Barbara Corcoran has survived many unforeseen fiascos. After 9/11, her New York City-based real estate business came to a screeching halt. For almost three months, none of her agents were able to close a sale. She almost closed up shop.
"But here's what I've learned on all these crises through all the years," Corcoran recently shared on her Business Unusual podcast. "When things go south, they come back like gangbusters."
Here's her advice for business owners wondering how to move forward as coronavirus continues to cause so much uncertainty and instability.
Take advantage of the silence
Every time there has been a business-halting crisis, Corcoran has observed, there tends to be a long silence. It's natural to feel paralyzed during this time. Perhaps your business as you formerly knew it--even as recently as just a few weeks ago--no longer exists.
During past crises, Corcoran says, the smart people took advantage of this silence. Do not sit and wait quietly for the economy to bounce back. Actively prepare for it.
Corcoran advises business owners to use this unexpected lull to think big for the future. Whom do you want as future clients or customers? What does your pitch look like? Can you clean up your social media, presentation decks, or website? Whom will you hire?
"It's a chance for you to breath in and put together a plan for the next year for your business," she says.
Start negotiating future deals
Corcoran has faith this crisis will end and savvy businesses will survive. Even if it feels impossible to think ahead when you're not sure how you'll make rent tomorrow, she advises business owners to start working on down-the-line deals. Then, you'll be ready for the uptick once it happens.
Corcoran answered a question from a listener who runs an event-planning business. All her clients have canceled or postponed their events. All her income has dried up. "I think you should hit the floor running," Corcoran said.
Corcoran advised the business owner to go straight to hotels and start negotiating phenomenal rates to book events in the future. She can do the heavy lifting to slash the prices with hotels, and then bring the deals back to her clients who have postponed their events. She can ask them to tentatively book their events in several months or next year.
This gets potential deals on the books and gives the business owner the opportunity to problem-solve for her clients. "You want to be the hero when all this crap is gone," Corcoran told the business owner.
Make a quick pivot to keep your current customers
Can you find a way to meet your customers where they are? Act quickly to make adjustments and get up and running. Then make sure all your customers know about your new offering.
If you have a manageable number of clients or customers, Corcoran suggests you reach out to each one directly. Do it before they start dropping off. "You don't want to solve the problem and offer the solution when they've left you," she says. "You want to offer an alternate solution while they're with you."
Many businesses are already doing this. Michelin-starred restaurants that have closed their dining rooms are now offering takeout. Brick-and-mortar shops have quickly opened online stores. Yoga studios are offering virtual classes on Zoom.
A pivot might be enough to make ends meet and stay top of mind for your customers.
How coronavirus will continue to change the economy is unknown. But Corcoran is sure of this: The economy will come back. If you can problem-solve and plan for the future while others give up, your business may be perfectly positioned to come back stronger than ever.