5 Tips To Looking After Your Business During Covid-19Mar 21, 2020
As I write this, we are going through a change in markets, in business, in people that we have never seen before - certainly since the Great Depression. And not many of us lived through that.
Daily I'm hearing of massive job layoffs, of thriving businesses closing overnight.
And we are wondering how deep is the bottom and what will I do to survive?
If you are a business owner - unless you are one of the few that is selling online conferencing, face masks or toilet paper - then your customers have been dropping off like Lemmings off a cliff.
This business - Guy Mullon Coaching - is no different. While yes our coaching and courses are mostly online, our main channel for generating new leads is through making public keynotes and keynotes to businesses.
All of a sudden, all our workshops and presentations have been cancelled indefinitely. The channel for new business has gone.
So as I write this - my top 5 tips to ensure your business survives the Covid-19 crisis - I am writing first and foremost to myself.
So, here goes - the things I am doing right now to position my business to survive Covid-19 and be stronger out the other side.
Strategy #1 - Recognize the season has changed
In Melbourne we have a saying - in fact it got turned into a song by Kiwi band Crowded House - that Melbourne can have 4 seasons in one day.
Don't like the weather? wait an hour and it will change.
Just like we have seasons in the climate that makes certain weather more or less likely, so also does business have seasons.
Business does run in cycles - not always of the same length - but changes of seasons none the less.
- Spring is typically seen as a time of birth or re-birth of new ideas. A time when new vision, new goals and new strategies are dreamed up and started.
- Summer is a time of rapid growth and of profit as the strategies dreamed up in spring are in full swing. A time when deals are done and the sun shines on business profits. Making money is relatively easy.
- Autumn is a time of slowed growth, past strategies are coming to the end of their useful life, and planning needs to be done to ensure the business doesn't go backwards as winter kicks in.
- Winter is a time of rethinking, consolidation and maybe cutbacks on discretionary spending, when cashflow is tight and business that have cash reserves and strong and diverse cashflow survive the cold business days. They can have the time and space to prepare for transition to the opportunities that are emerging.
Different things can trigger a change of season. It could be the dot.com bubble of unsustainable and unjustified gains back in the 1990's, or it could be the reckless lending leading to GFC in 2007, or it could be a war or world-wide pandemic like Covid-19.
The season has changed.
Doing business has changed virtually overnight.
You might think the virus reaction is overblown, that we are over-reacting. Doesn't matter. Perception is reality because the scared people out there are your customers. You need to take your blinkers off as fast as possible and recognize that a change has happened.
Summer is over, we are now in autumn, and rapidly moving into winter.
How long will this season last? Who knows. But first things first is to recognize the world you are operating your business in has changed.
Accept it, and move to step to two.
Strategy #2 - F / A / C
FAC - Flexibility, Action orientated and Creative.
I believe these are the three key attributes that need to come to the surface during the autumn and winter seasons.
Allow me to explain why:
F is for be flexible - you must be willing to pivot to different strategies that are required in the new season. Old ones won't work. You must pivot. You wouldn't continue to wear a t-shirt and shorts in the snow, so don't let your pride and stubborn mindedness stop you from being flexible with every aspect of your business.
C is for being creative - you need to devote time to thinking and creating based on what you will find people now need in this new season. A new season needs new ideas. Don't be like Kodak that missed the whole digital camera thing. Now this can seem crazy because you a re scrambling to keep your ship afloat, but that's the point.
- A is for action - you have to take even more action than ever. This is not the season to sit back and allow the funnels and channels you have set up bring in the money while you sleep. You have to be like a warrior strapping on your armor, and getting out into the battle. Success comes on the other side of that battle, and the other side of the battle only comes through taking persistent and consistent action until it has been won.
So I recommend working out each day how you are going to be creative, show flexibility in your business and exactly how you are going to step up your action taking.
It's your choice. The outcomes for your business are in your hands and depend on the choices you make in F / A / C.
Strategy #3 - Watch Your Cash flow
I never cared about cash flow in the corporate world. I had no idea what it was, let alone why it was important. But when I co-founded a very very skinny (at the start) energy trading firm, I soon learned that I needed to see and understand current cash flow every single day.
To ignore cash flow during the winter season of business is like riding a bicycle on the freeway in the dark with no lights or reflectors. You might survive, but I wouldn't try it too often. It might get messy.
A business during the winter season gets squeezed from both sides.
On one side, customers are hard to come by and even harder to convince to pay you on time during winter.
On the other side, your costs probably go up and you have less flexibility in your payment terms to your lenders and suppliers. The resulting squeeze can kill your cash flow very quickly.
What to do?
Work hard on making small gains on both sides. Here are some ideas:
- First, do a 3-6 month cash flow forecast. Include everything you can think of that will result in cash in or cash out. From there, where & when does your cash flow get tight? What could go wrong in your assumptions?
- Then, start with where you see the forecast being tight. On the accounts payable side, ring your suppliers and try and negotiate terms that suit you better, and that would give you more breathing space. Ring all your other suppliers, and negotiate better terms. It is much better to ring and get ahead of the curve than to have the conversation after you have not paid a bill.
- On the other side, have a firm but fair process for accounts receivable. Don't tolerate people mucking you around - people not paying you. Sure, someone can come to you ahead of time and negotiate terms, but do not tolerate people saying they will pay and not keeping their word. Be fair until they lie, then be tough.
Cut discretionary spending. This is not the time to have business-paid-by-work lunches, conference trips and other things that do not directly drive sales and support customers
- Reduce fixed costs. Fixed costs kill cash flow in the winter season. They can go from just a background cost of running business, to a killer of your business keeping you awake at night. So eliminate ones you don't absolutely need. Can you find another supplier that has a higher variable component of their price plan? During a winter season, existing suppliers do not want to lose you, and all but the big boys will renegotiate. Similarly, your suppliers competitors are bending over backwards for new customers. Use this to negotiate terms which are more variable - by that I mean more directly linked to your sales numbers.
- Find ways to reduce the resistance of customers to buy from you. How you do that will be specific to your business, but the first and most obvious example is offer payment terms rather than insist on full upfront payment. Obviously this is transferring risk to you, so tread carefully. But the lower you can make resistance to buying from you, then the more customers you are likely to have.
Systemize more of your business to cut waste and inefficiency. This season could be a great time to do this, so that when things ramp up again you have better systems, procedures and processes to handle the scaling of your business seamlessly.
Most of all though, watch your cash flow carefully. Profits 12 months from now are no good if you can't pay your bills tomorrow.
Strategy #4 - Get On Top Of Your Own Mental Game
Running a business is stressful. I thought being in corporate was stressful, but even when the responsibilities were large I could always still come home and shut it off until tomorrow. Running a business is different. You are it.
Overwhelm is real. Burn out is real, and very very dangerous.
But remember this: Your business is important, but it isn't the most important thing.
Priorities Are Key
Work out for yourself how your business fits into your life-priorities. Keep it in context. I've had multiple failed businesses. It happens, and you can survive.
And so whatever is going on in your business, keep it in context and look after your mental health.
This is obviously a huge topic and the subject of many academic papers, books and courses, but here are a few quick things you can do now:
BRAIN: First, your thoughts are critical. The best strategies in the world will be useless if you can not rule your own mind. You have tens of thousands of thoughts each day, and none of them are harmless. Your thoughts drive your emotions and attitudes and your words and action and inaction, and even physical changes within your brain and body. BUT you do have the power to decide which thoughts to keep, which to discard and insert new thoughts that are aligned with your goals. Take charge of your mind. Only you can do it.
- TOXIC: If you find you are having recurring, toxic thoughts, write them down each day and beside them write out new thoughts that can replace them that are not toxic, that are helpful and will drive you towards your goals. For example:
- Toxic thought: "I'm useless at this" Healthy thoughts: "I can do this!", "I can find a way to get this done", "This is possible, I'll find another way." and "I'll get better at this as I persevere."
- what does this do? It slows down then reverses a path leading to unhealthy decisions and loss, and turns your direction into one of hope, optimisim, action and value
- INVEST: Invest in your own personal development. That may seem crazy when money is tight, but it is even more necessary than ever. Why? because unless you are at your best and make changes to your habits, your work practices, the way you relate to others and your mental health, you or your marriage or your business may not survive seeing spring.
During good times investing in yourself looks like a luxury, and ad-on that you can now afford. But during the business winter seasons, it is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to survive. It is what separates you from your competition, and it is what enables you to cope with additional pressure to see all your responsibilities through to the season of spring again.
So how should you invest in yourself today? Some ideas:
Your leadership capability - how well are others responding to your leadership? It's not them, it's you.
Your mental mastery - stop losing the battle over your own mind!
New and better skills and knowledge - changing times require new ideas and strategies that can be known and executed quickly
Your character - there is a temptation to get a 'me first' attitude during business winter, but this is counter productive and you'll pay a price that you will regret paying. Don't do it!
Strategy #5 - Get Supported
Right now in my business things have radically changed as well. The strategies I'm writing here are as applicable to my own business as they are to yours. For us, one of our main channels for gaining customers has vanished. Gone, as Covid-19 prevents indoor gatherings. No longer can I go into businesses and deliver trainings. No longer can I book and run public events in wineries or health clubs or other venues.
My 1/2 day workshops have also been cancelled, as face to face performance training is no longer an option for delivering value to clients.
Isolation of You Must Not Be Isolation Of Your Business - Guy Mullon
Bit this time of isolation is not a time to isolate my business.
I am in fact expanding to bring in additional services that can help me change and execute faster. Yes, it will require me to dip into reserves. Yes it seems counter-intuitive.
But everyone else is doing what seems intuitive, and everyone else is going to suffer.
So the choice is to either to hold onto what I have and see it slowly slip through my fingers - like dying from a thousand cuts - or to seize the day and invest in additional resources that give me the capacity to see and take more opportunities than before.
What areas do you need to increase your capabilities?
- Is it in your people, their productivity, their ability to remain focused, their teamwork while separated from you and others?
- Is it your processes that need re-thinking, streamlining, or outsourcing?, or
- Is it you that needs support? ... even if it is juts accountability or a sounding board to let out ideas and frustrations?
The best way to lift your game, is to bring in specialised support so that you can do more of what you do best quicker and to a higher standard - Guy Mullon
Is this an exhaustive list? No. Is this all you should be doing? Of course not, but these 5 strategies are strategies that you should give some serious thought to. Bring them up in your list. Elevate them in priority. Every business and situation is different, so there could be other things specific to your situation. This is general advice for this time and season, and not specific to your business.
So which of these 5 startegies are you going to do? Send me an email to guy 'at' guymulloncoaching.com (replace the 'at with an @) and let me know.
Postscript: I am ramping up my capacity to hold more online keynotes than ever. Express your interest and grab a spot now -
Is today the day to start change for you?
Don't put it off another day.
Book a free confidential consultation 1 on 1 with Coach Guy.
No strings, no judgement, just clarity over your next steps.
You'll be glad you did, GUARANTEED!
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason. Our reputation depends on it.