What’s the Game Plan?
Strategy is everything when it comes to sustaining your business in times of disruption. Consider the 3 Rs – review, regroup and reinvent – as you find new paths to profitability.
As Canadian businesses continue to adapt and adjust to the new business climate due to Covid-19, there’s bound to be more than a few starts and stops. Retooling on the fly is hard work. There is no playbook, no precedent and no way to predict the future, so having a solid business plan—and a Plan B—is your best ally. Consider the 3 Rs a framework to help you find the path forward.
1. Review…the big picture
With so many financial and operational challenges to wade through, it may seem difficult to know where to start. Begin by taking stock of everything. Focus first on a review of staff, customers, suppliers, revenue and the latest public health recommendations to understand the full picture. What is the view from above?
“Step one is figuring out if your business can remain open,” says Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). “Making sure you’re not off-side with government rules is of critical importance.”
Kelly’s team has fielded tens of thousands of calls since the start of the pandemic from small business owners struggling to navigate the new business reality. Keep yourself informed by monitoring federal and provincial government rules, as well as Health Canada and provincial health authorities for insight on COVID-19 issues in the workplace.
While you’re assessing, orient your goals to reflect what is happening. What is your new reality? Determine how to meet the new requirements and make your business thrive, and also verify what government resources are available to help.
2. Regroup…the team
“Pulling your team back together has turned out to be more complicated than anyone originally thought,” Kelly says.
“As the wage subsidy wasn’t ready early on, many business owners were forced to lay off workers almost right away. Now they’re calling them back and finding some of them hesitant to return. Some of that is a result of their personal safety concerns.”
Other factors such as public transportation and childcare or eldercare issues mean some employees are choosing not to return to work. Be clear with employees about your commitment to workplace safety protocols, while also preparing for work refusals. Do you have a backup staffing plan?
Once you have a handle on staff, you can focus on finding a new way to work. There will, of course, be new problems but also new opportunity. Look for growth in places you didn’t expect or hadn’t thought of before. Connect with colleagues in your field as well as entrepreneurs you know in different arenas. Research trends within your industry in other regions of Canada, or other countries, where businesses have found new paths to profitability.
3. Reinvent…for the future
“Step three is the biggest challenge of all—bringing your customers back,” Kelly says. “Two-thirds of business owners are worried their customers will just continue to stay home.”
The New Normal is not just a catch-phrase. In order to supply what’s demanded, you have to keep up with your customers’ changing tastes, values and wants.
“We see restaurants focusing on delivery and pickup options, and curb-side service from other retailers. Personal trainers have moved out of the gym to online. Business owners have had to make a major pivot during the pandemic and some of the changes they have undertaken are going to be long-term changes.”
Most successful pivots centre around digital transformation. Launching a new website, connecting with customers on social media, and getting found by search engines are key in the online-first consumer mindset. Kelly sees many owners employing technology in creative ways to take their businesses in new directions. “There has been a lot of experimentation during the pandemic, and some of those experiments will have paid off and will continue to work.”
Being flexible is the best defence, particularly when the prospect of future waves means pandemic conditions could be with us for some time. As well, don’t be afraid to change your mind: If something isn’t working, discard it and try something new. In other words, fail fast and move on.
As you plot your next several moves, remember to take it slow. By aligning your planning, people, suppliers and customers, you can stay agile, stay focused and stay in business.
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