Over the past few weeks, my go to word has been “whiplash”. Business owners have been thrown challenge after challenge – from closures to remote work to new regulations to products/service adjustments. Topping the list of stress was the PPP loan process. Nothing seems to get under a business owner’s skin like an inefficient process over which they have no control… except maybe one with big bucks riding on it.
Most businesses are now well past that chaos, and the mood seems to have lightened considerably with eight weeks of runway in the bank. I wouldn’t exactly call it optimism. It probably feels more like one part relief and two parts exhaustion. No matter how you process the emotions of the situation, it’s time to move on to the things that you can control.
Here are some highlights of the conversations that I’m having with business leaders every day:
Now is the time, and we are counting down
You have time and capital. Your competitors may not. How will you use this time to gain an advantage? You need a week by week roadmap that puts you exactly where you want to be on the other side of this. Eight weeks is going to go by very quickly. You are exhausted, but it’s not time to let up.
It’s not business “as usual”
You have a pause in business as usual. Patterns and routines can be very difficult to step out of, even thoughts can become deeply rooted. This is an opportunity to examine those patterns with a critical eye, and plan to build new ones. No one expects things to operate the same after this.
Everyone is out of their comfort zones
Not everyone loves change, and rapid change at that, but they are being forced to deal with it now. Changes which might make clients, vendors or staff “uncomfortable” won’t require the same level of explanation amid the current state of chaos. Consider it a kindness to the change-averse around you to just rip the bandaid off all at once. You can make long-needed changes or deal with things that the current situation have brought to light.
Has this been a wake up call?
How have your systems withstood this pressure test? Have you found something broken that needs to be addressed? It might be your IT systems, it might be your financial forecasting, it might be your marketing systems, or your HR processes. There may have been so many alarms ringing all at once that it was deafening. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from the experience. Take a moment to write down the pain points, or brainstorm with your team. That becomes a to do list with things you can prioritize or choose to put off.
Did your brand feel the love?
Have your phones been ringing or silent? This pandemic has been a great measure of brand affinity, and a reality check for a lot of businesses. Restaurants and retail have clearly felt the pain, but even B2B businesses that use a direct sales approach or event marketing have seen their brand awareness in a new light. Do you need help with your branding?
How concrete was your marketing plan?
The marketing plan includes who you are going to reach and how. You might have needed to adjust what you were saying, but the who and how shouldn’t have changed significantly. When you have a solid plan, you can make adjustments quickly. How did your plan hold up? Were you able to rapidly adjust?
Is your audience clearly defined, or just a concept?
We hear it all the time, “we know our customers”, but the real question is, “can you reach them?” Were you able to quickly activate communications without missing a beat? Did you know which channels to use and were you able to adjust reach and frequency to adapt to your new challenges and changing goals?
Are you planning for alternate futures?
People skilled in planning don’t struggle to develop one plan, they effortlessly develop multiple plans with contingencies. If you aren’t a strong planner, consider hiring a coach to help you carefully plan out for longer closures, ongoing health risks, a struggling economy, mass unemployment, and longer term issues specific to your clients and suppliers.
These are a summary of our daily conversations, and we would love to have one with you. Whether we can refer you to one of the amazing business coaches we know, or if you would like to tackle a marketing pain point, we are here to help. Branding and Strategic Planning projects can take between 3-6 weeks, so contact us today to get started.
You have 8 weeks. Please make the most of this time.