This is an anxiety filled moment for business owners the world over. As somebody who works with thousands of small business owners every year, guiding them to grow their companies, here are ten things I'm telling my business coaching clients they need to do to protect their businesses during these uncertain times. .
1. Safeguard your facility to minimize your location(s) as a transmission vector.
This protects your staff from getting sick and your customers. It will reassure your staff and customers, which in an uncertain time is every bit as important.
Simple steps you can take include requiring that every person who enters your office, building, or store use hand sanitizer at the entrance, eliminating handshakes and hugs, letting staff work remotely, etc.
2. Educate your customers on the steps you're taking to keep them safe.
The better you can alleviate their fears and anxieties, the easier it will be for you to retain their business.
3. Educate your staff on the best practices that you can collectively take to stay safe and healthy -- both at home and at work.
There is so much hype from the media that many of your employees may not have accurate information from credible sources about how they can keep themselves, their families, and their coworkers safe. You need to stay current from reputable sources so that you can keep them intelligently informed. They need your leadership here. Don't assume that they know what to do.
4. Scenario planning for how market changes could impact your business.
What happens if people can't travel to your events? What happens if your local schools close for 3 weeks? 3 months? If you take a hit how can you gain your team's buy-in to help share some of that burden in a way that benefits you all? Could they take their "vacation days' during a slow period? Would they understand the need for a wage freeze or even for management players to take a wage reduction so that you can collectively ride through a tough period? Are there big opportunities here for your business?
5. Consider this as a time to enlist your vendors and suppliers for help.
Can you get better pricing or payment terms? Perhaps you could even negotiate a "payment holiday" for 30-60-90 days? Maybe what you want isn't a price reduction but an increase to the services they provide you for a period of time at no additional cost? It never hurts to ask.
6. Plan out your cash flow.
Deepen your pockets by arranging any increases to your lines of credit that you can -- just in case. This includes calling your credit card companies and asking for credit line increases now, while this is still fairly early in this situation. You don't have to tap into them, but you sure want to have them. This is also a good time to increase your liquid reserves by setting aside more of your revenue for "just in case" money.
7. Involve your leadership team and management in this planning conversation.
It is normal that they will be feeling what I call "FUD factor" -- fear... uncertainty... and doubt... One of your jobs as a leader is to reduce (or at the very least contain) FUD factor. So have an open dialogue with your management team about the situation and how your company can best navigate these waters. Ask for their ideas and help.
8. Look for the opportunities.
Don't just sit back scared, look for ways to go on offense. Are there promotional opportunities to harness this situation? Is there a struggling competitor you can arrange to buy? Is there talent in the market that you can snap up because they feel unsettled by where they are currently working? I watched a handful of my business coaching clients leverage the 2008 financial crisis to make tens of millions of dollars.
9. Brainstorm the opportunities for your company to seize with your team members.
Do this with your leadership team; do this at the departmental level. For example, if you have a slowdown of client work, how can you use this time to work on a key project or systems overhaul that you know you've needed to do for years, but never seemed to have the time and staff capacity to tackle before?
10. Communicate in a united way with your staff.
Make sure all your key leaders are on the same page and together, openly talk with your employees about the situation, how it is impacting the business, and what this means for them. Remember the FUD factor? Well your team is making up stories and telling these stories to each other around the proverbial water cooler so get out there and give them a more positive and empowering narrative about what is going on and how it will impact them.