It’s been a week since New Zealand went into Level Four lockdown in efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. As the owner of an independent tradie business, you might have spent the last week trying to sort out a new routine, or maybe you were able to catch up on some rest and family time after a busy summer working in your business.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, New Zealand and the world is experiencing an uncertain and disruptive business climate; now is not the time to hibernate and neglect your business, your staff and your clients. The truth is what you do in the next four weeks could make all the difference – will you be raring to go or scrambling up from the bottom?
I know the real and sad impact of business failure and I don’t want that to happen to you. That’s why I’ve put together a list of tips to help you manage the short-term business issues you are facing, and help you and your team get prepared and ready to go at full speed ahead once the restrictions are lifted.
Tip One: Manage the immediate effects and get ready for a faster recovery
To help you navigate the short-term issues of COVID-19 and prepare your business for medium-term opportunities, I have put together a specific coaching support offer here. My priority is to provide you with help and support at this difficult time, and that’s why I’ve kept my hourly rate low (compared to many). Through this programme, you will access one-on-one coaching around the management skills you need during these uncertain and ever-changing times.
The government has announced extra funding for the Management Development Scheme specifically related to the impact of COVID-19. You might be able to access additional co-funding vouchers to help with the immediate effects of the shutdown (to assist with cash flow management and business continuity) and get you ready for a faster recovery (develop skills around marketing, improving your systems etc.). Speak to me today on how you can apply for funding.
Tip Two: Set the right tone for your staff
It’s harder to manage workplace culture through a computer or phone than it is face-to-face. As a small business owner, the danger of being physically away from your internal team members or outsourced contract providers is they could be chatting amongst themselves because they don’t know the full story (if and when they will get paid, what’s expected of them etc.) and therefore make up their own incomplete version of events.
Now’s the time to be proactive and set the right tone. Make sure your staff are set up with Zoom or Skype so you can still meet. You might want to have virtual Friday drinks together to keep the morale up. Keep connected and keep the tone both positive and transparent.
Tip Three: Stay front of mind and reinforce customer loyalty
Now is probably not the right time to do the aggressive sell. Your clients and prospects still want to hear from you, though. A lot of people are spending more time on social media, and it’s becoming increasingly common for people to find out about businesses through Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.
Upskill by learning how to leverage these technologies or delegate the task to someone else. Does your business offer something unique for the construction industry? Educate your readers on the benefits of this approach through punchy social media posts, or better still, video content. Engaging and informative posts often get shared widely, so more people can find out about you and your services.
It’s important to note that this also boosts your SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, which drives more traffic to your website.
Tip Four: Think service rather than sell
In Forbes Magazine, the President and Founder of Ballantines PR, Sarah Robarts states: “We are encouraging all our clients to see everything through the lens of service if they possibly can. Cater to the immediate needs of people.”
What are the immediate needs of your people? Firstly, they need communication. They want to hear from you about what is happening with their project and your availability to them during these four weeks. Can people still contact you? Send an email to your clients, letting them know if you and your staff are still working remotely and if they are available to answer questions.
If you see things through the lens of service, you might brainstorm different ideas where you could add value to bored people at home. Perhaps you could do a series of DIY videos or talk about the must-have tools to have around the house and garden.
Tip Five: Look for opportunities
Even after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, small businesses were able to make money because they were proactive and could see the opportunities.
What projects or challenges have you put off because you have previously been time poor? Have you noticed there is top talent out there or apprentices looking for a job, but you haven’t had time to interview them and recruit them? What networks can you join to get some referrals lined up and jobs booked in after the restrictions have lifted? Keep your eyes and ears open for the positives that can eventuate during this period.
Tip Six: Review how you spend your time and efforts
Unless you are an essential service, you probably have much more time on your hands than you did even a fortnight ago. So now is a good time to look at how you’ve previously managed your time and how you can make big or small changes to the way you work in order to make a lasting, positive difference.
What actions do you need to take to optimise how you use your time? The answer: Delegate, automate, coordinate and eliminate.
Let’s look at each one of them in turn:
- Delegate: What tasks can you stop doing and give to someone else? Do you have someone helping you with your marketing and admin? How about your lead generation and follow-ups? You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t, do everything yourself.
- Automate: What a great opportunity to research the many systems that you can use to automate and speed up your processes. Find systems which move you from paper-based to computer, saving you time and increasing your professionalism. Moving to cloud-based systems can boost your security, ease of access, speed and convenience. There are more and more providers of Software as a Service (SaaS) available to you and, usually, their subscription costs are relatively low for the time you save.
- Coordinate: Review and use the tools that you have like checklists and project planners. Now’s a good time to write, review and update your policies and procedures. Find new ways you can minimise and prevent future errors and waste.
- Eliminate: Write a list of all the jobs you were doing on a typical day, week, month and year. Highlight all the things that aren’t productive and make a commitment to stop doing them. Little time savings can make a difference. There is a principle called the 80/20 rule, where 20% of the action generates 80% of the results, and 20% of your top clients generate 80% of your revenue. Are you spending the most time on the actions and clients that bring you the best results?
Tip Seven: Review the fundamentals
What about all the things that your business coach or mentor has encouraged you to do? Now’s the time to get stuck in and complete those. Write or revisit your business plan, set and revisit your targets and key performance indicators, get a handle on your finances – especially your profit and loss and cash flow – or ask your accountant or coach to explain them. Look at your marketing strategy and see if it is attracting your ideal client or if you need to change it.
Tip Eight: Reduce your costs rather than increase your debt
Banks are offering mortgage repayment holidays to people experiencing hardship. Before you do this, you should look at reducing your repayments to the minimum or switching to interest only.
The downsides of mortgage holidays are:
- They will cost you more in the long run because interest is still accruing while you aren’t paying;
- You are likely to need to increase your payments after the mortgage holiday is over;
- The overall term of your mortgage will be extended.
What you could do instead to help your cash flow:
- Get rid of subscriptions that you are paying but aren’t using or are no longer necessary;
- Put some services on hold;
- Consider switching your broadband provider and downgrading your mobile data plan (and use WiFi instead);
- Talk with your accountant about the possibility of paying your tax in instalments.
- Look for technology and software that are offering free subscriptions or trials.
- Review your payment terms with suppliers;
Tip Nine: Keep your team where you can
The government is offering several schemes and packages to help keep businesses viable and prevent the need (wherever possible) to lay off staff. This includes:
- The Employer Wage subsidy scheme: If you’re an employer, contractor, sole trader or are self-employed, you may qualify for a lump sum payment to cover 12 weeks per employee.
- Various business cash flow and tax measures – talk to your accountant on whether you are eligible.
It costs more time and money to hire new staff and bring them up to speed than it does to retain existing staff. Research and apply for the subsidies to get the support you need to retain your trusted, experienced and skilled team.
Tip Ten: Speak to your business coach before making big decisions
Although we are in unprecedented times, an experienced business coach will have come across similar periods of instability, uncertainty and financial downturns. They will tell you not to panic and not to make rash decisions.
You should always refer to your business plan and vision before you “pivot”. Does your potential solution still align with your brand? Brainstorm your ideas and write out the pros and cons. Take your time to do the research. A business coach can also help you with scenario planning so you can plot what might happen if you decide to take a specific path.
The Trades Coach is available remotely to provide you with the support and accountability you need to get through the business challenges you are facing.
I encourage you to take advantage of a free business strategy review session to see how we can improve your business performance. Call me, Andy Burrows, today on 09 912 1901 or 027 688 6721.