If your business made any plans for 2020, no doubt you’ve already thrown them in the trash bin (or recycling if you’re going green). The combination of a pandemic and an economic crisis has blown most business plans out of the water and made it difficult to even imagine planning for the rest of the year.
When social distancing started, many people—including me—assumed that it would be a short-term measure. Although states are loosening restrictions and many businesses are reopening, we are nowhere close to normal. Many businesses face constraints about how they can operate or how many customers they can have at a time. And many industries have barely scratched the surface of recovery. Not to mention that consumers in general are leery of venturing out of their homes and hesitant to spend money. Companies need to prepare for a long road to economic recovery.
The Food Chain. Even if your business hasn’t yet felt an economic pinch you still need to be careful. Previously unaffected businesses are likely to get squeezed in the coming months. Many businesses have been insulated from the initial economic shock waves, particularly if they serve other businesses. Accountants, marketing/advertising companies, IT services, institutional investment advisors, etc. may not be suffering quite as much as other businesses. But, much like the African savanna, the business world is an ecosystem. If small B2C businesses—like restaurants, barber shops, and doctor’s offices—fail or drastically cut back their spending, it will eventually affect the companies further up the food chain that depend on those businesses for revenue.
It’s likely that every business will eventually be affected by the pandemic and you should plan with that assumption in mind. Even if you’re doing okay now, it is likely to affect future business. There is a ripple effect and the ripples travel in many different directions. You need to prepare for the possibility that a wave will soon be rocking your boat.
Change and Opportunity. Unfortunately, we don’t know what shape the change will take. Some things will stay the same, but many things will be permanently altered—and we don’t always know which is which. However, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for market opportunities. Changes in the market mean new opportunities will be created. The businesses that can quickly identify and make use of those opportunities are likely to be the most successful.
Contingency Plans. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that creativity during a crisis is a tall order. You need to be flexible and think outside the box, but it’s difficult to do so if you feel like you’re inside the box. If you’re having difficulty thinking creatively, give yourself grace and don’t be angry with yourself. It’s hard to focus on the “nice-to-haves” when you don’t have what you need to survive.
If you are struggling, feel free to give up on the idea of a grand, all-encompassing plan—particularly in this very uncertain environment. Instead, consider setting up a series of contingency plans which don’t require the same level of creativity. You don’t want to just create plan A and plan B, but C, D, and E as well. Think of them as a series of dominoes. If x happens then y happens. But if z happens then a happens. Many of your domino trails will overlap and intersect—and that’s okay. There should be redundancy in the system. Contingency plans are valuable. they will help you set yourself up for success.
Protect Yourself. While you’re making plans, be sure to keep a few things in mind. Make sure you get paid. Charge your clients based on billable hours if you can. If one of your clients starts struggling to pay the bills, you don’t want to get left holding the bag.
The New Normal. If you are considering opening your business again or if it’s already in operation, consider what the new normal looks like in your industry. Many businesses will have to make do with having fewer customers at one time at least initially. Be sure your staff is adhering to COVID-19 safety standards and provide training if necessary. You might even consider describing your pandemic safety measures as part of your marketing strategy. Customers are more likely to visit your premises if they feel safe.
These are difficult times, but Office Accomplice is helping our clients survive—and even thrive. If you need a helping hand, contact us.