Things the pandemic taught me about managing a business
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, I, like most business owners, had to learn how to manage a business in a crisis.
Nothing prepares you for something like COVID. It tested our leadership, cash flow management, HR, marketing, client relations and product development skills. It has led to mental and physical stress, and in many cases, isolation.
I believe we still have a long way to go before we see the impacts of the pandemic on businesses, our physical and mental health, and the resiliency of the world around us. But now is the time to start thinking of what post-COVID will look like for us and our businesses and the changes we can make now to give us the best chance of success and growth.1. Embrace change and learn to adapt.
The one thing we know about this pandemic is that there are lots of things we don’t know. That’s hard for people who like to have things planned out with strict timelines and deadlines. Look at this time as an opportunity to shake up your sales strategy, find ways to pivot if you need to, add new products or services that use your team’s skills or see if there are ways you can be more efficient post-pandemic. Develop multiple scenarios for your long-term goals. And take things day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute.2. Take control of your finances.
If you don’t have a good monthly cash flow and budget strategy, now’s a great time to create one. I’m personally a fan of the Profit First model developed by Mike Michalowicz and implemented a modified version at our company in January 2020. (Talk to your accountant to see what works best for you.) We continue to spend within our means, set aside cash for special projects and rainy days, and have cash on hand to meet cash flow shortfalls due to late payments, which we are seeing more frequently lately. Also, keep debt in check and do a thorough review of your expenses to eliminate unnecessary ones.3. Be a little (or really) selfish.
This is especially important for women business owners who tend to be collaborative, help others, be attentive to everyone’s needs and put the needs of their families and teams ahead of their own. But in a pandemic, I think it is okay to be selfish. I’m not saying you shouldn’t help others. But I do recommend weighing every request for your time very carefully by asking yourself three questions:
1. Is doing this other task for someone important enough to me to take time away from focusing on my physical and mental health?
2. Is it taking time away from the work I need to do on my business to survive?
3. Is it going to take valuable time away that I would spend with my family?
If the answer is no, politely explain your situation and offer to refer the person to someone else if you can.4. Monitor your mental and physical health.
For many of us, we were in crisis mode the first few weeks of remote work. We were completing time-sensitive projects for clients, getting our teams and families settled, applying for PPP and EIDL and dealing with the unknown. After a few months, we’re starting to see another impact of COVID – mental and physical health issues. Schedule (or reschedule) routine medical and dental appointments and talk openly with your health care providers about any and all physical and mental challenges you are having. Take a breath and factor in down time so that you can clear space in your mind for creativity. Evaluate your eating (and drinking) patterns and move more each day. Essentially, take care of yourself first and you will be able to better take are of others.5. Stay in front of your customers and prospects.
One unfortunate consequence of this pandemic is the closure of many businesses. For those companies staying in business, it is important to remind your customers and prospects that you are there for them when they need you, whether it is now or later. Be customer focused in your communications and continue to show value. Provide free educational opportunities like we are doing with our Dot Org Café and Coffee Shop webinar series and blogs. Pick up the phone and call key customers or past customers to let them know how important they are to you.6. Use this time as an opportunity to get things done.
For those of us working from home some or most of the time, our schedules look a little different. With no commute or driving to meetings, we may have some longer pockets of time in our day to get things done. Use this found time as an opportunity to work on lingering tasks. Is there a new service you can add? Create the business plan. Do you have processes and workflows that aren’t working? Fine tune them or create new ones. Do you just have a “to do” list that is lingering? Focus on checking a few things off each week. Accomplishing these tasks feels great and gives you additional mental space to plan and strategize new things.7. Find meaningful ways to connect with others.
Call, email or text an old friend or business acquaintance you haven’t seen or heard from in a while and tell them you’ve been thinking about them. Get a group together for monthly calls around a particular goal or interest. Join a hiking or running club for socially distanced activity and camaraderie. People are craving personal connection after being isolated for so long and the time you spend with others will benefit everyone.
It is amazing how a crisis forces us as business owners to look for ways to run our businesses better. It has been scary at times for sure, but overall, the pandemic has forced us to think differently and try things that we wouldn’t have done before. And we hope it helps us come out of this pandemic stronger, with a solid growth strategy and the ability to serve our customers better than ever.
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