We’ve spoken to lots of business owners who aren’t sure about how they should be spending their time during the current crisis, especially as most of their work has dried up and they’ve had to furlough their teams.
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Many have also said that they’re finding it hard to stay motivated; they find themselves bored at home without a clear direction for where they should be taking their business. While there’s still lots of uncertainty at the moment, there is no better time to be working ON your business than now.
This blog is part of a series where we’re looking at how we can support businesses during this time and inspire them to take the opportunity the current pandemic presents and transform their company for the long-term. We’ve discussed embracing digital, we’ve looked at examples of local businesses and how they’ve adapted to the current challenges, and last week we looked at how to market your business during a crisis.
This week it’s all about how you should be spending your time as a business owner and what your next steps will be to ensure its longevity. While it might be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now, the current crisis will come to an end and so it’s essential to use this time effectively to make sure your company is in the best possible position to bounce back once the recovery begins.
It’s not often you’ll have the time to look at your business plan and think about how things have evolved. Since you last looked, you’ll probably find that the market has changed or that your company’s positioning looks a little different than what it did before.
Use this opportunity to review the following:
While your business may be negatively impacted by the crisis right now, that doesn’t mean it can’t still thrive once things get back to normal. It’s important to take a step back and see where you can make improvements. But, it’s also important to not make extreme or sweeping changes just because of the current situation. There’s lots of talk right now about ‘pivoting’, but making knee jerk reactions just because you find yourself in difficult waters now, may have a detrimental impact further down the line.
Things are always changing, even outside of a crisis. Industries evolve, technology introduces new ways of doing things, and new competitors enter the market all the time. Staying on top of your competitors as well as your consumers and their needs is essential for growth.
Take this opportunity to do the following:
This information will also help you build your SWOT analysis as defined in the first section of this blog. Knowing your market is crucial, but it often gets overshadowed by the day-to-day runnings of your business.
With your business plan up to date and a solid understanding of the current market, you’re now in the best situation to review your opportunities and think about where you can be innovative in terms of adding value.
Consider how you might be able to expand your offering to encompass a new service or product, or how you might be able to use digital to transform the way you generate or do business in general. Now is the perfect opportunity to get creative and think about how you could stand out.
It might seem like an obvious thing to do, but we know that as a business owner sometimes working too much in the business takes you away from the bigger picture. Take this time to look at how your company has performed over the last 12 months, considering:
All of this information will help you understand how your company performs to both your employees and your customers. It might be that you introduced new processes, and this is the time to see if they’ve had an impact.
It’s easy to forget about how this whole situation might be impacting your team, especially if you’re worried about how to make ends meet for yourself. But it’s important to remember that when we get through to the other side of the crisis, you’ll need your team to be on top form if your business is going to recover.
It would be naive of us to think that employees are going to bound back to work full of enthusiasm and motivation. They’re not on holiday; they’re quarantined and, in some cases, furloughed. All of which can have a serious impact on mental health, self-worth, motivation and general skills. It’s going to take some time for them to adapt, and how you ease them back into working life can make all the difference. This will probably prompt the following:
Here are a few ideas we’ve brainstormed that might help you achieve exactly that:
Use this opportunity to inspire everyone. Remind them of the business vision and what your goals are (if you haven’t already determined this then head back to the first point). Be honest with your figures about how the company has performed, and share with them the insights you gained from your market evaluation in step one (profits, competitors, the change in the market, etc.). Take this as your opportunity to show your passion for what you do and get everyone pumped ready to come back to work, all working towards the same goal with a shared vision.
It’s easy to think that once the crisis is over, it will be back to business as usual on day one, but realistically it probably won’t be like that. Most companies have had a reduction in revenue, and for some of them, this has been sudden and severe. It’s probably going to take a while for new business and production to ramp back up, and so even when you return to ‘normal’, it might take a while until you have enough work for your whole team.
As a result, you might need to stagger the team’s return by not bringing everyone back all at once. Going back into the office might also be a shock to the system. Everyone will have gotten used to working at home and being around their families, so you might want to alternate between working-for-home days and office-days for the first few weeks.
As soon as you are back, make sure you’ve got some key dates in the diary for the team to look forward to, this might include an end-of-the-month team meal and involvement in things such as national prosecco day (13th August). You could even look at doing a team building event or day out to get everyone working together again and as a break from the norm.
Introduce a staff survey to the team to ensure everyone returns to work feeling as though they can share anything that is worrying them, even if it’s anonymous. This is a great way to gauge general morale, and it’s vital to also act on any negative feedback you get if you want to improve the company culture.
So many companies list tea, coffee and biscuits as benefits, but these are treats. They’re also really important as a way of showing that you’re thinking of your team and their welfare. They don’t have to be unhealthy treats, but just giving the team access to snacks and drinks to keep their mind active and give them a reason to chat in the kitchen or break area is an excellent way of building morale, especially when someone forgets their lunch!
When you return to ‘business as usual’ or whatever business looks like at the end of the crisis, it’ll be easy to get caught up on deadlines, projects and KPIs. Remember to celebrate with your team. Everyone is all in the same boat of uncertainty now, so when it does return to ‘normal life,’ recognise it and celebrate it. You and your team have navigated a challenging situation, and it’s worth remembering and honouring that.
We’re assuming you already use LinkedIn, but if not, then there’s no time like the present to get yourself set up and start connecting. LinkedIn is a wonderful place for building relationships, joining groups and learning from your peers. But it’s not the only online way to network with your industry.
Networking groups such as BNI have so gone virtual, and there’s no reason for you not to join them. If things are quiet, why not join as many groups as you can, get involved in the conversation, add value and learn something from your peers? You might even build partnerships and potential new business opportunities as a result. And when things do get back to normal, and you can start going to face-to-face networking events again, you’ll have made some tremendous virtual contacts to touch base in the real world.
You’ve probably been inundated with people telling you that personal brand is so important, and that’s true. People buy from people, and so having a strong personal brand helps build trust and credibility to help you stand out in a crowded market. It also helps your audience to form relationships with you and better understand what you’re offering, so use this time to think about what your ‘personal brand’ is, and how you might get that across online. It might be opinion articles or videos or getting involved in panels. A personal brand is all about building your presence, and in return, people will come to you and your business for advice.
We spoke a lot about this last week, but there are lots of free ways to market your business. Similar to personal brand building; it’s all about being present. Create valuable content that’s helpful and positive. Marketing right now is crucial because if you don’t want your prospects to forget about you or to consume content produced by your competitors, then you need to dominate their feeds to keep your business front-of-mind.
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