What’s Your Plan?
Eight weeks ago — a mere two months — we were still wearing parkas, hats, and gloves, concerned about possible snowfall and our late-winter life hummed along as usual. There was something called coronavirus impacting people elsewhere and news about it possibly reaching us. Our lives and businesses weren’t ruled by disruption yet … we didn’t yet have the experience of wearing face masks and standing six feet apart in the grocery line. We’ve now seen firsthand how two months can change everything. But many do not yet understand and know how to emerge from disruption with an action plan to get back to business.
Our business activities have slowed or accelerated exponentially; our ability to work remotely has expanded; and our definition of what’s essential has shifted radically. Most small businesses have taken a deep punch to the gut and some have already closed. Most are also strapped for cash and their prospects for getting revenues back up to pre-coronavirus levels feel shaky.
Fortunately, a number of the small businesses in our communities are beloved neighbors and we have seen an impressive spirit of support and innovation on the part of those businesses, and their customers, to figure out a way to keep going during a pandemic that forces us to stay home …
- Coffee, fish, t-shirts, and face masks are just a few of the things that have been delivered to my door during the past few weeks by intrepid and service-minded businesses.
- Neighbors are pooling resources.
- Restaurants have pivoted from dine-in to delivery and convenience to home-bound individuals has become commonplace.
Necessity has truly shown herself to be the mother of invention, yet there is still plenty of doubt and concern when events are cancelled, shop doors are closed, and clients and customers are tightening their belts.
We Didn’t Choose Disruption. It Chose Us … So, Now What?
The disruption caused by Covid-19 was not of our choosing. We all had our lists of goals we wanted to achieve for 2020, along with a list of headaches that needed addressing. The past month has been a hard time to address either. In fact, the headaches have grown, while the goals moved further away.
Governors and health experts are talking about how we can open up the economy safely, and many are advocating for that to happen sooner rather than later. All businesses that require in-person human interaction — which is most of them — are likely to still be facing restrictions when doors are allowed to open, we can host meetings and events, and serve customers face-to-face. But now, we will have the additional and important responsibility of making sure that we do so in an environment where we can keep our employees and our customers safe.
With this dramatic shift and its subsequent rules and restrictions, the most essential question becomes, what’s the plan? What’s the strategy for when the stay-at-home directives are lifted?
Are you planning to …
- Bring back all of your staff?
- Offer all of the same products and services?
- Offer a new product or service?
- Continue to offer elements of your business in the new way you created during the quarantine?
- Put off upgrading software?
- Invest in advertising to remind customers of your offerings?
In order to get your business back on track, now is the time to prepare, look for ways to recover from the disruption, and create an action plan. There are decisions you can make that will help you return to the business you planned on having in 2020.
If you were lucky — and if you had all the paperwork ready — you may have had a chance to grab some of the fleeting funds available through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) or secured other funding to tide you over while customers are scarce. But the fact is, cash alone isn’t going to help your business return to a healthy place. Even with PPP funding, you need to know how to use it in the best way possible … last year’s financial strategy may actually backfire in today’s coronavirus economic reality.
Assess the Impact. Create the Plan. Move Forward.
To improve the health of your business, make a plan and execute it so your four key operational areas — your people, your customers, your finances, and your systems and tools — are strong.
Just like with our personal health, it’s important to take time and assess how things are going. Be honest and look at the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. You need to understand how this disruption impacted the health of your core operational areas in order to formulate a workable plan. With this plan, you’ll be ready for when the lights go from red to green and you can hit the accelerator to start driving your business back to a healthy place.
The reality is, none of our businesses were in perfect health before the mid-March pump (stomp?!) on the brakes. We all needed to tweak something — add more front-line staff, upgrade software, clean up bookkeeping, expand marketing, etc — but we were going to get to it … eventually. But for all its issues, the Covid-19 pause has given us the opportunity to create positive-impact long-range plans.
So, let’s take this disruption to regroup — and set ourselves up for success. Understanding the impact, along with understanding what changes were already needed in your key operational areas, can inform the development of an Action Plan that will get you ready for the green light and a drive back on the healthy business road.
Assess Key Functional Areas
In her last post, Deb wrote about using the Covid pause to look at the internal systems, processes, etc, that need attention. I agree; this disruption is a great time to:
- Assess each of the key operational areas — your people, customers, finances, and systems and tools
- Use that assessment and develop an Action Plan
- Get started on implementing the plan
You didn’t get to get a chance to methodically and smartly wind down your business before the coronavirus tsunami hit — you either just had to shut your doors or you scrambled HARD to pivot and find a different way to stay in business. However, you do have the time to wind it back up.
During the next eight(+?) weeks as our state and healthcare leaders roll out their plans to reopen our economy, you can work on building momentum for your business and get it moving in the direction of your goals.
So, What’s Your Plan?
Under the best of circumstances, it can be hard to put a strategic plan together by yourself. In today’s situation, it might feel like a colossal obstacle. If you need some perspective and ideas about how to think about your plan for emerging from the disruption, join me TOMORROW at the first learning session of the Randolph Chamber of Commerce‘s “Survive & Thrive: Essential Learning for Your Business” virtual series. I’ll be speaking directly about this topic and how to work on your strategic plan for your business to survive, recover, and grow.
If you’re not on Facebook, you can also register here:
Wed, April 29, 11:30 – 1 p.m.
Thurs, April 30, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m.
(Please note: These are live events. You must register and attend in order to get the information.)
Nothing would make all of us happier than getting back to normal and taking care of the health of our businesses. In the short term, it may be face masks and gloves remain part of the work uniform, but if you put in some time, you’ll know you’re getting back to work with an informed Action Plan.
Guest Post by Liana Cassar
Liana has spent the past 20+ years career working in different sectors of the health care industry, mainly in the Boston, MA and Providence, RI areas. With a background in public health, systems and social services, built through work in the private and public sectors, she is passionate about developing healthy business models built for sustainability. She holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University and an MBA from Simmons College. She enjoys using her skills to help mission-driven organizations and small businesses achieve their goals.
If you’d like to talk about a consult for you or your business team, simply email Liana and she will reach out to schedule a no-obligation discussion.