A few weeks ago, I was reading an article in the New York Times by Sarah Viren that contained a statement I think perfectly reflects the collective mood I have been hearing from CEOs and entrepreneurs these past weeks. 

Sometimes when the house falls down, we move on and rebuild in other places, new structures made from the same materials, but shaped to tell a different story.

For those of us that run small and medium-size businesses, the critical question is what story are we crafting for the future of our business and how do we need to pivot now to create that? 

To answer that question, you need a plan. Determining how you will move forward in this time of uncertainty and preparing now for the eventual return to work and business is critical if you want to survive and even thrive. 

Research from consulting firms such as McKinsey & Company and Bain have found that in previous crisis and economic downturns, businesses that get the balance right between spending conservatively and investing in their brands recover faster and more completely than those that focus just on cutting costs. 

Even in the midst of a crisis, as business owners, we cannot just curl up and stop marketing and branding. This is why it's so important to have a plan to move forward and find opportunity, one that maps out a clear path for your business. Ask yourself:  

  • What adjustments do I need to make to my business today to succeed tomorrow? 
  • How am I handling the crisis management in my company right now?
  • How do I need to pivot?
  • How do I market and brand that pivot so the clients who need me can find me?

This is also the time to take on items you have been putting off. Look at every part of your business, down to the smallest detail, and with complete honesty, identify what can stay, what should go, and where you need to step it up. 

What are those business improvements you know you need to make but have been putting off? For example: 

  • Creating or updating your website 
  • Upleveling your brand messaging 
  • Retooling your social media strategy 
  • Getting rid of bad customers or underperforming employees 
  • Pursuing a media placement or PR campaign 
  • Upgrading your computer systems 
  • Revising your policies and procedures 
  • Implementing a digital technology plan 
  • Training your staff 

As counterintuitive as it may seem, now is the time to take bold action for the evolution of your business. Without it, you run the risk of being behind the curve--or worse, obsolete--when business gets more fully back to work. 

Finally, make micro-offers. By focusing on offering a smaller, more digestible slice of what you would normally provide, you make it easier for your customer to say "yes." Remember today's clients are in survival mode, worried about meeting core needs, not highly aspirational ones. 

For example, one of my clients offers an 8-hour, in-person safety course. Realistically, they could not do that virtually, so they broke the class down into 12 to 15 modules and offered each module separately. Clients were not forced to buy all the modules upfront and could take the training one small step at a time. 

Despite the difficult circumstances many businesspeople find themselves in, I believe there's an amazing opportunity for creativity, connection, and even reinvention of our companies in a positive way. In this time of forced change, our ability to pivot may be the deciding factor in how we come out of this pandemic on the other side.