I'm reading a whole bunch of sage advice from assorted "experts"-- generally people who don't have to do it themselves -- on what to do about getting your business back in business. As well intentioned as these people are overall, it's difficult for me to avoid the conclusion that they're trying too hard. They're asking people who are still more than a little shell-shocked about their entire world coming to an abrupt halt to try to get to heaven in one night. It's a bad bet and bad advice.
Bold moves, big leaps, new directions, and dramatic successes are right around the corner, say these sages. Sadly, that's not the way the world works. And it's not the timeframe that we're all gonna be stuck with, regardless of what the witless one in the White House claims. Being aggressive is too risky and too expensive for most businesses at this point. Patience and planning are the best two partners in perilous times like these. As hard as it is to resist the overwhelming post-pandemic pressure to get out there and do something, it's a fool's errand because, sad to say, the pandemic ain't going anywhere any time soon.
Over the last couple of months, I've made my own share of comments and suggestions, but - by and large - they've been surprisingly conservative (for me, anyway) and largely about process rather than specifics about products, services, customers, or radical changes in the business. If there are a couple of key ideas, they would be to "go slow" and "know before you go." Not exactly excerpts from the entrepreneur's bible, but good solid suggestions in troubled, unclear and uncertain times. This comes from a lifetime of experience as an entrepreneur, as someone who has operated businesses in good, bad and absolutely awful times.
It seems that everyone's got a fairly long list for you of thoughts, suggestions and strategies and they're all pitched as priorities - often without stacking or ranking. So basically, you need to do them all and do them now and good luck with that.
In the very old days (like the 15th century), the word "priority" was a singular noun. It meant the first and foremost thing that needed to get done. Today, you'll hear variations on that theme like "make sure that the main thing is the main thing," but, more often than not, people will give you an entire list of priorities and assume that you will figure out the rest on your own. You likely won't. Chasing too many rabbits at the same time is a guarantee that you'll end up empty handed. It's like multi-tasking which, for most people, means doing a half-assed job on a whole lot of things.
So, my plan is different. My list for you has only one priority for the next year and four modest suggestions to accompany it.
Priority: Keep yourself, your family, your employees and your business safe and healthy. Nothing else really matters.
Suggestion No. 1: Keep your company alive until things get better by hunkering down, simplifying everything, focusing on retaining and connecting to your customers, and conserving every bit of cash that you can.
Suggestion No. 2: Don't be too slow or too proud to ask for help from everyone - lenders, vendors, investors, landlords and employees as well. Entrepreneurs hate to be embarrassed or admit that they can't do it all by themselves, but the ones who survive and thrive going forward will have even thicker skins after taking this kind of bruising.
Suggestion No. 3: Don't look too far into the future. Six months right now is a lifetime and you'll look like an idiot telling people that you have a two- or three-year plan to do anything at this point.
Suggestion No. 4: Don't look back. It's a waste of time and energy. Those days are gone - they won't be returning - and your attention needs to be on tomorrow, not yesterday. No one ever succeeded in the past.
That's it. Recovery won't happen quickly and won't be easy. It will require a lot of patience. And it will all be worth the blood, sweat and tears when you get to the other side. See ya there.