A Baker’s Dozen Ways to Make It Through Unprecedented Times

For every business owner who is facing the twin challenges of doing enough while not knowing what is enough, I offer this: give yourself some breathing room. I know the bills are due, people have been let go, cash is dwindling, and the future looks like a huge black hole. Since the founding of Trivers Consulting Group in 1999, we’ve muddled through more than one crisis. Some were faced by the economy as a whole (9/11, the 2008 recession) and others were personal (two serious fractures from horseback riding accidents and pneumonia, to name a few).

We’re sharing these ideas to help you deal with what is now a crisis of enormous proportions. You may try some, all or only a few. One thing I know for sure is that making time each day for space, for breathing room, is necessary if you want to think clearly and plan accordingly. Being on the job 24/7, even in your own head if not actually on your computer, is not helpful.

1. Communicate a lot. To your leadership team, to your employees, to your customers, suppliers, partners. Talk to everyone who is connected to your company in any way.
2. Be reassuring. It is never helpful for the owner/executive to either blow up or melt down. Even when you don’t know exactly what to do, communicate that you are working on options.
3. Be honest. Paint the picture as it is, not how you wish it would be or how you fear it.
4. Invite input and ideas. Owners who ask for help, creative ideas, and new ways of doing things, create bonds that encourage people to move forward together. For example, an owner who isn’t required to home-school their children can learn a lot from parents who are.
5. Focus on productivity, not time. I have been saying for years that there’s no intrinsic dollar value to an hour. This situation will help you see that firsthand. 6. Agree on output goals and then give people the freedom to get it done on time, in their own way.
7. Create process goals, not outcome goals. Process goals are anything you have 100% control over. “I can write this letter.” “I can design this methodology.” “I can make 10 phone calls.” “I can complete this contract.” You cannot control what the recipient of the letter or phone call does. You can’t control the adoption of the methodology. You have to wait until the other party signs the contract.
8. Manage the money you have. Prioritize payments. Collaborate with your financial advisor, accountant or controller. Don’t panic buy and don’t buy to make yourself feel better.
9. Create new value for others. One of the biggest objections we hear during normal times is that the owner or company doesn’t have time to create new value because they’re fully consumed with delivering what they already offer. Now you have time! Block an hour twice a week for creative thinking.
10. Ask these three questions, in this exact order: What does success look like? What do we have to have to achieve this success? What do we have to do to get what we need?
11. Choose one new option and design a plan for it. Who is in the target market for this? How do you know? How will you reach them? What will the offering look like? How will you price it? How will you profit from it? How will you get ready for market? How will you promote it? How will you deliver it? How will you service it? How will you follow up?
12. What can your company stop doing once things get back to normal? This is a great time to evaluate your full range of offerings and decide what to keep and what to let go. Analyze your sales reports for the past 6-12 months. Which offerings have the lowest volume and the lowest profit? Which offerings have high volume and low profit? Which offerings are steady sellers with profits that meet your goals? How can you offer more of these steady sellers that also generate profits that meet your goals?
13. Evaluate your buyers: testers, regulars and enthusiastic fans. Stop believing that all buyers are worth keeping and taking good care of. Write profiles of your regulars and enthusiastic fans and ask, “How can we get more of these?” Write a marketing plan for them.

Get back to making space to breathe: block off time during the work week for non-work, both for you, your leadership team and your employees. Encourage physical and creative activities. Ask everyone to post or share a 50-word story of what they do during each of these breathing spaces.

We are committed to acting on our own suggestions. For example, I am working with my Bernese Mountain Dog Gabe to pull a cart. Although the ideal practice environment is trails in a park, we’re practicing in our neighborhood to ensure our safety and that of others. I’m working with my cocker spaniel Matty on basic obedience behaviors, like sit at heel and walk at heel. I am normally motivated to train by upcoming competitions. All competitions have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, and so I’ve focused on process goals instead, primarily the process of having fun for 15 minutes each time. What are you going to do when it’s hard to know what to do? I would love to hear what your choices are?

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