#1 Check your resolve.
The first step in any crisis is to ensure that your mental game is in shape. Ideally, you work on this before you need it, much as an Olympic athlete trains prior to their best being required in a quadrennial competition.
In the same way, the purpose of developing your mental game is to have your best ready to go when your best is required. As quick introduction, studies of Mental Toughness done globally show that our mental game is made of four areas:
When we fail to achieve what we want, or in a time of crisis or deep competition, we find one or more of these areas was not developed to the extent it could have been. We all have a different mix of mental strengths, and therefore different responses to stress and tension. Before you begin to deal with the crisis, consider:
1. A Control Crisis: Am I too concerned with control over things I cannot control? Am I compensating for the anxiety of feeling out-of-control by doing anything that might sabotage me?
2. A Commitment Crisis: Am I too concerned with not meeting goals I had them currently set? Am I re-setting expectations and looking for new tools and tactics that might assist with a different pathway towards my intended goals?
3. A Confidence Crisis: Am I overly concerned with what people with think, or am I struggling with my thoughts about my own abilities to navigate this crisis and make wise decisions? Do I trust I can influence the people I need to in order to navigate this wisely?
4. A Challenge Crisis: Am I ostriching my way through the crisis, burying my head, hoping for the best and assuming nothing will change in terms of employee, customer and supplier behavior? Am I hesitating because I am overwhelmed by learning new information and not acting because I cannot find what really matters in all the new things?
To balance these four, consider:
1. Identify the things you can control. Make goals or plans to control those things.
2. The things you cannot control but are influenced by people you know or could get to know, make plans to have conversations about shared value and how helping you helps them.
3. Make a list of all the positive things you have done to get where you are and generalize them – _f_o_r_ _e_x_a_m_p_l_e_,_ _“I_ _m_a_n_a_g_e_d_ _t_o_ _g_e_t_ _t_h_e_ _w_h_o_l_e_ _t_e_a_m_ _i_n_t_o_ _a_ _r_e_m_o_t_e_ _w_o_r_k_i_n_g_ _s_i_t_u_a_t_i_o_n_ _within 48_ _h_o_u_r_s_ _a_n_d_ _w_e_ _d_i_d_n_’t_ _m_i_s_s_ _a_n_y_ _c_l_i_e_n_t_ _d_e_l_i_v_e_r_a_b_l_e_s_._ _I_ _s_e_e_m_ _t_o_ _a_c_t_u_a_l_l_y_ _o_p_e_r_a_t_e_ _p_r_e_t_t_y_ _w_e_l_l_ _i_n_ _c_r_i_s_i_s_ _s_i_t_u_a_t_i_o_n_s_;_” _o_r_ _“I_ _r_a_n_ _t_h_a_t_ _Z_o_o_m_ _c_o_n_f_e_r_e_n_c_e_ _w_e_l_l_;_ _I_ _a_m_ _r_e_a_l_l_y_ _g_o_o_d_ _a_t_ _f_a_c_i_l_i_t_a_t_i_o_n_!_” _(_M_i_n_d_i_n_g_ _w_h_e_r_e_ _y_o_u_r_ _m_i_n_d_ _g_o_e_s_ _i_n_ _t_h_i_s_ _w_a_y_ _w_i_l_l_ _s_h_o_r_t_ _c_i_r_c_u_i_t_ _s_e_l_f_-talk that erodes confidence – _f_i_n_d_i_n_g_ _t_h_e_s_e_ _p_o_s_i_t_i_v_e_ _t_h_i_n_g_s_ _i_n_s_t_e_a_d_ _o_f_ _t_h_i_n_k_i_n_g_ _t_h_i_n_g_s_ _l_i_k_e_ _“T_h_a_t_ _e_x_e_c_u_t_i_v_e_ _d_i_d_n_’t_ _e_v_e_n_ _c_a_l_l_ _b_a_c_k_;_ _I_ _a_m_ _j_u_s_t_ _n_o_t_ _g_o_o_d_ _a_t_ _b_u_s_i_n_e_s_s_ _d_e_v_e_l_o_p_m_e_n_t_,_” _k_e_e_p_s_ _y_o_u_r_ _mental game focused on positive results, or what you learned from a result_ _y_o_u_ _d_i_d_n_’t_ _w_a_n_t_._ _All our results are simply moments in time, and not representative of our character (even great results can make us a one-hit wonder if we do not continue with resolve.)
4. Consider what the 20% of the most important information you need to know to make a reasonably confident decision. In crisis, many decisions are made with little information. What used to be a finely tuned machine is now an emergency room with trauma everywhere – _the VERY BEST thing you can do is survive. Do enough to blunt the worst and then you can shift to a better problem-solving mode. Consider that crisis activities are the MOST labor and capital-intensive ways to handle problems. For example, th_e_ _U_S_A_’s_ _C_A_R_E_S_ _Act cost about $2.2 Trillion. Phase 1 only! At the time of writing, three phases have been passed and a fourth is being discussed. And it is not making much of a difference). Crisis activities are NOT the new normal; they simply exist to help you survive.
#2 Shift to R.O.W.E. (Results Only Work Environment)
While this might seem a radical shift, and this admittedly cannot work in all industries, industries are f_i_n_d_i_n_g_ _r_i_g_h_t_ _n_o_w_ _t_h_a_t_ _a_ _L_O_T_ _o_f_ _w_o_r_k_ _t_h_a_t_ _p_r_e_v_i_o_u_s_l_y_ _s_t_a_y_e_d_ _a_t_ _s_t_a_t_u_s_ _q_u_o_ _b_e_c_a_u_s_e_ _‘b_e_c_a_u_s_e_’,_ _a_r_e_ _n_o_w_ _finding remote working is possible.
The shift available to forward thinking small business owners, consulting firms, government services, customer service centers and other work that does not require an in-person presence to conduct business will find that productivity soars when ROWE is implemented.
ROWE is vastly different than the emergency measures of using ZOOM and simply moving processes online. ROWE means more openly transparent progress and expectations, from a variety of directions. It means teams, money, and hierarchy work different. It does not do away with hierarchy, which plays a crucial and helpful role in all organizations. It simply pushes hierarchy down to the lowest level possible for the organization to serve effectively.
If people are in the mode of working remotely, why not keep it up, even after things open? Your teams are going to be learning a LOT during this time, both about what works and more importantly, what does not. Once students head back to schools, and your team can figure out the minimum levels needed to produce, interact, decide and inform, you can then begin working with them about normalizing those practices.
In my personal consulting, I have seen a service center for government services reduce effort by nearly 50% by moving employees to working remotely. Though the service center employees were on a time schedule (they worked 8-hour shifts), those at home served at a 65% more efficient level and reported greater happiness, engagement and satisfaction with their work environment. In knowledge work, remote workers generally report the same productivity can be achieved in roughly half the time, without the interruptions of meetings, distractions of open offices and the enjoyable (though not always productive) conversations at the coffee machine or water cooler.
Moving to a ROWE environment will require clear definition of the outcomes of each role you have employed. This is good practice anyway, as defining outcomes people should achieve helps them move away from method as identity and puts in place a norm that better ways to get outcomes is what gets rewarded, not adherence to a process. You will find you begin measuring things more efficiently and effectively, and a by-product is more strategic thinking employees, giving you a competitive advantage as your staff has a built-in developmental system and succession planning process.
Engagement issues will now tend to go away, as clarity of purpose and role along with ownership of outcomes are in place. Imagine that. Treating people as human and competent ends up with them being human and competent.
#3 Help clients meet their goals.
If this initially strikes you as underwhelming, and not especially revolutionary, it is a surprisingly radical idea. Perhaps the most radical in this book.
Follow the logic here. Stop thinking about what you do. Start thinking about what your customers accomplish by working with you, or what goals are achieved using your service. Now, take that thinking a step further in conversation with your customers. What do their customers accomplish by working with them – _c_o_n_s_i_d_e_r_ _f_u_n_c_t_i_o_n_a_l_ _n_e_e_d_s_ _(_l_i_k_e_ _‘m_y_ _t_a_x_e_s_ _g_e_t_ _d_o_n_e_’ _o_r_ _‘m_y_ _l_a_w_n_ _i_s_ _m_o_w_e_d_)_,_ _s_o_c_i_a_l_ _n_e_e_d_s_ _(_l_i_k_e_ _‘m_y_ _r_e_l_a_t_i_o_n_s_h_i_p_s_ _w_i_t_h_ _t_h_e_ _g_o_v_e_r_n_m_e_n_t_ _a_n_d_ _m_y_ _b_u_s_i_n_e_s_s_ _p_a_r_t_n_e_r_s_ _a_r_e_ _b_e_t_t_e_r_ _w_h_e_n_ _m_y_ _t_a_x_e_s_ _a_r_e_ _d_o_n_e_ _r_i_g_h_t_’ _a_n_d_ _‘I_ _w_o_n_’t_ _b_e_ _s_o_r_e_ _thumb with the weeds and tall grass in the neighbourhood’)_,_ _a_n_d_ _p_e_r_s_o_n_a_l_ _n_e_e_d_s_ _(_l_i_k_e_ _‘I_ _h_a_v_e_ _p_e_a_c_e_ _o_f_ _m_i_n_d_ _t_h_a_t_ _t_h_e_ _c_o_n_f_u_s_i_n_g_ _p_r_o_c_e_s_s_ _i_s_ _m_a_d_e_ _e_a_s_y_,_’ _a_n_d_ _‘I_ _f_e_e_l_ _p_r_o_u_d_ _I_ _h_a_v_e_ _o_n_e_ _o_f_ _t_h_e_ _b_e_s_t_ _l_o_o_k_i_n_g_ _y_a_r_d_s_’)_._ _A_r_e_ _t_h_e_r_e_ _N_E_W_ _w_a_y_s_ _t_o_ _h_e_l_p_ _y_o_u_r_ _clients and customers with these goals?
Put what you do right out of your mind, study your customers downstream, and even their customers further along and ask what you can do to assist them. Here is an example – _I spoke with a client who provides communications strategy for Fortune 500 companies. Our conversation included exploring not just creating communications plans for the clients paying him but offering to go one step further with his clients. I suggested he (for free) go along to meetings with his client (or video chat in) and together see how the Fortune 500 company could serve innovatively. It might mean he does work outside of communications strategy (which he can do but had not had the confidence to promote). This also helps your clients retain cashflow, which helps you retain cashflow.
If you go a step or two beyond what you normally do, could you do something else entirely as a result of studying what your traditional customers need now? This exercise may cause you to reconfigure your entire offer. However, it will mean that you continue to serve the same people even if it is in an alternative new way.
You could spend a day or two strategizing around this idea alone.
If you take this seriously, it may be the greatest launch pad for ideas that your leadership team has ever considered.
#4 Pre-pay now for services later.
Most crisis events provide trauma for many, and an unexpected windfall for others.
Do you have a little extra cash flow available? Are there things you will inevitably need to do a few months down the line? What if you did the opposite of everyone else? Surprise the daylights out of your suppliers and offer to pay in advance! You can negotiate better rates because they will appreciate the payment during a dry spell, and if it makes sense, pass the savings along to your customers and clients so you give them some relief in the time of crisis too. In businesses with inventory, this will also help you keep storage and inventory costs under control, while keeping cash flow freed up. It will not do you any good to stock up if you cannot move the product.
As a case study, consider The Container Store. At one point I was a designer for them – _I helped customers design their closets, garages and other places where storage was an issue. During the days of the Global Financial Crisis – _roughly 2007-2010, The Container Store found that their shelving partner, elfa, was struggling. If they went under, no solutions could be designed or sold. So, The Container Store offered to purchase multiple times their normal amounts at a discount, and then
created a 30% promotion for customers that extended through the year (this promotion is usually only available once a year). Everybody won.
#5 Allow clients to share costs among themselves and provide value at scale.
Could you pool your customers who may not be able to afford you individually into larger groups? Though they cannot afford your normal fee, they might be able to afford 1/10th? These customers might be willing to make a single payment as a group at your normal rates. Could you organize that? If so, you could provide value at scale and they could benefit from that reduced cost. Are there other operators you could include in whole or in part to add to the value?
While this works especially well in areas where teaching is done – _consulting, music lessons and t_u_t_o_r_i_n_g_,_ _t_h_i_s_ _i_d_e_a_ _m_a_y_ _n_e_e_d_ _t_o_ _b_e_ _‘s_t_a_c_k_e_d_’ _w_i_t_h_ _o_t_h_e_r_ _t_a_c_t_i_c_s_ _t_o_ _w_o_r_k_ _f_o_r_ _o_t_h_e_r_s_._ _I_n_ _t_h_e_ _l_a_n_d_s_c_a_p_i_n_g_ _business, for example, an online meeting where you teach clients how to shop their own house to improve the look of the landscape might normally be a 10-minute, in-person discussion. But if you were to think about the 4-5 main points, get some examples together and put it into a plan that clients can DO while they are locked down, it might be a 45-minute seminar people would pay for, or you could provide it for free as a way to stay connected to your customer base.
#6 Consolidate the market.
If you’re in a position to do so why not buy smaller operators and give them enough salary to survive? This might be a perfect time to grow your operations by buying when many others are selling. For efficiency, and possibly even offer value, offer them a buyback option when things get better – _this way, your tactic helps people in a couple of ways, and your money can stay at work for you long after the crisis is over.
#7 Stagger your salary requirements.
If keeping up with salaries is an issue, have employees work two to three days at a time, or a week at a time in shifts, rather than simply laying off any one group. Reduce hours for everyone to an amount that allows them to pay their basic bills. This might mean having some transparent and trust conversations around true needs and true issues that the organization is dealing with. There also may be legalities to taking this approach – _for many, it is a chance to keep valued workers on board while keeping the doors open.
A twist on this for businesses are a couple of other scenarios that you may want to consider. 1) Not every employee may be performing, and it might be a chance to let some go while doubling down on key talent; 2) other businesses, not as clever as you, will be furloughing people and shutting down – _now may be the time to lock in people with great talent who are suddenly looking for a new role.
#8 Share the talent.
If you are a seasonal business, arrange with other companies that utilize temps and have them take your employees when you do not use them. Ice cream shops and apple orchards could work with the local ski hill, for example.
#9 Turn cost centers into revenue streams.
Document your processes and have employees who are usually a cost utilize their expertise for the benefit of others in your industry, or for other businesses with a similar profile – _s_u_c_h_ _a_s_ _‘H_u_m_a_n_ _Resources for businesses with 20-5_0_ _p_e_o_p_l_e_._’ _While you do not need a crisis to be happening for this idea to work for you, it does provide a revenue option to pursue right now.
#10 Implement an employee-ownership model.
Instead of taking a furlough or unemployment option, have employees work free in order to earn equity in the company. This provides you with several options:
1. It can move the organization towards an employee ownership model. As a bonus, this could also double as a succession plan for owners at that stage of the business cycle.
2. It offers an in-part or in-whole way of creating your own disaster relief loan, which can take on more creative means of pay-back or buy-back than government programs.
3. It offers a way to lock in key talent – _you do not have to make the offer to everyone.
11 Mind the children.
If you are still gathering for work during this crisis, determine whether it is appropriate to provide a childcare center for employees, paying a few childcare workers is much cheaper than a shutdown.
Productivity for your company may be impeded when schools shut down and children are at home. Of course, moving to a ROWE environment would solve this, but even if you do not, a childcare center could be a way to solve this issue temporarily.
One school I worked with implemented this idea on a permanent basis, and was able to draw better teaching talent as young mothers were more willing to come back to work when they know their 3 month to 4-year-olds were only steps away at the on-site day-care, provided at cost to employees.
#12 Book in future appointments and payment NOW.
If you run a service that requires an in-person offer, such as a salon, call all your clients right now and offer them a future appointment at a 10% discount. In addition to locking in their early booking, give them access to online training, free delivery of a favourite product or some other creative add-on.
Another creative way to generate some income for when you open is to open bidding for who gets served first on day one when things open. You might get 20-30% more for those bookings for people who are desperate to get the service. Simply let the market decide the value of the bookings.
#13 Turn opening into a party.
Create an event around re-opening. Sell tickets, and partner with a caterer. People will love meeting other customers, getting a service done and celebrating opening together. Not everybody can be served on day 1, but everyone can have fun!
You could turn it into a party like 24 hours of nails or 24 hours of haircuts so that everybody can get the service they want and need after a long period of not being able to access during crises of different kinds. There will be different types of businesses allowed to stay open. For the daring, try and set a Guinness World Record of some kind in the opening of your service.
#14 Become an essential supplier.
Often those that are part of the safety supplies and basic needs supply chains will be able to stay open in a crisis. Consider how you might configure your business to deliver something that is essential in any situation. Even if it is not a big part of your business regularly, in a crisis, it might be the biggest part of your business. An example of this is GameStop, known for sales of video games and exchange of video game systems. In the crisis, it could stay open because it also sells internet
peripheral peripherals, like video cameras routers and other gear that people can use to get online and stay online.
Look up for your state or country what local and national essential services are and create plan B-C-D for various scenarios. Greenhouses shut down could start growing their seeds and become a fruit and vegetable stand; many of the flowers they were forced to throw away are edible – _they could sell those as food instead of as decorative plants. Remember, the goal is survival, not to continue in your status quo – _creatively use what you have and find a way to turn it into an essential service.
#15 Double down on getting referrals.
Now is not the time to be shy.
Call every client and ask for two or three referrals. Get those referrals while you are on the phone and do not wait for them to look them up and send them over later. Turn those new referrals into a new client using strategies that were earlier in this book by allowing these new clients to bid on services, selling them a one for one deal, or invite them to your opening launch party.
#16 Sell future services now.
Sell gift cards for your services so that you have cash flow now. If you do not have a gift card offer, make one!
If you can afford to, offer a $5 or $10 gift card for each referral who makes a purchase.
#17 Sell in bulk.
Analyze individual client data, and if you do not have it, find a way to get it. Your past appointment books, online calendars and phone records might be places to get this information if you do not have a system that holds this for you. If you cannot get individual data, you might be able to at least get transaction data, showing you numbers of clients at what price points. You will need to make some guesses, but it is better than nothing!
Once you have the data, find the buying patterns – _what kinds of clients use your services how often, and at what price points?
For example, if I own a hair dressing shop, I can tell from the appointment book how often, on average people come in to get their hair done. There will likely be 3-5 patterns of service use. Place all your clients in 1 of the patterns you discover. Call and offer them 12 months up front at a 20% discount. Your books will be full, you will have the cash flow you need for now and your clients gain because they get assurance of locked in future service at a discounted rate.
If you are worried about discounting at that rate, make sure you stay to budget. Do not overspend because you have a large influx of cash – _remember it is_ _n_e_a_r_l_y_ _a_ _y_e_a_r_’s_ _revenue. Invest what you do not need to survive and grow that influx of cash.
#18 Use a subscription model.
Turn your service into a subscription model. A service like carpet cleaning is usually something like $99 for two rooms or three rooms. Clients usually call once a year or once every two years.
So, offer an annual subscription- say two times per year for $179, and allow them to pay it monthly ($15 a month for a guarantee of pristine carpets every 6 months? Sign me up!)
Soon you will have a predictable income. The reduced rate is made up in the fact that you will have a full calendar. A predictable income gives you more time to market to more customers, as you can now afford employees to deliver. Train them in getting referrals and soon you will Less time chasing up marketing leads and working on ads means you can spend more time delivering service!
#19 Move from retail to wholesale.
Most service small businesses are retail – _that is, they deal with customers and clients on an individual basis. In this crisis, these sales have largely shut down. They are not essential. But there are companies that have been allowed to stay open that might be able to use your services on a wholesale level. A carpet cleaning business who cannot serve individual homes may be able to serve funeral homes, nursing homes, hotels, hospitals and other workplaces that need to ensure they are regularly sanitized.
Think about what industries and companies are open, and has a problem you can solve with some part of your business? What problems or pains are created in the crisis for those deemed essential that you might help solve? Here are a few ideas:
1. Hazmat suits for hair salons – _these suits are disposable, and cost can be passed on to customers.
2. Disinfecting showers for the garage would allow health care workers to shift from work to home mode.
3. Side-line bubbles for the open office. Those parents who have the clear tents to stay warm (ish) and dry on the side-lines of the Saturday soccer games are on to something – _use these in the open office to make not so open (and not so contagious).
4. Create a private label shop and ship if you have vehicles and are shut down. Your trucks and company cars, and your ability to handle logistics can be re-purposed into a scaled grocery shopping and delivery service. Call all your customers and ask them to sign up with you instead of with Shipt.
5. Create an online business – _a hair salon can still sell shampoo and hair product. Turn every hairdresser into an outward-bound sales rep and get people on hair care and product subscriptions while booking future appointments in.
Great ideas are out there. You can find ways to hit the accelerator instead of giving up.
#20 Pivot to something different for now.
The absolute best strategy is the one that leaves you alive to battle again the next day. Do whatever you have to do to pay the bills for the business. Think of beer brewers suddenly becoming hand sanitizer makers, or the car companies making masks, plastic face screens and ventilators. You may need to take a job to use the proceeds to pay business bills. You may need to get disaster relief to cover bills, pay for damage or fund a payroll.
If you feel you are out of options, the last option is retreat. But retreat is never giving up – _it is staying alive to fight another day.
#21 Utilize the law to your advantage.
If you are an employer, keep track of what your state law says about the rules for unemployment and make sure that you keep employees working enough so that they do not qualify for unemployment if you can. Unemployment can be an expensive way out as you are paying someone not to work, albeit at a far less rate than you would pay for productivity.
Call your financial advisor, tax advisor, get employment law experts on board and consider all your contractual risks and opportunities. In a crisis, legislation is passed that allows for different law to apply. This also happens when an emergency is declared. What new advantages does this give you? Are there ways to get forgivable loans, consolidate debt at a hugely reduced fee, to keep employees on board in ways that reduce risk and maximize the legal code to your business and personal advantage.
I am not advocating cutting corners and cheating or acting immorally in any way. I have found that often, business owners are not taking advantage of changes in the law based on new case law, legislation or a difference in application based on an emergency state, and expert advice can help you find advantages you did not know you had.
#22 Safety first.
For the future (or near future) put safety plans in place now so that you can stay open or be the first to open. In addition to having a robust safety plan, ensure that you have the right processes, equipment and training for people to calmly and firmly enforce safety procedures for colleagues and customers, while perhaps also providing safety equipment for customers so that they can still shop. Ensure that employees know exactly what to do in the scenarios by preparing them with scenarios, role plays and scripts. Customer behavior may not be predictable – _for example, some customers may be angered that you ask them to wear masks into your grocery store. Prepare your employees for what to say and do in this scenario.
#23 Swim with the big fish.
You might also consider contracting for work with bigger companies that can stay open but have issues with capacity. You could do delivery or something for them even though perhaps your main offer is not open or cannot be done during a shutdown.
For example, Costco may need help with their delivery service, and your landscaping service, with its three trucks and 5 employees, may be a perfect local partner.
You may be able to contract your workers to work for someone else for a fee – _this eliminates your payroll obligations for a short while and creates a temporary revenue stream. Currently, the meat processing industry is a fragile workplace experiencing a need for waves of new workers.
Of course, given the huge use of certain supplies, and the fragility of others, you may simply be able to offer capacity in your own field of expertise.
#24 Find ways to tell your story.
One friend is a well-known photographer and used her talents to boost the profile of businesses by taking photos of local business owners behind their closed doors, along with a story of their business and personal life.
Another is eating take away somewhere different every night and telling the story of the local restaurant chosen.
Find ways to share your experience and the experiences of others. Your stories will connect, and people will relate to you. When people have a relationship with you, they will buy. Find a way to survive (that is about the money) and find a way to connect (that is about your customers.)
Here are a few ideas I have seen to date that seem to resonate with customers.
Interview your employees on Facebook livestream.
Start a video blog and do 3-5-minute daily updates to your status and progress.
Offer to tell your story to radio or to the news.
Use your platform (your business Facebook page or other ways you reach customers) to tell customer stories, and how you are helping them.
Partner with police, hospitals, schools or other community-based places that have a large following and send out messages to both of your clients lists to help both of you.
#25 Turn to the community.
In times of difficulty, community empowerment models are the ONLY business model that has proven to work in any society, in any time period, in any economy, in any time period. T_h_e_ _E_u_r_o_p_e_a_n_ _‘o_l_d_ _t_o_w_n_ _s_q_u_a_r_e_s_’ _w_e_r_e_ _m_a_d_e_ _t_h_a_t_ _w_a_y_ _t_o_ _f_a_c_i_l_i_t_a_t_e_ _f_a_r_m_e_r_’s markets – _community markets where goods could be bought, sold, exchanged and bartered. They were a local platform of exchange. Now, social media can operate as this in a crisis, and there are other outlets that let you access the community in times of need. GoFundMe and other donation sites, Kickstarter and Indiegogo along with other start up funding sites, and many more online platforms exist. My experience has been to go where people already are and offer your services or ask for help. In a crisis, the more local the better.