Restarting your business is going to take longer, be more difficult and far more painful than you can imagine because the world around us has changed radically and permanently. It's a brand-new ballgame and yet to succeed you're going to have to turn back the clock and revert to basics. Letting people go, putting your dreams and aspirations on a temporary hold, and being patient while we all suffer through this process is not easy. But it is essential.
Forget about growth for the moment - your job is to just keep going and make sure that you're still standing when the economy is fully operational again. For the next couple of quarters at least, flat is gonna be the new "up" and we'll all be very grateful to just get there and hold our own.
The single most important thing you can do now, other than conserving your cash, is to hang on to your existing customers. New customers are nice but expensive to acquire while your core customers are critical and the lowest hanging fruit. Patty may be picking up pizzas for her kids right now, but Tony, who brought the family by for a meal every Tuesday for the last 10 years, is the heart and soul of your future.
So, what do you need to do to bring the business back?
(1) Retrench - Get ready to be successful by scaling back, getting rid of non-essential everything, shutting down anything "new" that's sucking time and resources from the core operation, and focus, focus, focus on doing a few important things really well. The stuff that got you here and sustained you in the past is what will keep you here going forward. It's not about doing things that are different or doing things differently; it's all about flawless basic execution.
(2) Restate - Make sure that every employee understands why you're in business and what the central selling proposition is. As Simon Sinek says, they're buying why you're doing what you do just as much as any product or service that you happen to be selling. Maybe even more. But, if your own team members can't tell your story simply, quickly and correctly, your customers won't get the message. Especially in these hard times, good people want to support each other. Your customers need to understand three things: (a) what you're offering and why; (b) why they need to buy what you're selling; and (c) why it's worth what you're asking them to pay. Please don't make the mistake of giving away the store - free offers won't sustain your business - real customers understand value and that business is a two-way street. If you can't make a living, there won't be a business left to serve them. Chains and franchises are no substitute for the friendly faces on Front Street.
(3) Remind - Your business is top of mind for you, but the rest of the world is plenty busy with their own problems and you need to get the word out there that your business is back. The internet is noisy, cluttered, and overwhelming and it's not likely to get better any time soon. Forget Facebook and Google. Get back to basics. Hire a bunch of neighborhood kids to go door to door with circulars and get your offerings and your story directly in front of the folks who matter. Take out a big ad in the tiny local newspapers that your neighbors read religiously. Show your face in the community. One of the terrible mistakes Joe Biden and his team are making is not getting Biden out of the bunker. He's hanging out in his basement and Trump is everywhere. He's got to be seen to be heard. He needs to be out and about - masks and all - at hospitals, food banks, churches, etc. so the media and the community will help tell his story and so do you.
(4) Reward - While there's no such thing as a free lunch, there's a lot to be said today for rewarding loyalty and it's important to make sure that your regulars understand that you are grateful and that they are very much appreciated. Frequency programs, special discounts, and other reward strategies for consistent use are going to help prompt return visits and word-of-mouth support. In addition, on-site recognition is equally valuable - not just knowing their names and preferences - but putting up pictures, special seating, etc. - are all ways to welcome them back "home". And it works just as well at the hardware store (showing off DIY projects) as it does at any restaurant, bookstore or bakery.
So, get busy and get your business back by remembering the basics. And especially the most basic idea of all: people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. We're all in this mess together and we can all help make it better.