“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar
At our July Peer Advisory Board (PAB) meeting on Exit Planning, the discussion was around what business looks like as we re-emerge and get back to business in this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. We focused on addressing what responsibilities business owners face and what steps can be and have been taken to optimize success and keep business moving forward. This process may involve a step forward then a step back as businesses and state and local governments find the balance between being open and staying safe.
There’s no question that our business environment has shifted and in some ways those shifts may be long-term. So how can you effectively transition, giving attention to the present while keeping an eye on the future? Here is a peek into what the business owners on our board had to share.
Coronavirus Relief Funding
If your business is eligible, you can still apply through the Small Business Administration (SBA) for EIDL – the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Grants (forgivable funds) were available for a time but were depleted as of July 11th. It is unknown whether those funds will be replenished with the next stimulus package. Check the details at SBA to find out whether you are eligible for the loan and how to apply.
Applications can still be submitted through August 8th for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). These funds have the potential to all be forgiven if they are spent according to very specific guidelines and within the designated timeframe. If you have or get PPP funds, check out my blog, Get the Greatest Benefits From Your PPP Funds, to ensure that you are spending and accounting for your use of the funds in keeping with the guidelines for forgiveness of the loan.
These days, the only constant is change, and it’s hard to predict what to expect in terms of the day-to-day changes we may face. A prudent approach is to adapt, anticipate and be resourceful. Ask these questions as you consider what you’ve already done that is working for you.
- How has your company grown or how have you grown personally?
- What obstacles have you overcome and how?
- How has your company pivoted? Are there additional possibilities you should explore?
- Have you made changes that were intended to be temporary that will benefit your business long-term?
- What new opportunities do you see?
- Where do you find hope?
- What are you grateful for?
Focus on further defining and strengthening new ideas and practices. Build more flexibility into your business plan and operations. Since you’re dealing with a situation that calls for a contingency plan, now is a perfect time to develop one or tweak the one you have.
Bringing Employees Back
The consensus of our Peer Advisory Board was that a business owner’s greatest responsibility right now is keeping employees and customers safe. That, of course, involves continuing to follow protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and/or your own state and local public health mandates. Those guidelines may mean:
- Employees are required to wear masks
- Gloves may be required for some industries
- Frequent hand washing
- Hand sanitizer should be available, especially if hand washing is not always an option
- Frequent sanitizing of surfaces
- Physical distancing
- Barriers are in place between work areas or between employees and customers
Employees may experience a new type of stress that is associated with work, fears of being exposed to the virus, or issues with family or finances that have arisen as a result of the situation. Take time to connect with each employee, know what’s going on in their lives, and find ways to support them through these transitions, reminding them they are not in this alone.
Perhaps invite in a mental health professional to provide tips for dealing with stress or a financial professional to help them deal with budgets that have been stretched thin; there are no cost and low cost options for both. Boost morale with positive distractions or gestures of appreciation like surprise breaks, meals, a gift card for a meal or groceries. Mask-wearing may be with us for a while. So make it more pleasant by finding well-made, easy to use masks; even consider providing nice masks, donned with your company logo. Involve employees in initiating and developing ideas for change, cutting expenses, and improving efficiency. They are the ones who do the work and may have great insight – and the participation instills a sense of control and accomplishment. Remember – you don’t have to go it alone either! Always keep lines of communication open and make yourself accessible. Take a look at your culture. Has it shifted? Does it need to? Check out my blog, Cultivating Company Culture in the COVID Era, for ideas.
Has all or part of your staff worked remotely during stay-at-home orders? If so, can your business continue to work as efficiently, or more so, with staff working from home? If this might work well for you long-term, you could save costs in terms of office space, utilities, insurance and more. Specifics to consider might include:
- What percentage or employees can work from home?
- How do you determine who works remotely and when?
- Do you have the technology you need?
- Do your employees have the technology they need at home to do their work effectively?
- Do you have a communications plan that works?
- Do your employees need more training to work remotely?
Some of our PAB members plan to switch permanently to implementing remote work options.
Connecting With Customers
With the safety of employees and customers of paramount concern, follow protocols for customers as you would for employees. These protocols may include limiting occupancy which could require changing or staggering your hours of operation, rearranging your interior layout, or using outdoor areas to conduct business. Some questions to ask include:
- How are you communicating requirements to clients? Make the tone of your requests and requirements friendly and understanding and find ways to say thank you for your customers’ cooperation.
- How are you reaching out and encouraging business? Check in with clients to see how they are doing. Ask what they need and how you can help. You may get some great ideas from these conversations.
- How are customers responding? As with employees, keep lines of communication open!
Customer service needs may have changed and issues may need to be addressed. Employees may require additional training. To identify your needs ask:
- What’s changed in terms of our customers’ needs?
- Does our current customer service philosophy and plan work? If not, what needs to change?
- How are we making clients feel comfortable?
- How do we demonstrate our appreciation?
- Are we training employees on safe protocols?
- Is other new/additional training needed?
- Who’s providing the training and how?
Reassessing HOW you do business with your customers may result in some great new ways to better serve them and express your thanks for their loyalty.
Although these times come with challenges, they are rich with opportunity. Keep an attitude of gratitude and possibility, and be kind. We truly are all in this together and the more we cooperate and help each other, the sooner we will work through it – and come out the other side stronger and wiser.
As you’ve dealt with changes and dug deep into the details of your business, you may have discovered that it’s also a good time to re-evaluate your long-term goals and exit strategy. The earlier you start to plan, the greater your chances of success at exiting on your terms, and the greater the opportunity to navigate through unexpected changes that can most certainly happen. Contact me for a complimentary consultation to discuss starting or revising your exit plan.