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COVID-19 Pivot: Guidance for Small Business Survival and Restructuring

Following is the first in the Economic Alliance’s six-part “COVID-19 Pivot” entrepreneurial support series.

By Jesse Erickson

COVID-19 has taken the world by storm, impacting our daily lives, businesses and our future. For months to come, we will all look at this situation as a part of a larger conversation about how our businesses must evolve over time. We will consider additional remote working, greater supply chain diversification, new business models, better preparedness for future disruptions in the economic landscape and a host of other business success factors.

Though we all wish circumstances were different, now is an ideal time for each of us to reflect on our businesses and careers. As we all sit in semi- or full quarantine, we can take a pause and consider how this type of global shift could impact us permanently. Use this time wisely, even amid the confusion, to slow down and consider the following:

  1. Do my business strategy and plan require review?

When was the last time you looked at your business or strategic plan for your business? Perhaps you have several of them for different groups, services or products. Or, perhaps you’ve never written one at all. Now that you have some time away from the office, pull them back out or start writing them down. You may want to evaluate how well you have followed this written plan. You may need to adjust your plans to take into account how you will become more versatile as we emerge from the pandemic. If you’ve never done this before, find an expert that can talk you through the process, look at your existing model and possibly even help you improve it.

  1. What types of operational shifts will help me ride out disruption?

It may be time to evaluate new products, services and delivery methods. For many restaurants, this means considering take-out and delivery processes, or even online ordering. If you haven’t done this before, you definitely need to now. As the economy shifts, many products and services are becoming obsolete while others are skyrocketing to unseen levels. This is why companies like Amazon are limiting product sales to essentials while also hiring thousands of temporary workers. Is there a product or business you could add to your business that is pandemic-proof? If not, perhaps some consideration of recession-proof options is a better exercise. How can you ensure business continuity even when people aren’t spending?

  1. How should I adjust my sales and marketing funnels?

Many businesses have had the same marketing and sales funnel for years. Perhaps your customer base is driven purely by passer-by traffic or you’ve been servicing the same accounts for as long as you can remember. If this is you, a new funnel is long overdue. Begin to develop content, customer lists and other pieces of the funnel puzzle while you have the spare time. You might not close any sales this week, but you will be prepared to ride with the economic upturn when the time comes. After evaluation, you may find that your old way of servicing customers no longer works in the post-coronavirus world. Have confidence that, as markets rebound, diversification will certainly help to mitigate risk to your business going forward.

  1. Which pesky tasks can I knock out?

We all have that list. The list that sits there, staring us in the face, day after day. We want to get to it. (Or maybe we don’t). We mostly just want it to go away. Get to it this week, and knock out lingering tasks so you can start fresh when we resume our normal work life.

  1. What new knowledge or skills can I pick up?

Last but certainly not least, learn something new that will benefit your business. I’ve been taking this time to start exploring deeper analytics for business and other use cases. I’ve started reading a book that has been sitting on my shelf for over a year and have begun exploring a new software I’ve been meaning to learn. Ensure that this time is spent looking at something that can help you grow once the quarantine is lifted.

Though the world has changed overnight and everyone is scrambling to understand the possible long-term impacts, now is indeed the time to take it slow,  to reevaluate and reflect on how our businesses can be better when we come out of this. Refocus your work life, however it may currently look, on these ideas and come out of the coronavirus with a stronger business than you’ve ever had!

I look forward to considering these five issues in greater depth with you over the next several weeks. Join the ongoing conversation at Catalyst’s Facebook page.

JESSE ERICKSON is president and CEO of Catalyst, a Kankakee, Illinois-based business and organizational consultancy. Catalyst leads clients through business and strategic planning, development of new revenue streams and cost-cutting tactics, the implementation of better financial management processes, and the integration of strategic initiatives to improve organizational visibility, data analysis, and overall growth. Jesse is a Quickbooks Certified ProAdvisor, an Asana Certified Pro and a Certified Business Incubation Manager. He holds a Doctorate in Business Administration (Strategy & Innovation concentration), Master of Engineering Management (Technical Entrepreneurship concentration) and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.