Running Your Business through the Lockdown

Posted 80 days ago by Phil Vialoux

14 Apr 2020

If you’ve been hit for a six by the coronavirus lockdown, you’re not alone. The impact has been financial, emotional, and mental – a lack of certainty around the future can dramatically increase stress levels.

During this time, there are still things we can do to look after our team, our customers, our business and ourselves. 

Survival Phase

Many of us have gone through this phase, but it’s worth recapping some key things we need to work through. 

Firstly, we need to get our finances together and ensure we can survive the first four weeks of level 4 lockdown. You’ll want to review all of your expenses, to minimise outflows, and make sure your business is in the best possible shape to weather the storm. That way you’re ready when we come out the other side. 

For many of us, our highest costs are leases, mortgages and staff. If you haven’t already, apply for the government wage subsidy, talk to your team about potential solutions, discuss your lease with your landlord, and consider a mortgage holiday or interest only period. 

Although, I’d only have a mortgage holiday if it were critical because it does add long term costs to your business.

Enabling Your Team

There has been a surge in the use of online meeting solutions during this time, as team members work from home – Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime and even non-business apps like House Party. 

Being face to face does make a difference in business meetings, but I think more is needed at this time. A business owner I spoke with recently is still having their weekly team meetings, and are now also holding a short daily meeting. He was discovering that the team was starting to feel disconnected. By having a daily team meeting, they get to see each other and still feel as though they are part of a team. 

Our development team has always had a daily standup, and we have now extended this to the whole team. It’s a quick meeting where each person covers off three things: this is what I did yesterday, this is what I’m working on today, and this is where I need help. 

You could add a fourth item to this – how are you coping?

Your team is going to be feeling uncertainty as much as you are, now is the time to open up the lines of communication at a deeper level. 

In the US, President Trump has been offering what has turned out to be false hope, and there has been a massive impact on the country as the coronavirus has spread. No one needs false hope at this time. 

Being open with your staff about your uncertainty allows them to open up about their concerns. And by being open, you get the chance to work on the problems together. You’ll be amazed by what your team comes up with to support the business, and you in this time. The last thing you should be doing is trying to solve all your problems by yourself. No one expects you to have all the answers in this time of uncertainty.

As well as keeping your team connected, you also need to ensure they have everything they need to make working from home comfortable. With computers and laptops now being considered essential items, you can have delivered to your team whatever they need to make their work easier.

Motivation is also a key consideration, and I’ve found it challenging to keep focused at times. By beginning to use a time tracking system for myself (Toggl), I’ve managed to keep myself on track and motivated as I work through my daily task list.

And finally, how do you keep your team accountable during this time? By having daily stand ups, public to do lists, and asking the team to keep track of their time, you can keep them motivated, on track, and keep them accountable at the same time.

Communication & Maintaining Relationships

We’re all in this together.

Now you’ve looked after your team; it’s time to look after your clients and your wider community. Discover what you can do to help. The easiest way to find out is by calling your existing clients, not to sell, not to promote, not to find out what they can do for you, but to discover what they are dealing with, and see if you can support them.

You never know – one of your clients may be struggling with something, and there may be a way you can guide them through their challenge.

Forecasting Existing Revenues

To keep your business running, you’ll need to try to work out what your business might look like once we move back to level 3. It’s difficult to imagine, but it’s worth giving some thought to a few scenarios that could come out the other side. 

There have been a few times with my company, where for one reason or another, future sales have looked grim. Many times I’ve been able to think “it will come right”, but at other times, I’ve been so down in the dumps that I’ve asked myself the question, “what would it look like if I had to shut down?” 

Fortunately, each time, sales have always come through the door not long afterwards, but during that time of stress, I’ve found it strangely comforting to have a “plan of last resort”. 

My mother told me a story: Once my father was borrowing more money to get his business through a tough time. At the time, my parents were looking out across a run down caravan park near the beach. My mother said to him, “we’re going to end up living down there.” He looked at the trees, the birds, and the ocean and turned to her and said, “you know, that doesn’t look all that bad.”

To get a feel for your worst case scenario, consider another call to your top clients to see how they are going. You don’t need to ask them directly about their revenue, but you can get a feeling for how they are going and use that in your calculations.

Consider a 20% drop, a 50% drop, an 80% drop, or whatever seems appropriate to you. What would you do if we had to enter another quarantine period?

Reviewing Your Strategy – Consider a Pivot

Now that you have your house in order, and have thought about your disaster plans, it’s time to start looking into the future.

It’s hard to see how much things will change, but there are some key things we can see already:

  1. There has been a surge of purchasing online, and this will most likely extend past the lockdown period.

  2. Companies have been moving some of their services online: personal trainers, physios, and even doctors are now doing online consults.  

  3. There has been substantial growth in online training.

  4. Some industries have been heavily hit, and will not be back at normal levels for some time. The obvious ones are the airlines, tourism, accommodation.

  5. There will be an increase in working from home post lockdown.

Now is the time to review your strategy. Pull out old ideas and spend time thinking about how your business could change to meet these new conditions. Are you able to offer more online? Are there any brand-aligned products or services you can sell to meet your clients’ needs? For example, are you able to provide online training for your clients?

Taking Care of Your Own Mental Health

The impact and stress this has on us as business owners can have a considerable impact on our mental health. 

I’ve taken a few key steps to keep myself occupied during this time:

  1. I’ve set some ‘lockdown’ goals for myself and encouraged my kids to do the same. We’ve each picked simple small goals to give us something to focus on. I’m learning a new song on the piano, and I’ve always wanted to be able to do a ‘wheelie’ on a bike. My youngest son wants to learn how to code, and my youngest daughter wants to ride her bike without training wheels. Having goals we can share is giving us all some small things to celebrate.

  2. Doing more exercise and getting fresh air. The mental health benefits of this are clear. And as a side note, vets are reporting an increase in calls about pets seeming “lifeless” and “depressed”. The vets are putting it down to pets getting far more exercise than they are used to – some being walked three times a day!

  3. I’m part of 3 weekly Zoom support calls, and I have a regular weekly catch up with a networking group, and another couple of weekly catch ups with different smaller teams, to check in with how we’re going

And finally, don’t do it on your own. We are all struggling in one way or another, and dealing with many of the same issues. Don’t try to solve all your problems on your own. Pick up the phone, call a friend, share what you’re dealing with. A problem shared is a problem halved. Remember, we’re all in this together.

 

 

 

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