It was beautiful.
Spring of 2020 will be one of those marks in history that has a before and an after, or as my colleague Adam says, “B.C. and A.C. — before COVID and after COVID.” I used to wonder why, when our calendar was invented based on the birth and life events of a certain person, they didn’t use A.C./A.C. instead of A.C./A.D. The reason why has particular significance this and this weekend with Easter around the corner. A.D. means anno domini. – the year of our Lord. It signifies the event that marked history, the dawn of a life that could not be extinguished. We can focus on the death, or we can focus on the life.
Life is beautiful.
Your business has suffered because of the COVID lock down. I get that. I respect your grief. We need to grieve. In a T.V. years ago – Lost – a random group of people crash landed on a deserted island (supposedly) and in a classic drama scene a doctor had to perform emergency surgery on a dying man using the shell of a ballpoint pen. Someone asked him later how he summoned the courage. “Weren’t you afraid?” they asked. “Of course I was afraid, but I can’t allow my self to stay afraid or people will die. I count to six. I’m afraid for the count of six, then I get to work.”
It’s time to get to work.
If you are like many people I work with, you have spent a few weeks looking for lines of credit and applying for loans. You’ve been on the phone with creditors and employees, working out an interim strategy. If you are like some of the people I work with, you are shutting down your business, wondering what’s next. Before you disappear with a bottle of Jack Daniels in the basement binging on Netflix, let me present you with an alternative. Whether you are pumping life into your failing business or bolstering your business recovery strategy, tackle it like a boss.
Be the CEO of your business. Go through your business plan with a fine comb and look for ways to be more efficient. Tighten your vision and mission. Take a look at your product suite, and I mean look at the data — what’s selling and what’s taking up room on the shelf. I met a business owner this week who changes their product strategy every year based on what sold best last year. You might have to reprioritize that thing you love for the thing your customers need. Heather Langton at On Point Business Coaching has run a successful business and she can walk you through a profit building strategy.
Be the COO of your business. First, use this down time to create or rethink your standard operating procedures. Not sure how? Business coach Sandra Yancey turned me onto a stupid simple solution – WikiHow. Don’t make excuses about not knowing how to do anything. Follow the Wiki template for writing a standard operating procedure. When the doors open, you’ll be ready for customers. And use this time to create some structure around how to stay in touch with customers. A shop owner I met this week is using the lock down to take her customers on a virtual tour of the store to shop for Christmas. She’s going to continue this strategy A.C. – after COVID. Wondering how to nurture your customers better? Turn to Brenda Sanchez, who wrote the book about Life’s Real Currency – relationships.
Be the CFO of your business. Spend these quiet weeks in waiting getting familiar with your QuickBooks and revisit your budget. And don’t even tell me if you don’t have a budget. You need a budget, as the folks at YNAB will tell you, but it doesn’t have to be carved in stone. You will likely need three budget scenarios as business starts to open up again. Mona Lara with Thrivent Financial taught us a few tops that will put you on a winning financial path.
- Pay taxes first. Don’t be fooled by this year’s 90 day extension on taxes. Put at least 15% in a savings account so you are not caught off guard on tax day.
- Pay yourself. Don’t live out of your business account. Determine in your budget what your paycheck should be and deposit that into your personal checking.
- Budget for marketing. A good rule is 15-20%. This makes it easy to know what to say yes to in terms of all the marketing options in front of you.
- Create an emergency fund. Thanks to COVID, you now know your burn rate – the expenses you have to pay to keep your business open. Save for next time.
- Pay for your future. Put something, even $10, into your retirement account and watch it grow. Granted stocks are taking a hit, but this will improve.
Need a little more inspiration? Money is the #1 cause of stress in many people and the #1 cause of relationship failures. Get ahead of the money demons. Maureen Kelley created MADRE to coach people through Money And Durable Relationships. Another mentor of mine, Marie Forleo, created Six Money Mindset Shifts you need to know. If you have a hard time imagining a promising financial future, Andrew Wommack has a Bible-based series on imagination that will blow your mind.
Be the CBDO of your business. If you are a solo-preneur or a small business owner, you are spending 40% of your time at least in sales. Take an expert approach to business development by creating a conversion cycle that fits your business model. That means for every potential customer, you will
- Develop rapport
- Ask for the appointment
- Follow news and social posts on the company, creating a dialogue online
- Send valuable information that signals to the customer you understand what they need
- Offer a few options to connect. If email doesn’t work, try something old-fashioned. Pick up the phone.
Be the CMO of your business. It’s easy in this online world to spend 90% of your time managing social media feeds. Don’t get lost in the hustle. Know your audience and where they hang out online. Know what hash tags will draw them to your page, then curate that relationship as a human, not a marketing machine. Marketing strategist Veronica Belanger can walk you through a strategy that works for your customers and help you focus on the marketing strategies that get results, like
- Identify five bloggers to follow and start commenting on their posts. Get engaged with their followers. Don’t sell. Engage.
- Identify a few Facebook groups where your target customer hangs out and engage in dialogue. Don’t sell. Engage.
- Identify 3-4 magazines that cover what you do and engage with online posts, submit your own article.
- Identify 5 people to sell to the same market and develop a referral strategy.
- Identify people on LinkedIn if you sell professional services and curate a relationship. Do not waste money on LinkedIN leads! Create your own.
This should be enough to keep you busy this week. Focus forward. If your current business strategy is not built to sustain the shut down, reinvent. Build a new business strategy. Take advantage of the online options this COVID shut down is creating and be the frontrunner of a new business idea.
Isn’t it ironic that just a month before COVID cases started escalating, the entrepreneur community was on fire with proclamations of the Roaring 20’s. People were shouting about prolific success, doors opening, barriers crashing down and unimaginable parties. The irony is that the Roaring 20’s followed the Spanish Flu, which wiped out more people worldwide than both world wars. The 20’s brought the greatest Wall Street crash in history, prohibition and the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. It also was a decade of invention, changing the way the world traveled and played, introducing the automobile, flight and jazz music.
This COVID crisis will define this era. We have a choice which way it will go for us. We can choose to live in the city of regret or live in the possibility of what creativity will birth in this decade. We can live as a victim or live like a boss. Which path are you going to choose?