Whatever you thought 2020 had in store for you and your business is now different.
The record-breaking stock market volatility brought on by the coronavirus COVID-19 and the sudden and severe drop in the price of oil will have an economic effect on us all – some more than others.
We are about to experience a shift. This shift will likely be shorter and not as severe as the last recession, but it will be a shift. So before you let things turn to panic, consider implementing the following steps:
Communicating positively to your employees and customers about new rules, procedures and steps you are taking that will protect them from the virus. Increase your communication on social media channels, communication with suppliers and stakeholders. Send out press releases about how you are handling this situation. Sitting in the dark waiting for things to go back to normal will not help you during this crisis.
Be positive: A crisis can easily turn to worry, panic and negative thinking. Look for small wins every hour. Assign a different employee each day to be the “positive ambassador” of the day. Don’t start or end your day watching story after story on the virus. It’s important to stay up-to-date, but don’t let it become all-consuming.
Know the cycles: There’s some kind of downturn every 7-10 years. We have had a long summer of economic growth and we might now be in fall. We’ve seen a drop in the markets and are already seeing a disruption in the supply chain. It could easily take 90 days to a year to see spring again.
Change proactively: Get ahead of the shift and lead the change. People who waited to change in 2008 got hit hard or went out of business. Start thinking now of how you can potentially change your products, services, pricing, delivery, and staffing. Do not wait. You should be thinking and innovating right now to get ahead of what is to come.
Strategically cut back: In the seasonal cycle, when fall happens, cut back. It will look different for each business, but unnecessary spending is off the table. Cash is king, so have cash at hand. Re-negotiate any terms you can now. Slow down major purchases or postpone. Do not cut back on marketing or selling. Keep investing in the things that help you grow.
Extend credit: Get credit now while they are lending. You’ll want credit lines and credit cards. Find the lowest rates now and refinance.
Adjust staffing: Consider allowing attrition to happen without replacing that position. Suspend bonus programs. Cut hours across the board.
Plan work from home: The future is allowing employees to work from home. Make that change now. Start planning how that will work in your business and the tools and technology your team will need to do that.
Online or deliveries: If customers aren’t coming to you, how will you go to them? Can you go online, over the phone, offer delivery? How will you adjust staffing to accommodate?
Keep marketing, selling: Keep marketing. Marketing keeps you in front of your target. If you disappear from sight, you’ll disappear all together. If anything, market more. Now is a good time to negotiate better marketing rates. Create new offers and rates for your customers. Know your marketing key performance indicators. You conquer what you measure. Get cash up front from customers and offer terms with an incentive to do so.
Focus on repeat customers: Repeat customers are your profit. You’ve already done the work to acquire them, so keep them! Work this database hard. Give them options, specials, a reason to buy. Make a detailed plan of what your offers will be to your established customers.
Prioritize customer service, common sense: Over deliver. Give Ritz-level customer service. It’s about people first. Be nice, even when your customers may not be. People handle stress in many different ways. Keep your business clean and give your team permission to not touch people (no hugs or handshakes).
And lastly, please don’t hoard toilet paper!
the executive’s desk