As a business coach, it feels like there’s never been such an important time to be a business coach than this time. I want to share some steps that might help your business survive in these times.
Some businesses don’t exist anymore because the action we’ve had to take in the face of this coronavirus has meant that customers no longer need their product or service. And this has a deadly impact on the whole supply chain.
The coronavirus is spreading so quickly and governments are taking such swift action on a daily basis that people are panicking and that leads to more problems in business: poor decision making, paralysis, worry, negativity. It’s a downward spiral. But now, if we watch the pattern in other countries that have passed – or are moving – through the coronavirus cycle we have more knowledge about what is likely to happen in our own cycle. And that must be a positive.
It’s great – and essential – that the Government has stepped in to take massive action to provide cash for businesses. And we are grateful for that. In addition to help from the Government, the job of a business coach right now is to help their business clients stay calm and take steps to ensure they survive right now. First we need to survive. If we can do that, then we can thrive.
How could a business coach help?
A business coach has your back. Their job is to provide an objective external perspective to help you build a plan to survive over these next 90 days and beyond, to make sure you have the skills and tools to make this plan achievable, it’s someone to talk to, offload on, to keep you focused, to help you stay calm and of course to hold you accountable.
Here are 13 steps to take now that you might want to build into your next 90 day plan as appropriate.
Communication has never been so important. We need to communicate with our team every day (even if through video), with our customers, with our networks via social media or online meetings, suppliers and stakeholders.
Ask yourself who do I need to communicate with and what are the messages I need to communicate? It’s vital that the business owner communicates much much more than they used to with their people. We need to be having daily meetings with our staff and maybe twice or three times a day if all of our staff are now working from home.
2. Be Positive and build resilience
If you haven’t already done this, it’s a good idea to build daily rituals into your day to get your brain in a good state. Go for a walk every day. Know that there is always opportunity in times of massive change. Turn off the News! Sometime no news is good news. Find small wins to be grateful for everyday. Ask yourself how can we win through this? Stay focused on what can be done. There is negativity all around. How do you make sure you’re the most positive person there is?
3. Know the cycles of the economy
We go through the seasons in business – Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter -normally in cycles of 7-10 years. The coming economic winter will not be the same as the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. And remember that after winter comes the spring!
4. Understand change
Don’t wait to have to change. Get ahead and take action now: lead the change! Make the change to a leaner, faster, better business. Look at your products, services, pricing, delivery, staffing, even the whole business. Is there anything that needs to change now? What is the change you’re going to make? Look to see the businesses that are growing out of this current situation. How can your business help them?
We all need to change our business model now through pivoting. Your business goal should remain the same but you will need to change how you achieve that by pivoting your business in small steps. Businesses that are now out of business obviously have to make a huge pivot. There will be many opportunities for businesses that shift and do it right. The business coach’s goal is to help the business do this, to get them to remember the wildest ideas the business had once but never got round to implementing. Now is that time!
5. Cashflow management
We need to be cutting costs in these times but not crazily. Negotiate your existing contracts. Remember to keep paying your important suppliers and partners – you do not want to fall out with them in this time! Take note of the programmes the Government has put together and do not ignore them. Speak to your accountant for advice. We need to be getting as much cash in the bank and credit lines extended as possible right now, just in case! The ideal is to have at least 3 times your outgoings in your bank right now.
6. Staffing cuts/changes
Take holidays now if you can – obviously you won’t be going anywhere but there will be some things around the house that need doing, for sure! Do you have to lay staff off? Layoffs kill morale so if you can get away with it, find other ways. The Government promises to pay 80% of the salary of furloughed staff so take advantage of that scheme if you have no work for certain employees. Take employment law advice. Consider pay cuts, reduced hours, suspending any bonus schemes.
7. Work from home if you can
We will all have to use more technology now, using online meetings and webinars, for example, to communicate with our staff when they have to be able to work from home. We’ll have to be able to manage employees online which raises the questions about how we get our staff to report in every day, how do we do our financial reporting? We will need to do our 121 meetings via the phone or videoconferencing such as Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams. You’ll need to make sure your staff are set up properly and safely at home to work remotely.
When people work from home, remotely, the biggest thing to tackle may be that people don’t feel part of the team. So we have to work hard to ensure that that split does not happen. Keep communicating.
When you hold meetings using technology, it’s even more important to have an agenda and to stick to it, as short and succinct as possible. Make sure that everyone on the call/in the meeting contributes. You need 100% inclusion and involvement to get the best out of the team and ensure employee engagement.
8. Online and deliveries
You may need to consider how you continue to deliver to your customers if you can’t go to them and they can’t come to you. Online shopping is quickly becoming the norm. You have to have a shop on your website right now. Take your retail shop online to remain competitive. If you’re already online you’re ahead of the game – seize the opportunities!
9. Marketing and selling
We need to change our marketing adverts to match these times. Our message has to be different, to be sensitive and compassionate. But we must NOT stop our marketing. We need to be doing much more than before. Add some urgency, show that you’re helping people. When you do this virtually, it will go viral. Be the business that people know they need to come to. And make sure you know your marketing numbers better than ever at this time: you need to be showing that for every £1 you invest in marketing, you’re getting at least (and preferably more than!) £2 back.
Selling has to shift now too. Your customer has to know he or she is number one. We have to have great empathy with our customers. Relationships are more important than ever right now. Show compassion.
10. Customer service for repeat business
There is no more important thing to keep than your existing customer base. Existing customers are your best customers. Remember that repeat business equals profit. Ask yourself what am I doing right now to ensure I keep all my existing customers on board? Create deals just for them. Do not ignore your existing customers. You have to deliver even more great service than you did before. Communication is vital. Keep in touch with all of them. Send them critical non essentials.
11. Commonsense and compassion
Over deliver on customer service. In these times, demonstrate your business is clean and don’t touch people. Provide hand sanitiser everywhere. Put people first. Be pleasant and calm, stay kind, healthy and strong. Finally, focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do.
12. Get the most from your people.
How can you move your people from cost centres to profit centres so that they’re selling and making money for the business? Some jobs in your business may be gone for now. Do you lay off these people or retrain them? Remember this current crisis is months not years. How can you use your people more productively? You may have to put them on furlough. But if you really should have fired them before, perhaps you need to do that now. Keep as many as you can but shift them into making money for the business.
13. Plan for 90 days
There’s a lot of fear around right now. The leader’s job is to turn that fear into focus. We need to step up, develop a plan to survive and give our people somewhere exciting to go, something to move them forward with passion. Your business could actually become stronger as a result.
This is for 90 days. What will you market and sell during this period? How will you deliver and charge? Start your plan by asking how can you make sure we survive this? Then ask how do we thrive? It’s crucial to have a documented 90 day plan. Things change quickly so you’ll also need a weekly plan and a daily plan. There’s a great quote from Kevin J Donaldson, “Going into business without a business plan is like going on a mountain trek without a map or GPS support – you’ll eventually get lost or starve”.
We must act now. Do not wait and just rely on the Government to help you. We need to be moving with speed and urgency just like the virus is.