It’s been said over and over again during the past couple of weeks, but we really are living through extraordinary, unprecedented, totally crazy times.
People are panicking, the shops have been stripped of toilet paper & sanitiser and businesses are closing. I’d love to tell you that I wasn’t affected by all of it, that I was able to maintain a cool sense of calm, but that’s just not the case.
Half way through the first week of the breaking crisis in Australia - as our office emptied out and people started to make the transition to working from home - I felt paralysed. My hands were sweaty and my heart was pounding.
All of a sudden, the business that we started in 2006 and worked so hard to grow - the fantastic work culture that we had created and the countless successes we had achieved - all seemed under threat.
It felt like the world was ending.
My mind swirled with a million worries, thoughts, ideas and emotions. I just couldn’t think of a way forward - but then I remembered some wise words from ex-Navy Seal Jocko Willink:
“In times of chaos - PRIORITISE AND EXECUTE.”
After that, I was able to calm down and formulate a plan.
It’s obvious that the business community is not in a good place at the moment. Beyond the health crisis, COVID-19 has massively impacted the global and local economy.
I don’t want to sugar-coat it - many businesses won’t survive the crisis. However, the ones that do will be those that are able to assess their priorities, formulate a plan and execute it effectively.
The only way that we’re going to make it through this is by working together, so I wanted to share the strategy that we’ve been using here at Alyka to tackle the difficult transition to the isolation economy.
If you’re struggling to map out a plan forward, please make sure you check out the following 6-step guide to surviving and thriving during this pandemic.
If you can prioritise and execute well, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance of making it through to the other side.
Priority 1: Keep Your Team Safe
Given that social distancing is such an important part of helping to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, the first step is to transition your employees to working-from-home arrangements (wherever possible).
There isn’t any perfect way to do this, and many businesses have never contemplated this sort of action before. However, it’s important not to panic. Make sure you get a proper strategy in place that is going to simultaneously maximise your efficiency and minimise disruption.
When transitioning to work-from-home arrangements, make sure you:
- Plan your transition strategy: Sort out your remote working systems from teleconference accounts to communication systems, procedures and HR guidelines.
- Communicate clearly, frequently and listen: speak to your staff as openly as possible about your transition plans, expected WFH dates and be honest about the overall COVID situation. Don’t sugarcoat things, but also be calm and positive. At Alyka, some of our staff initially questioned why we staggered our arrangements and sent our development team home a day ahead of the rest of our staff. We thought we had explained our reasons clearly, but after listening to the team’s concerns, we knew we had to clarify. As a result, we reiterated our reasons in even more specific detail and this not only gained the team’s understanding, but also their support.
- Minimise client disruptions: clients are the bedrock of any business, so it’s super important to keep your services running smoothly and to keep clients in the loop with your transition plans.
Priority 2: Manage Your Cash Flow
Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business - you simply can’t survive without it.
Carefully examine your cash flow situation and re-budget activities if you have to.
My personal opinion is not to panic. The situation is changing day by day, and knee-jerk reactions can have dire, unintended consequences further down the line.
Every business is different, but if your cash flow is taking an immediate hit, the simplest way to budget is to look at income producing activities vs non-income producing activities and prioritise accordingly.
Although it may be time to pause some non-income producing activities, we must also do everything we can as a business community to keep trading and stay productive. The domino effect of all businesses stopping all their activities at the same time will just make the situation worse for everyone.
Lastly, look into the government assistance available from instant tax rebates (of up to $100,000 for eligible businesses), government grants, tax relief, the ABA deferring loan repayments and a host of other measures enacted by the WA State Government.
Priority 3: Support Your Clients
It’s tempting to think of your clients as numbers on a balance sheet, but it’s now more important than ever to remember that they are people. They are just as worried about the situation as you.
Lots of them may be thinking about cancelling or suspending their services with you. That’s why I suggest contacting all of your clients (individually if possible) to ask them how they are going and what you can do to support them.
Be sensitive to what they’re going through, and don’t fall into the temptation of immediately selling them your amazing Coronavirus business-saving solution (there’s way too much of this happening already).
Simply listen, empathise and genuinely ask how you can help. Offer them some free advice or propose a solution that they might not have considered.
Whatever you do, make sure it’s all about them.
Priority 4: Prioritise New Opportunities
It might sound a little crazy, but once the initial panic subsided, my business partner and I couldn’t help but get excited about all of the wonderful business opportunities that may result from COVID-19.
However, we also found ourselves paralysed by the large number of possibilities. Despite what many think, having too many ideas on the table at the same time is not actually helpful.
What is more useful is prioritising 1 or 2 very strong ideas, creating a plan around them and executing these with extreme focus.
So with this in mind, I suggest the following steps:
- Call your clients and find out what problems they are going through (as we mentioned above).
- Write down these problems in a spreadsheet
- Get your team together and brainstorm possible solutions to each of the listed problems.
- Vote on the top one or two ideas would bring you the highest ROI.
- Formulate an action plan around these ideas.
- Present it to your client.
As we mentioned before, lots of businesses are struggling to come up with what to do next. If you’re able to present them with a clearly defined plan of action, they’ll love you for it!
If your business isn’t the kind that services clients face to face (or zoom to zoom!), you can still adopt this process in different ways (E.g. surveys, online research etc).
Priority 5: Package & Promote Your New Opportunity
Once you have agreed on your key new business priority, the next step is to package this up into a marketable offering.
I recommend working on the offering even before finalising the business model, because without clients, your business model is irrelevant. Of course you need to make sure that you can deliver on your promises, but you don’t have to master every detail of your operation just yet.
Yes, I understand that some businesses need to finalise their delivery model before they can heavily promote (such as in the case of food or other product delivery services), but in a lot of other cases, it’s much more important to get some momentum and get some cash coming in as soon as possible.
In most cases, you can get clients first and then master your business delivery model.
Steps to implement include:
- Identify the exact problem you are solving.
- Identify your exact solution to this problem.
- Identify your exact target audience
- Craft the problem and solution into a one-page written offer that your audience will resonate with. This one-page offer is for you to understand your own offering inside out and will be used as a reference point for your actual promotions (more on this below).
- Identify the most appropriate channels to promote your offer. Remember to focus on the right channels for your target audience and not to dilute yourselves over too many channels. Examples of different channels include:
- Phone call / Zoom to existing clients or new prospects
- Organic Google Search (SEO)
- Email outreach
- Social Media Pay Per Click
- Social Media Organic
- Instagram or LinkedIn Direct Messages (DM’s)
- Google Adwords / Google Shopping
Tailor your offer to suit each individual promotion channel. Your offer will read differently across every channel. E.g. A phone call script will sound very different to your Google Ad copy although they carry the same message.
Priority 6: Adjust Your Business Model Around Your New Opportunity
The final step is to finalise your business delivery model.
With everyone shifting to an isolation economy, transitioning your delivery into a digital environment is key. Think about your technology requirements, your clients technology requirements, payment arrangements, your shipping model etc.
For example, those wanting to shift into the e-commerce space need to think hard about shipping and delivery. Certain delivery services are shutting down and as a result, you need to think about alternative methods of getting products to your customers.
Restaurants who want to transition to home delivery without relying on Ubereats or Deliveroo need to set up their own website, ordering page, online payment and physical delivery system.
Execution Is The Key
The key to surviving and thriving in the face of COVID-19 can be summed up in the following three steps:
1) Identify the key priorities for your business (such as the 6 that I’ve identified here).
2) Formulating a plan to address each priority.
3) Execute these plans with laser focus.
The world seems to be in a state of freefall right now, but you don’t have to be.
We are in this together, and when chaos reigns, just pause, take a deep breath and do what Jocko said - PRIORITISE & EXECUTE.
How can I help?
Outside of my client base, I can’t promise that I can make immediate time for this – but if you want to chat or feel the need to get some outside perspective - feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see what I can do.