We’re living in unprecedented times just now. As we write this blog, we remain in quarantine lockdown, like much of the rest of the world. COVID-19 has hit the world with something so unfathomable that it is taking us all – governments, businesses and citizens – time to figure out which way is up.
Every part of our economy is in some form of freefall and this is echoed globally. Volatility of any kind is scary but in business, a sudden change can feel shocking and cause great anxiety. At Take the Stairs, even business consultants are not immune to any of these very natural feelings but as a bunch of natural optimists, we wanted to outline some tips that might help you in trying and tumultuous times.
None of this is new news: but if anyone reads this blog and feels a bit calmer, wants to form a plan to move their business forward, or better understands how to use their time while working from home, then we’ve done what we set out to do. In times of trouble, people need to stick together and this is us, checking in and saying we’re here for you.
So, what does a bunch of business consultants in Nashville advise small businesses to do in the face of adversity? Emulating the remote workforce of our new normal, we joined a Google Hangout from our home offices to discuss our collective thoughts about the strange world we’re currently living in, what businesses might need to do to survive COVID-19, what collective help looks like, and the role that optimism has to play. Read on for our top tips to staying sane and staying in business.
Tip #1: You can perceive the current hardship as a roadblock or an opportunity
When a business faces a tough financial period, it’s important to remember that they aren’t the only ones feeling the pain. With economic volatility, comes pain and plight for your competitors and vendors too. But how you perceive your own particular situation has a lot to do with how you might deal with it: is your glass half-empty or half-full? Is your mind buzzing with what you can do, rather than focusing on what you can’t?
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade
Optimism is a strategy
At Take the Stairs, one of our favorite people to follow is Gary Vaynerchuck, an investor and serial entrepreneur. He has been quoted as saying, “Optimism is a Strategy” and we think he’s right. If you choose to look at struggles as opportunities to innovate or set about doing something that will make your target audience delighted, then you’re building yourself an opportunity to increase your competitive advantage and market share once the market levels back out.
And they will level out: business consultants or not, we’re optimistic too.
Innovate, innovate, innovate
In lots of situations, innovation is king. And in times of hardship, never more so. Remember that innovation is anything that makes your products or service better: it’s about changing your business model and your environment (if applicable) to deliver more of what your customers want.
Change a process and find a nice upsurge in your productivity. Research your customers’ needs and trends in the marketplace to find tweaks you can make to your product or service. If you delight current customers or gain new ones as a result, you’ve won the innovation game.
And once you’ve won at innovating, watch the flock of talent that wants to join your business. Creative people who will come up with the next big thing, fad or trend are more likely to want to work for a company that is known for thinking outside of the box.
Tip #2: Keep your essential employees on staff as long as possible
It’s been said a million times but that doesn’t make it false: your people are your company’s best assets. Don’t forget, your team helped get you where you are with the business, so if you’re able to reward their loyalty, try to do so.
Where possible, keep your staff on board, even if it means making some kind of financial deal with them. During rough economic patches in the past, companies have found creative ways to compromise where full salaries are not an option. Core staff might agree to take a percentage of their pay in return for the promise of a raise after the crisis or you might be able to offer additional PTO days.
It’s also very important to show your team that you are making sacrifices too. Be open and honest about any bonus or salary cuts for you and your executives. If you and your leadership team don’t share in the burden of financial distress, you may find that the trust you have spent years building with your employees is completely destroyed.
Tip #3: Try to work on trade deals with your vendors
In trying times, your operating spend is likely to be affected. This is the same for everyone, including your vendors. Keep your communications channels open and actively seek out overlaps in what you and your vendors offer. If you can find these sweet spots, see if you can enter into some old-fashioned bartering of services.
As an example, Take the Stairs might offer free content writing to our printing company in exchange for normal print materials. Such barter opportunities are not so hard to find once you start looking for what your vendors need.
Whether the trade works out or not, your vendors will appreciate your efforts to remain in contact and to be helpful.
Tip #4: Helping people is always a good look
In tricky economic times, it’s highly likely that your clients are just like you and not able to pay for all of their current expenses and having to make cuts. There’s no point in getting angry about it, but there IS a point to seeing what you can do to alleviate the pressure they’re experiencing.
- Is there any additional value you can give your customers?
- Can you offer added services to an existing service for the same price?
- Or perhaps you have a short-term discounted rate for your most loyal customers?
Whatever you can do to make things a little easier is better than nothing and your clients will appreciate your trying.
We’ve touched briefly on how you can help your employees and vendors in such tumultuous economic times. As well as trying to keep as many on staff as possible with financial compromises, don’t forget people that generally work in an office might find the shift to being part of a remote workforce a little difficult.
Make the transition to working from home as easy as possible with a decent communications package that will allow them to keep in touch with you and the rest of the team, easily and regularly. There are lots of good conferencing tools available, many of which can easily convert from their primary function of a means to talk to out-of-state relatives. Keep your team spirit alive with daily ‘huddles’ as a good way to touch base with people, and encourage group chats and online document tools for seamless and stress-free collaboration.