It’s not a stretch to say that we are living in a different world than we were just a few weeks ago. If you’re like most people I’m speaking with, you might already be feeling business begin to dry up. Instead of panicking, I want to give you my best advice for not just surviving, but thriving during tumultuous times. This will pass, the economy will recover, and I want to make sure you’re in the best position possible when it does.
The first step is to understand your possible futures. Being uncertain causes fear. Fear clouds your thinking and will cause you to miss opportunities. Run a what-if analysis on your finances so that you can vividly see what your business would look like in several scenarios. Once you know the risks, you can begin to plan for them.
Be Smart With Cash Flow
Looking At Expenses
Cash flow is king even in the best of times. If you haven’t taken the time to look at your expenses, now is the time. Start by looking at your expenses with two lenses. First, what can I stop spending on? Second, which vendors can I work with to arrange some sort of payment agreement with?
You might be tempted to stop all marketing. That would be a massive mistake. New business will be critical for survival and many other businesses will cut their marketing budget. This is an opportunity. Take a look at your cost-per-lead or cost-per-account and determine which marketing channels are performing best for you. Double down on those, cut what isn’t working.
If you’ve been considering working with a smaller crew, now is the time to experiment. I’m not advocating that you put your employees in tough circumstances, but there are likely processes that you’ve thought could be streamlined. Perhaps it is about route efficiencies or maybe you have idle equipment at jobs?
If you must, consider reducing your team. It’s never easy letting someone go, especially during tough times. However, if it means preserving jobs for your A-players, then it is the right choice.
Vendors understand the situation right now. Like you, they are going to be looking to preserve relationships and position themselves for the future. Review your expenses and see who you think might be agreeable to working out deferred payments or payment plans. I promise you, your suppliers would rather keep you afloat than lose a customer and shrink the market.
Focus On Profitability
You can only cut so much before the quality begins to suffer. Cashflow isn’t just about expenses, it is also about growing income.
Find Your Most Profitable Services
Most businesses have a few services that really pay the bills. It’s the classic 80/20 rule. 20% of your clients generate 80% of your revenue. Identifying those services is the key to generating more efficiency for your business. Do not waste time and money on jobs that are breakeven unless it is critical for relationship management. Once you’ve identified these services, try to pick up more clients in that niche.
I already mentioned focusing on your most effective marketing channels, but the same can be applied to closing sales. What percentage of leads does your business close? What would it mean if you closed just one more a week? What would it look like if you could attract another of your most profitable clients?
Prepare For Uncertainty
These are uncertain times, but you can still prepare. I opened by talking about running a what-if analysis of your finances. Make sure you list out all the possible threats to your business right now or the foreseeable future. Some examples could be clients asking to defer payments, or clients canceling, or crew members quarantining. Now, once you have your list of threats, write out steps you can take today to mitigate the damage. Take the clients asking to defer payments; you can prepare for this scenario by coming up with proactive payment plans. Offering reduced pricing now that works for your cash flow needs might cause them to look elsewhere when they need to negotiate. You could also begin building cash reserves if possible.
Keep In Contact
Relationships and transparency are critical right now. I’m not advocating to be another one of those businesses that send a hollow “We’re here for you” email. Noise never helps relationships. However, you should do the following:
- Be clear with your employees about your plans and their job security. Trust me, they are wondering.
- Be clear with your clients about any changes to services. Check-in on them to see how their business is going and what you can do to help them. This is a good time to offer payment plans if that is a route you choose to pursue. If they ask about health and safety, be sure you have a plan. Reach out with actual help that speaks to their needs and not your own.
- Be clear with your vendors. If you need something, the time to ask is now. The earlier you can ask, the more likely you are to get some help and be in a position to weather whatever is in the pipeline.
Keep A Great Attitude
"Every decade or so, dark clouds will fill the economic skies, and they will briefly rain gold. When downpours of that sort occur, it’s imperative that we rush outdoors carrying washtubs, not teaspoons. And that we will do."
You might be looking outside and seeing some very dark clouds. Most people are. But this will create new opportunities for your business. If you focus on the clouds, you’ll miss them. Cycles like these have always been part of doing business, and they have been the moments that turn okay businesses into amazing businesses. You can do it too; don’t panic, plan for what you can, and keep a positive attitude.