correctly. Pro tip – don’t tell then Monday that it is all good and then announce on Friday that you have to lay off 2 people, you will lost all their trust and you are no longer a leader
  • if you must lay off people then do it kindly, the good ones you will want to come back when things get back to the new normal
  • most of all be HUMAN about it!
If you end up where you and your team have to work from home, then I suggest running a virtual morning meet-up.

Conduct this morning meet-up using video conferencing wherever possible, audio if bandwidth is really an issue, but video is best because people still need to get dressed etc like they are going to work.

Morning Meet-up Agenda

Go around the group, ask everyone how they are feeling, be sensitive to individual situations, kids at home, spouse not working, less income coming in, a sick relative or friend or family member. Pro tip – If you have more than say 7 people involved you might want to consider breaking into different teams and having separate Morning Meet-ups.

Then ask each person on the call these 3 questions. These will be the same questions every day so they will know to prep for them. The first few meetings will be a bit clunky and wooden, that’s ok, within a week it will be running smoothly. After a few days you don’t need to ask the questions, your team just give their update based on these 3 questions. Pro tip – Delegate the running of the meeting to a different person each day. Gets everyone involved faster. The 3 questions are:

  • What did you get done yesterday?
  • What are you going to do today?
  • Whats ‘roadblocks’ exist stopping you from getting your job done?

This is adapted from the AGILE development community methods, they call it a stand up and they do it standing up. Pro tip – You might want to try that too but start of slow and go a step at a time. Maybe introduce this in week 2!

These meetings will help with making sure your people get started on time and focussed on what they need to do today to do their job.

COMMUNICATION – CUSTOMERS

  • be proactive
  • start by understanding what they need RIGHT NOW to help them survive
  • Do this by ASKING them. This is not about offering extended credit terms, but you may have to do this if you really think you can afford that and that you will get paid! Problem is when…
  • Think more in terms of
    • availability
    • changes to delivery
    • what you will do if you are locked out of your premises
    • what will happen if they are locked out of their premises
  • Ask them what plans they have in place
This is when you can forge some of the best long term customer relationships you will ever have!

COMMUNICATION – SUPPLIERS

  • be proactive
  • understand what THEIR PLANS are
  • How will their plan impact you as their customer
  • Think like the customer, what matters to you? You can even apply that thinking to your customers
    • availability
    • changes to delivery
    • what will happen if they are locked out of their premises
    • how robust and secure is their supply chain
This is when you can forge some of the best long term supplier relationships you will ever have too!

COMMUNICATION – INVESTORS

  • don’t avoid them, again be proactive
  • outline your strategy, they will be thrilled that you have one, but don’t just do it by email, try to do it live, remember you are a leader
  • be transparent with them about where the significant risks lie but have a plan to address each of them
  • seek their input and some validation of what you plan to do to protect your business and their investment
  • remember – existential events such as these are not your fault
This is when you can forge some of the best long term investor relationships you will ever have too!

FOCUS – THE HARDEST BIT

  • Stay focussed on what you and your team need to do each day
  • ignore the press and social media but not the announcements telling you what the relevant authorities are doing
  • Shut down any unnecessary staff movements
  • Do as much as possible using video conferencing and mobile technology – your customers and suppliers don’t want you showing up at their place either 🙂
  • Preserve your cash as best you can – run your business lean, be brutal, if it does not support the business right now question whether you need to buy it right now. As self serving as this might seem, everyone will be doing the same, they simply have too
  • Secure any future funding you had been working on or think you might need NOW, it may not be on offer in a few weeks time and we don’t know how long it will be before conditions start to improve
  • Stay healthy and physically active – encourage staff to exercise if possible, be vigilant (but remain friendly) with them, encourage exercise and eating well, if they have any symptoms make sure they get tested immediately and that they self-isolate if you are not already in lock down

TECHNOLOGY – THE EASIEST BIT

  • Build a platform of online ‘cloud based’ tools, most popular tools have a free option and they can be integrated with each other too. Consider having a:
    • communication tool for messaging both internally and with channels to our customers as well
    • document repository with private and public folders for storing documents, forms, sales material, stuff you might want to share with customers, suppliers etc
    • project management tool to manage people’s day to day task and activities in a way that makes it easier for them to collaborate
  • Make sure your website is functioning as it should, check all links are working and that anyone communicating with you using it will be heard e.g contact forms and actually go to someone, TEST it today
    • Consider adding chat capability to your website
  • If you have a lot of customer traffic then prepare some ‘canned responses’ for your team to use as they will probably be getting very similar questions from everyone , this greatly improves productivity
  • Produce this into an FAQ document that you can publish on your website, keep updating and adding to this and then point people toward it
  • Add some basic e-commerce or transaction capability if it looks like we are in for a long haul
  • Use this platform so that staff can communicate efficiently and easily with each other but also with customers and suppliers
  • Make sure staff can use it on a mobile network if need be when the internet drops out (which apparently still happens in the 21st century!)
  • Start simple, try to keep it simple,
    • don’t make finding things a challenge, mimic what you have set up now
  • Show people how to use it, take the time, do it virtually, Pro tip – give this whole ‘project’ to one of your staff and let them run with it while you deal with the other aspects of your plan
    • consider making some short how to videos that they can reference in their own time

CHALLENGES to COVID-19 business survival

As with any action plan there will be challenges. Here are the most important ones to address and what to do to meet the challenge

  • Keeping yourself and everyone on your team engaged and focussed
    • this is about your leadership and solid team communication
    • if you need to take someone aside and have a talk then jump on it right away. Pro tip – dead wood catches fire first, so get rid of it before it burns you
  • Hang on to your great employees without going broke doing it
    • treat your team like your family, be respectful
    • if you have to let great people go then do it in the least painless way
    • give them glowing references – you will want to rehire the great ones again some day
  • Try to ignore the share market news, the doom and gloom that dominates social media, the so called  black swan event, the people who said they saw it coming
  • Focus on whats important to you and your survival
Remember this one thing-  your own people are your most valuable asset, protect them as best you can, lead from the front, be bold but not stupid.
See you on the other side, whenever that is!