The economy was strong. Unemployment was at historic lows. Sales were up. It was hard to find good help because there were so few candidates. For most business owners and entrepreneurs, 2019 was a great year and there was a clear path for business growth for 2020. Then COVID-19 hit the United States and, for many, it was like someone pulled the rug out from under them. But whether your business was forced to temporarily close, you changed your operation to serve a new world or you’re an essential business trying to keep your team – and the community – healthy, one thing is true: it’s hard to plan for an uncertain future, but you have to do it, and it helps to have a coach.
Depending on what your business is facing, we think there are three main approaches to facing your challenges and planning for the future. Remember that working with a third party like a Growth Coach can help, even if it’s on the phone or through a video conference.
Business is Open and Doing Well
If you’re the owner of a business that’s deemed essential and you’re continuing to be successful, that’s awesome, but we know you’re still feeling the strain of COVID-19. In almost every case, even most essential businesses are completely changing their operations to accommodate pick-up or drive-thru services, finding ways to keep staff members safe from shoppers and keeping shoppers safe from each other. Even businesses like vehicle repair companies are closing lobbies and asking employees and customers to avoid close contact.
There are a few challenges facing these businesses – not knowing when closures could happen, worrying about employees who could get sick, having concerns about employees whose family members could be laid off, finding ways to help maintain social distancing when you can or even looking for the best ways to support your community.
The important thing for business owners and entrepreneurs in this situation is to support their teams, make adjustments as needed to keep teams healthy, take precautions when you can and build a plan for what you’ll do if your business is forced to shutter. As the COVID-19 situation changes every day – and in every state – it’s important to have plans in place to keep your business on a successful path, even if it means just staying afloat for now and finding ways to grow in the future. None of us know what tomorrow brings.
Business is Open but Struggling
Some essential businesses are open, but operations – or needed services – have changed so much that it’s difficult to know what to do next. Even owning a gas station can be troubling right now when so many Americans are staying home. If you are in this situation, there’s a two-pronged approach.
First find ways to be as successful as possible given the ever-changing COVID-19 situation. Find ways to do no-contact deliveries, try doing store pick up orders, create 6-foot barriers between your customers and your staff… every business is different, but finding ways to serve your customers as easily and safely as possible is paramount.
Secondly, look at your business operations now and moving forward. If something is working – like delivery services – is there a reason those services can’t continue when the crisis is over? If something is costing you more than it should (like over-ordering inventory), can you cut back? Do you have the systems in place to keep your business afloat if certain team members were to get sick or require self-isolation? What can you do while things are slow to revamp your business plan, put systems in place, train employees, offer professional development opportunities or find other ways to promote future growth?
While it might seem challenging to think about business growth right now, we are more than a month into state-based stay-at-home orders, so it’s time to shift from crisis mode to planning mode, especially if your business is open, but struggling.
Business is Closed
In many cases, business owners suddenly went from having successful businesses to having empty stores, stagnant inventory and no way to serve customers. While pick-up and delivery services are great for people who sell products, that doesn’t work when you own a nail salon, a daycare or another service-based company.
In this case, it’s easy to go into full-blown crisis mode. Without customers, you can’t pay rent, you can’t pay vendors, you can’t keep employees… and, especially for small businesses, that’s an emotional situation.
If your business is closed – and you’ve exhausted potential ways you could serve customers, including hosting video conferences – it’s time to start thinking about planning for your recovery and finding ways to jump-start your business when you’re able to open the doors again. Does your business plan need fully revised? Are your business systems sufficient? If you can’t bring back your team members after laying them off, do you have a plan to hire and train new employees? Does your marketing need to be adjusted? How can you engage your clients now and keep them engaged for when you’re ready to reopen?
Regardless of where on this spectrum your business lives today, the COVID-19 situation is constantly changing and it’s a good idea to plan for the uncertainties of the future. It’s also helpful to bring in a professional business coach, like your local Growth Coach, to help you navigate the changes you need to make to be successful today and into the future.