These are the times that you were created for. No matter what the impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent response will have on you, your family, and your business, this is a time when your leadership is needed most. As entrepreneurs, we didn’t sign up for certainty. We take the road less traveled and embrace risk to pursue opportunity. Opportunity to provide a better life for our families. Opportunity to grow something bigger than ourselves. To create. To face challenges and find a better way. To build a legacy of impact rather than passivity. Face it… if it were easy, we probably wouldn’t do it. And so here we are.
There are things that none of us can control, but the one thing that we all control right now is how we choose to lead and move forward each day. When this time of uncertainty is over (and it will be over), there will be enormous opportunity. We also must acknowledge that there will be pain, hard decisions, and that some businesses will not make it. Now is the time to start preparing for opportunity and positioning your business to survive and thrive on the other side.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, framed the “Flywheel Effect”. Collins explains this as, “Disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action—operating with freedom within a framework of responsibilities—this is the cornerstone of a culture that creates greatness.” This action builds momentum and yields results. This is the simplest formula for success in business. During times like these, it is even more important to dive headfirst into this approach and start turning the flywheel. How?
Here are a few critical items that I want to be sure you are thinking about and taking action on over the coming weeks.
- Shoot the Black Swans. Black swans symbolize unpredictable events that can have dire consequences. I will often ask business owners, “What is your biggest risk?” Many times their first response is flippant, such as, A zombie apocalypse would destroy or disrupt our business. Thinking strategically goes deeper than that. Ask, “What is it about the zombie apocalypse, as it relates to your business, that presents the risk?” Is it the impending response that you are not ready for? Our aim is to identify potential single points of failure in your business that this time has exposed, and fix them for the future. It could be people, systems, strategies, markets, etc. For example, if your business relies too heavily on trade shows or events for sales, the response to COVID-19 has exposed that…it is time to diversify your market channels for the future (i.e. online sales, etc). This may not affect the next three months, but if you emerge ready to roll out, it will impact your ability to capture future opportunities.
- Increase Cadence of Communication and Strategic Time with Yourself and Your Team. Now more than ever before, it is important to keep everyone focused on priorities, communicating, and pulling together as a family. If you weren’t doing this well before, now is the time to get on a regular cadence with yourself and your team to plan your work, and work your plan strategically and tactically. Think about how best to do this and on what cadence. If you are separated from your team, utilize conference calls, Zoom, WebEx, Google hangouts or another system to have regular scheduled meetings. This could have the longest lasting positive effect on your business culture. As Dwight D. Eisenhower once proclaimed, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
- 30-60–90-Day Contingency Plan. This is all about finance. You need to understand where you are financially, what your break-even point is each month, and what your 30-60-90-day plan is for moving forward. Current Cash Balance + Projected AR – Projected AP – Overhead and Other Costs = Cash Flow in its simplest form for a given time period. Whether you are impacted or not, you need to have a clear understanding of where you are financially. If you don’t yet, contact me and I can help.
- Problems Scream! Opportunities Whisper. Spend some time thinking strategically about what opportunities exist now that can make an impact in your business, or that will exist when things resume to normal. A small example might be, if you currently have debt above 4% and experience demonstrable losses during this time, you could potentially re-structure that debt with SBA disaster relief financing. This may not apply to your business if you have other means of financing, but it is important to keep current on financial relief opportunities and take advantage of those that make sense. Learn now how this might apply. Not that you use it, but there is cheap money at 3.75%. You can learn more about that here.
Turning the flywheel takes extraordinary effort, but more importantly it takes disciplined people, engaging in disciplined thought, and executing with disciplined effort. In times of crisis, huddling before each play, and using all of your timeouts strategically, shifts momentum to your favor. One play at a time, one day at a time. You and your people are the greatest assets that your business possesses, and in fact one of the only appreciating assets that your organization holds. Protect your greatest assets each day on purpose with intentionality… managing today, and designing tomorrow… staying ahead of the decision makers. What opportunities exist for you and your business to come out of this season stronger?