Take stock of your business before, like a bad dream, the lessons fade…
Remember how this year started? A dream… Small business owners had great visions of growth fueled by record stocks, record employment and high customer sentiment. We had big plans, bullish outlooks, and few reasons to worry. Then the coronavirus hit – suddenly – like a nightmare, shaking us out of our euphoria, ripping the covers off our businesses, exposing weaknesses, spotlighting fears, and testing our resolve. Nightmares offer powerful windows into our souls and vulnerabilities. As a small business ourselves, as well as one who works with hundreds of other small businesses, we have witnessed the soul-searching trauma. But the lessons we learn from nightmares fade rapidly as we wake. Now is the time to look closely at what this bad dream revealed in our businesses and take stock of changes we need to make before the pain and memories recede. Take stock of:
Vendor Relationships – Did our vendor relationships help or hinder us? What vendors were there when we needed them (PPP application process), who abandoned us, and who were operating so precariously they could no longer provide supplies or services?
Customers – Did our mix of customers sustain our business or accelerate its decline? Was our revenue dispersed across customers and segments or overly concentrated on a client or industry? Were our customers healthy or teetering?
Employees – Who outperformed in the moment and who was a drag? Whose grit, strength and ingenuity inspired others and who followed? Who made sacrifices for the good of the company and who retreated?
Organization – Did the structure of our organization aid or impede important decision making? Were we able to rapidly adjust the size of our organization to the circumstances or were personnel decisions complicated and sticky?
Cost Structure – Was our business model agile enough to cope with sudden economic pressure? Or were we burdened by fixed costs, heavy debt, or shaky funding?
Infrastructure – Were we able to quickly adapt processes and systems to operate in a new way or was our infrastructure a barrier? Did our systems lend themselves to working virtually or were they clunky and outdated? Did our operating procedures facilitate shifting how our employees worked or were they rigid and cumbersome?
And most importantly…
Leadership – Were we ready to lead through a crisis? Did we understand the state of our business well enough to make swift, critical decisions or were we caught off guard? Did we have the financial information at our fingertips to support rapid decision making or did we wrestle to get a clear picture of revenue, expenses, and cash flow? Did we project confidence or anxiety?
The coronavirus nightmare will end. We will get back to business and though memories of our struggles will linger, hard lessons will wane. While the pain is fresh and the flaws exposed, capture the lessons. It is good business therapy!
Gwenn Rosener is co-founder of FlexProfessionals, LLC, a niche staffing and recruiting company specializing in sourcing professionals for part-time, project-based and flexible work arrangements.