Saving Versus Building Your Business
When the recent coronavirus struck, many business owners, managers, and leaders first reaction was to panic. This is not surprising. After all, we were not only being told that there would be a slow-down, we were told to expect a shut-down. Businesses would be prohibited from opening or only being allowed to open with a skeleton crew. The only thing scarier than that forecast, was learning that we would be quarantined in our homes with no toilet paper and only our family members for company!
Since the recession was still fresh in our memories, many of us went into survival mode. The focus was to save our businesses. We made drastic adjustments and cuts to keep our businesses alive. Over the first few weeks, you likely watched very closely and continued to tweak things as necessary. That is what you had to do to save your business. Most business owners, managers, and leaders are still in that mindset. I believe the time to leave that mode of thinking has come and the time to build is now!
Chances are, if you’re still open for business, you have, in fact, survived! Now is the time to move from saving your business to building your business. The earlier you make the switch in both your mind and your actions, the quicker you will be able to put the past behind you and start to build your future.
What does building your business look like? It looks just like it did when you first started your business. You need to be prepared to take risks, gamble a little, and plan for when you eventually match and surpass the level of success you were experiencing before the virus.
Key areas to look at:
· Staffing: Do you have enough staff? Do you have the right staff? Is your staff trained to deliver the highest level of skill and results? Are there new positions that need to be created? Are there positions that have become obsolete? Do you have a team that works cohesively and focuses on customer needs or is your team made-up of lone wolves, working solely for their own benefit and not for the benefit your business and customers? With millions of jobs being permanently lost, many qualified people are out of work. Employers have the upper hand. You should identify under performers in your business and replace them with trainable professionals who are willing and able to do what is needed. Staffing is the most important part of building your business. If you want to grow, you will need to employ better skilled people than your competition, people who can deliver a higher level of service to your customers.
· Business Model: Is it still cutting-edge? Does it still deliver what you advertise? Is your product line-up fresh? Do you offer enough products and services, or do you offer too many? Are they the right ones?
Take this example of a local five-star restaurant owner who recently re-opened. He made smart adjustments to his business model, including presenting a drastically abbreviated food and wine menu. When I asked him why he eliminated so many items, he explained that he only removed food items that never really sold well. He replaced them with seasonal items that his customers said they wanted. Plus, since the items are seasonal, it gives him more flexibility with his menu and allows him to eliminate things with the acceptable explanation of them being only seasonally available. Same thing with the wine. He got rid of over two hundred brands of wine that no one ever seemed to order. He is now stocking the one hundred brands people buy. This was bold, since his main marketing claim was that he had the largest selection of wines in a three-hundred-mile radius. His new mantra? “We are the only place to offer the top one hundred most requested wines.”
· Processes: Take a look at every process for every aspect of your business. Do you have processes in place? Are your processes sound? Are your employees fully trained on what these processes are and how to execute them? Are they delivering the results you seek? Are they outdated? Is there anything that is not automated that could be? Is there any process that is automated that should not be? Are there steps that need to be removed, added, or changed? Do your processes deliver the highest amount of satisfaction to both your customers and employees? By the way, you should be asking these questions at least annually, if not semi-annually.
· Training: Do you have a training program? When was the last time it was updated? Who is in charge of it? Is it outdated? When was the last time you sat-in on a session? Even if you have the absolute best training and training system, you should put expiration dates on the training certificates. Everyone should be required to be re-trained at least once annually in every aspect of their position. Role-playing and practice should occur weekly.
· Product and Service Offerings: Is it time to expand your offerings? What would that look like and how would it work with what you are currently offering? Is it time to cut back your offerings? How would you communicate these changes to your customers?
· Advertising and Promotion: How do you promote your product? Is there a way to refresh your ads and promos? Is it enough? This is an area that requires constant monitoring. With social media always evolving and ads getting cheaper and easier to produce, you will likely need someone who is tech savvy to help manage this area. What is fresh today may be outdated tomorrow. Ad placement is critical and will continue to evolve and change at record speeds. The cool thing here is that there are many young people who have figured this out and they are good at it. If you check your local high schools and colleges, you can usually find students willing to help you at a reasonable rate. I have farmed-out a lot of this to students over the years with great success.
These are just a few of the areas to look at as you rebuild and continue to build your business. This is going to feel very similar to when you first started your business. You will need to believe in yourself, your ideas, and your dreams. You will need to be willing to execute your plan, even if others doubt you. You will need to be willing to take chances and invest money, time and energy. Being meek did not get you to where you are, and it will not get you where you want to go. You must be bold, think big, and take action, just like you did when you first started out. Most importantly, you will need shed the mindset and behaviors of trying to survive. You need to step-up and embrace the beliefs and actions of someone building a business. Your business.