In today’s episode, Anna looks at the short-term tactics that you need to prioritise now in order for your business to survive in a small business crisis.
There are definitely lessons to be learned, and opportunities to be taken, but we have to make sure that we’re in the right frame of mind to look at any of that. We’re delving into short-term tactics to focus on right now to establish a base level of security – so that we can then move on and look at where the opportunities might be in all of this.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
Get private mentoring for your business– Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation
Small business crisis
Okay hello everyone and welcome back to the Reimagining Success podcast. Now this is the first episode I’ve recorded since the COVID-19, the coronavirus situation got as bad as it has now become, and so you’ll find that I will be adapting my content and doing what I can to respond to and support you all with your businesses, with your mindsets, whatever I can do with my expertise and experience to support you through this situation.
Ironically and I think fortuitously I guess, last week we were already talking about developing confidence and resilience and that was pre-scheduled before the situation, but of course now more than ever this is absolutely critical. I hope you listened to last week’s episode and I was talking about mindset, and as I said it’s not in any way tailored to this situation, but working for ourselves outside of the context of a full-time company support, network, team, manager, pensions and all these things, and as we’re seeing at least at the moment the government’s response to the crisis is very much supporting employees over freelancers and sole traders. At the moment of course resilience and confidence in what you’re doing, the ability to bounce back, the ability to deal with the inevitable ups and downs is absolutely critical.
This is something we’ll be looking at more going forwards, but I wanted to look more concretely at things like your business model, how you can cut costs, how you can diversify, how you can survive in the short-term and that’s our focus for this week, but also importantly how can you really take this time to both learn from the situation to strengthen your business in the future, and also if you do have downtime I’m certainly not having any more extra time than I did before with my little daughter at home and I’m still sort of business as usually with my work, but I’m sure that will change as well and there’s so many things happening, of course so much uncertainty. If we do have downtime now is a great time to make the most of that time, although maybe it’s involuntary having that extra time to actually do things that we don’t usually take the time to do in our business. There are opportunities and I also want to talk about the opportunity to lead, to innovate in this situation.
Again, the first thing I want to talk about this week is survival.
Getting into survival mode, what you can do in the short-term. I should say before I dive into this that I would love to hear from you and I’d appreciate your questions, what you’re struggling with at the moment, what you think would be valuable for you, for people you know as well. Again, of course you know my expertise so don’t ask me for any medical advice or anything like that, but within the context of business strategy, brand strategy, managing your productivity and so on please let me know. As ever you can email me at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Talking survival mode, so really short-term tactics now to prioritise because this is not to say, and if you know me at all you know that I’m a big fan of vision and strategy and focusing on the long-term, building a long-term brand, a viable business, sustainable business. This is not to say you should throw all of that out of the window and question your entire existence. However, there is no point in building your long-term strategy for the business if there is no business left to strategize. This is all about survival, and survival of course is you and no pun intended here, you physically and your health, your family, your sanity, as well as your business. I want to go through and of course I’m responding here quite quickly to this so these are my first thoughts, but again I’ll be evolving this as ever as well. Do join us over in the One Step Outside Facebook group. I’m asking questions, responding real time trying to add as much valuable as possible. We’ll be running free training sessions and so on so you can search One Step Outside on Facebook and you can also go to onestepoutside.com/community.
I should also say that for me, in a way, although this is an extreme unexpected situation and especially in the way it’s affecting everybody, it’s not really different to, in a way, business as usual. Now of course I say that and it sounds ridiculous to say that everything should be the same, that’s not the case at all and it’s extreme and everyone’s being affected, and of course in a particular if you have a business that involves travel or leisure, museums, all these things you’re going to be hit really hard unfortunately and that’s something we’re going to have to cope with. What I mean is again the idea of building our resilience, of diversifying our income streams, or focusing on where we can add value, on really optimising our cash flow. All these things are things we should be doing always.
Hopefully, albeit not a very welcome one, it is an important reminder of what really matter and what really matters in life with our family, our loved ones, our health, but also then what matters in the business. First of all, of course and if you know me by now you know that I say this anyway so it’s worth repeating now in this context, but the first priority has to be always taking care of yourself first and foremost. Whether you’ve got ageing parents and risk groups, a vulnerable partner, young children, or you yourself have asthma, or you’re in some kind of risk group, I mean all of us are afraid about the situation, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but you have to be your first priority, you and your loved ones. Of course there’s that quote, which I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about before as well or the idea of on a plan, the air steward will say, “Put your oxygen mask on first before you help other people.”
As incredible as it is, if you want to help other people and so on that’s fantastic, but please, please make sure you’re taking care of yourself first and foremost, and of course in the context of business when you are working for yourself then taking care of yourself is taking care of your business. I always say that and at no point is that more the case now. Please do what you’ve got to do, and that’s going to be one of my next points in a few minutes, and do we have to do to survive to take care of yourself.
We’re being more and more limited all around the world in terms of where we can go, but if you have a balcony, a garden, if you can exercise, there’s so many free exercise classes available online now be creative in terms of using tins of food if you don’t have weights at home. We did a circuit in the garden yesterday. Things you can do, of course zoo movies, social groups are having connects online and so on, so what you can do to promote your mental and emotional health as well, connect with people, give people calls, Facetime, WhatsApp, play games, do whatever it is you need to do to stay in touch with the people who matter the most even when you can’t see them in person.
Number one has to be take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Number two and related to this is to focus on what you can control. This is something again that we should always be doing that is a very powerful framework and tool, but as this idea that you have a zone of influence, the things that you can control, and then you have a loss of things in the current climate that you really cannot control. Accepting that we are all being affected by this, it’s unfair but it’s unfair for everybody. It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating, it’s scary, but some level of acceptance of that, we can’t affect that. What we can do is focus on what we can do. Again, projects will be cancelled or deferred, they will run out of toilet paper apparently in the shops, there was a graphic that was being shared on Instagram recently. We can’t control how other people react, what other people are doing. We can’t predict what’s going to happen, we can’t force people to obey social distancing, self-isolating, and so on.
We certainly can’t control what’s going to happen, how long this will last and so on. What we can control, and the big one for me is turning off the news. Yes we need to stay informed and it’s really important. In the UK, for example, the Prime Minister does her daily update every evening, but listening manically, reading, watching the… Apparently there’s a series on Netflix called Pandemic, which is very interesting but I’m not sure it’s the one thing you want to watch right now in this film Contagion that people are watching. I don’t know if we need to dwell and indulge ourselves in more of this kind of thing. Turning off the news, your notifications, finding fun things to do at home. Of course limiting your own social media as well and being positive and it sounds so flippant, be positive, but again we’re all in this together and I’m seeing lots of people sharing on social media as well this is an amazing time that we can all come together.
Think of, and this is an exercise for you maybe, first of all think of the things you are grateful for and there are many things to be grateful for, and secondly think of what do you hope I guess that we can all come out of this with? What are the positive changes you hope and maybe we’ll work towards actually happening thanks to, if I can say thanks to as a result of this particular situation? Focus on what you can control, know that you can’t control the pandemic, you can’t control how other people behaving, you can’t control what’s happening on the news, you can’t unfortunately control if some of your clients perhaps are going out of business or are unable to continue working with you, but there are many things you can control and those are the things we’ll be focusing on of course this week and the coming weeks.
Now number three is to protect and optimise your cashflow.
This has to be stopping the bleeding, in a way. Again, this is something we should be doing from time to time anyway in our business, but of course the first thing to do is quickly now and be aggressive now rather than letting more money leak out of the business. Cut your costs as much as you can, review all your outgoings in the business, see what you can cut, see any unnecessary expenses. Now, this is not to say necessarily that you should stop all your advertising if you do advertising, depending on the business you’re in of course. If you’re an online business owner, to be honest I still think a level of Facebook ads if you can afford that, should keep going. There are certain systems and things you need to be paying. If you can keep your staff on, of course if you have a team, freelancers then that will be very much appreciated and you’ll be doing your bit to help out as well, but really pair back to the essentials.
The good news is that online subscriptions software is quite easy to cancel from month to month. If for example you’re not using certain things at the moment because, I don’t know, maybe you’re not able obviously to travel to speak in person and so on, maybe you can pause or stop those things. Really look at perhaps there are things you’ve been using. I had webinar software for years and I’d been paying quite a big chunk of payer and I haven’t actually been using very much. If there are things like that really cut that down. All your unnecessary expenses, but again we’re not saying here cut off the leg of your business. Don’t kill off things because the last thing you want to do is completely ruin everything that you’ve worked so hard to build up and then you have to start from scratch or even from less than scratch in a few years time.
Now next of course is to stay informed.
I know I said turn off the news but do stay informed, join groups, I’ll do what I can in the One Step Outside group to find out what’s available in terms of support from the government. At the moment, as I said, there’s not a lot for freelancers, there’s sick pay, there’s a guarantee of salaries and so we’re trying to work out what that means for limited companies, one director companies and so on, but do stay informed as to what loans, what support there might be to help keep you afloat as well. Stay informed about what’s available, how you can take advantage of those things.
Next is, and this is something I’ll be talking about in the coming weeks, and again it sounds maybe simple but not, and I appreciate that, but finding ways to bring in immediate revenue. The first thing I’d say is I’d really look to your existing clients and connections before trying to reach strangers and attract and convert new people. How can you maybe chase invoices, first of all, that haven’t been paid or are due to be paid? How can you serve and support existing customers, keep those relationships going, and also your existing communities and prospects and so on? That’ll be easier than trying to sell to new people. Of course an obvious one is take any offline events that you have and make them online. We can talk about the tech and so on you need, just again contact me if you’re not sure how to do that but there are simple ways. You don’t have to invest lots of money to do these things. But if you’ve already sold tickets to an event then look at how you might be able to live stream or convert a class into an online course or something.
Look for quick wins here, low hanging fruit.
Don’t go crazy and invest in lots of complex technology. You could post a coaching offer. I had a client who’s just done that. “Hey guys, I’m offering this particular offer.” Could be a free one, discovery calls, but it could also be actually I’m doing these power hours if you’re concerned about this. Some way that you can use your expertise and experience to support people. Maybe there’s a freelance service you can offer. Really think about how you can solve problems for people. It might be a bit of a pivot, it might be a tweak versus what you usually do, but look at how you can use your expertise to serve. Again, we’re being pragmatic here. Again it’s not to say that we abandon our long-term business strategy or change entirely on model or on messaging, but think of how could I use my expertise to support people, and again we’ll be talking about this in the coming weeks.
Next is stick to a structure, so as much as you can keep doing what you were doing. This helps you to stay sane, it helps you to keep taking action and to keep making progress. You may have heard me talk before about the ideal week. I always help my clients setup really time blocking, in your calendar, and having a routine. You know you’re going to contact three people every Monday, going to record five videos every Tuesday, whatever it is. Now of course if you have kids at home, for example, that can throw a spanner in the works, so do what you can, be flexible and adaptable around that. There are lots of weekly schedules and free teaching content and so on coming out now for manage your children at home so hopefully that’s going to be helpful. As much as you can try to stick to a regular routine. It’s going to really help your mental health and to stay focused on again, something that you can control.
Then finally, honestly as I said before, do what you have to do. This is my personal opinion but if you need to give kids more screen time, more sweets if you have any sweets at home, whatever you need to do to survive you have to do. We need to get creative, we need to be pragmatic. Tweak your services if needed, it might even be something that isn’t 100% core to your business, but again you need to think creatively. If this is survival mode we’re talking, we’ll talk in the coming weeks again about how you can strengthen your business model, how you can really turn surviving into thriving, but again you have to survive in order to be able to think of those things, in order to become a leader, in order to really step things up in your business.
Just to recap a few of those. Taking care of yourself first and foremost. Please remember that that is the most important thing here, so yes business and earning an income is absolutely vital, but remember what really matters fundamentally you have to have your health and your family’s health as well. Focus on what you can control. Protect, optimise your cash flow to cut down any unnecessary expenses where you can. Stay informed about what is available in terms of loans or support, sick pay for you as a freelancer or sole trader, as a limited company. Find ways to bring in immediate revenue. We’ll talk more about this, but if there are any quick wins, even just chasing existing invoices, of course not burning any bridges. Remember that these are long-term relationships you want to build so see if you can be flexible and delay and so on if necessary.
Stick to a structure and routine as much as you can.
Finally do what you go to do, just really be pragmatic, be flexible, be adaptable as we talked last week, be resilient. And I know it’s so hard but have a little bit of sense of humour because some of this is so farcical that you have to laugh sardonically about and hopefully we’ll laugh about it in the future. Above all though, and this is what I want to focus on in the coming weeks as well, keep showing up, keep showing up. The last thing you want to do now is disappear completely. Whether you’re right at the beginning of maybe considering leaving your job, starting a business, you’ve only just been tentatively starting, or you’re further along, the last thing you want to do is disappear completely and then have to work even harder just to get back to where you were.
Now again we’ll be looking at an opportunity to be a leader in this climate in the coming weeks, but it’s also for your own sanity so keeping show up again, have that routine. I’m going to keep sending my emails, recording my podcasts, tweaking, pivoting to make sure I’m supporting you. I’m continuing all the client work that I do. Maybe if I have some downtime I’ll be able to work more on my book and tweaking my website and all these things that I was looking at doing, but in the meantime keep showing up, keep doing what you have to do, and above all again, one more time, take care of yourselves and each other.
Again, if you have any questions, I hope this was useful in terms of first thoughts on short-term survival tactics. Please get in touch. If you’re already in touch with me, if you’re a client of course, if you’re in my group you can message me, you can DM me on Instagram, LinkedIn, wherever you are. You can also email me at email@example.com and I’d love to create more content that’s really going to answer your questions. I’m sure if you have the question other people have the question too so if it’s a one on one thing I’m happy to help you out specifically but I imagine that it’ll be something that’ll be really helpful for other people to know too. Thank you so much everybody for listening today. Stay safe and I’ll speak to you again next week. Bye for now.
Connect with Anna:
If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:
Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation
Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall
Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com
Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator– This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5
Up-level with the Fast-track your business programme – This is your guide to taking your business from surviving to thriving and making sure that you achieve the freedom, flexibility and fulfilment that you dreamed of when you started. www.onestepoutside.com/fasttrack