COVID-19 and Preparing Your Business
Coronavirus is nothing new for your business.
It’s causing the same risks that have always been there but the scale of the pandemic and the market volatility has moved it up the priority list.
The biggest risk to our business as entrepreneurs is still that we will not be able to be there for an extended period of time – whether that’s the flu, a stomach bug or Corona. Nothing new here.
And for those imagining that, as entrepreneurs already working from home, isolation is simply business as usual, the reality is that you may not be able to work if you are ill or a family member is or the kids are screaming the place down with cabin fever after a few days.
I’m not downplaying the pandemic by any means, Corona is scary AF but if you remove the fear and focus on the practicality, it’s a simpler situation to navigate.
So, what can we do right now to give our businesses the best chance to survive?
Be a Good Human
Communicate, communicate and communicate some more
At this moment in time, your clients are wondering when they’ll catch the virus, what groceries to stockpile, what the heck is happening to their retirement fund and whether their kids really washed their hands for 20 seconds.
Don’t be another question mark for them – another thing on their figure out list.
Telling your clients what your plan is ahead of time will be met with a lot more empathy than canceling on them last minute because you were unprepared. More is more and sooner is better than later
Ask yourself, what would you want to know and answer it.
Add in flexibility
Wherever possible, allow your clients to cancel on a moment’s notice because they feel ill or they suddenly have tiny humans invading their office as schools close.
Ask yourself, how would I like to be treated as a client and do that.
Launching and selling
This feels like a tricky space for entrepreneurs at the moment as we try to balance our need to push through our planned launch or make sales to keep our business running and knowing that some people who’ll be seeing it are in really tough times financially and personally.
Only you can really make a call on what to do but this would be a good time for some reflection – are you coming from a place of service and filling a need? Or are you taking advantage of people’s fear and the situation?
If it is the former, there’s no reason not to proceed but you’ll want to check your planned content and ads one more time to make sure there’s nothing that now feels tone-deaf in there.
Ask yourself how you would feel if you were in a high-risk group or quarantined and saw the sales CTA on social and, if you get the ick, it might be time to push pause.
Review your content
All of your content does not suddenly need to be scrapped and focused onto Covid-19 related topics but do go back and review your upcoming posts, blogs and videos to make sure they are still appropriate in the new normal.
The rule of thumb here (as it always should be) is if you ask yourself if something is a little tone-deaf, it probably is.
Ask yourself how you can show up as the bright spot in someone’s day or feed and make that happen.
Prepare to be unable to work as soon as tomorrow.
Decide what is vital, important and nice to have
We make better decisions when we are calm and thoughtful not frantic and rushed so deciding now what can immediately be dropped at the first cough (nice to have) and what needs the 30 minutes of brainpower you do have or a backup plan (vital) will be a much more reasoned decision.
Go into your project management system, spreadsheet or to-do list and create a list of every type of task you do, for example, write a blog, client 1:1 calls, masterminds etc then decide which of these are truly vital to your business, eg is it really essential you post on your IG feed for that week you might be ill?
If you want to get even more prepared rank the vital tasks from 1 to X so you don’t even need to think about where to start.
If you don’t already have detailed procedures and process notes, start documenting right now. As you do a task (especially the vital ones) record your screen and talk through the process as you do it.
Imagine someone with no experience or knowledge trying to do this for you and that’s the level of detail you are aiming for.
Please note: these are emergency system notes – ideally they would be converted to actual process docs and checklists but right now we are going for speed.
Figure out your back up plan
If it is vital to your business and you can’t do it what then? Could your partner step in, your VA step up or could you put someone on retainer just in case? Could a peer help out in return you help them?
If you have a team start cross-training them in each other’s tasks and duties.
Remember to consider HOW you perform those vital tasks as well, for example, if you’re on virtual conference calls have a back-up method of reaching the client set up and communicated to them. Remember Zoom, Skype, Loom and all our other favorite tools are going to be working overtime with all the new work from home people.
To decide what needs a back-up plan, grab my Any Day Crisis Plan Template that walks you through the decision making process.
Prepare emergency emails
Prepare cancellation cut and paste emails and out of office messages ahead of time. It will be way easier to cut and paste if you are struggling to concentrate or for your VA to do it than to try and compose a thoughtful email while your mind is elsewhere.
Not sure what to say, grab my friend Jacq Fisch’s small business crisis communications swipe file here
Precrastinate and batch like it’s your job
Precrastination is the need to do everything as soon as possible. If something is on that vital list (or could get there in a week or two as a deadline looms) and you can do it now – do it.
Think about how you could help people who need to stop paying you but keep them connected, for example, a paused membership is way better than someone who quietly cuts and runs by canceling credit card charges.
Pivot if you need to
If your business is affected, consider pivoting or getting a side hustle even for the short term.
Start brainstorming all your other talents and ways you could use them if you need to. This doesn’t have to be your purpose or passion, simply an extra money generator to weather the storm.
Prepare for financial blips
When markets are unstable people get scared and when people get scared they stop spending. You have to assume your revenue will be impacted at some point so here are some things to consider now.
Know your numbers
Knowing your revenue, cost and profit numbers mean you can see at a glance how much wiggle room you have. This will allow you to view any drop in sales more objectively and stop panic-induced poor decisions.
Decide what to cut and when
We don’t need to go into a doom and gloom spiral right now but calm thoughtful planning is better than desperate hunting for money every time.
If your revenue was to begin to dip, which business costs would you be prepared to let go first. Actually rank them and think about alternatives.
Consider when you’ll need to make any cuts by deciding how much wiggle room needs to be eaten up to trigger the first change.
This is a great time to do a systems audit and find all those tools you are paying for and never use. A shortcut for this – search your email for “login” and dig into what you don’t recognize.
Look closer to home
Some of the biggest pressure on the business comes from needing to support you, the CEO, and your lifestyle. Whether you take this as a salary or from profit, if you reduce your need, you reduce your stress.
Looking at your personal budget, consider what could be cut, if necessary, in the short term. Nothing needs to be a permanent change but maybe there is something you don’t really use or need that you could sacrifice to give the business (and you) some breathing room.
Just like in the business cost review, think about when you’d make the call and for how long you’d make the cut.
Stop spending money that is not yours
If someone has paid you upfront and you have not yet fully delivered what they paid for, they can and may ask for a refund.
This goes for any time in business but right now if things get tight financially for your clients, they may need to make some hard choices between your service and some real-life essentials for their family. If you have spent their refund money, the scramble to regenerate it will feel especially stressful in the current climate.
Start saving now
If you don’t have 3-6 months' costs in the bank now is the time to start funneling any extra profit there. This will buy you time and peace of mind. Don’t forget to include your salary in the cost number too.
Rule of Thumb
No one knows for sure what the impact of the virus will be – if we’ll flatten the curve, enter a recession or go stir crazy in our homes. But there is one simple rule of thumb – be a good human.
To your clients, your neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store who is risking her health to support you or the uber driver who helps you avoid public transport.
Show up and lead where you can, support where you’re needed and be a good human.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Diane Mayor disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.