Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all heard the many clichés regarding business, and frankly most of us are beyond tired of them. Pivoting, unprecedented times, the “new normal,” ability to adapt- are just few of the clichés. Why do we roll our eyes when we hear these words? Because they are the adjustments that everyone has had to make in their business. Businesses have needed to change, whether you were able to stay working or you were forced to close temporarily. Instead of focusing on these so-called clichés, here are some important questions to ponder: Were you prepared for some sort of business interruption? What worked well? What would you do differently? Would you make the same decisions you made? Looking ahead, what can you do to be prepared if there is a second wave?
This pandemic has taught us many things. I’ve identified 10 best business practices and business lessons that can help you plan better and improve your operations going forward—whether or not there is a second wave.
Best Business Practice #1:
The faster you can make quick – and informed — decisions, the faster you can make the changes needed to maintain your revenue streams.
I’ve talked to many business owners since mid-March, when their business operations seemed to change overnight. Many had to close in the middle of the day and barely finish the work they were doing for their current customer. Others felt closing was the right thing to do at that moment. The businesses that were able to make rapid adjustments to match evolving health protocols were the ones that could maintain or resume their work the quickest.
Business Lesson: Many businesses noted that when they were forced to make radical changes seemingly overnight, they could. This is a huge lesson to remember in the future, when you want to make a small change but are afraid to take the plunge.
Best Business Practice #2:
Having a communication plan in place is paramount.
The businesses that kept in communication with everyone, including their team, their customers, their supply chain and other stakeholders, came out the best. Did you keep everyone informed, even if you were closed? I found that some businesses were afraid to call their team because they didn’t know what the future would bring. I encouraged them to call anyway, be honest with them, and to check in on their well-being. Letting everyone know that you’re waiting to open until it’s safe- even if you’re unsure of when – is way better than silence!
Business Lesson: Over-communication is best; a lack of communication will cost you team members and customers. P.S. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to remind us how important communication with everyone is!
Best Business Practice #3:
You need to be digital and embrace technology as much as possible.
Were you able to maintain your revenue stream during the pandemic? Were you able to adapt quickly so you and your team could work remotely with the proper equipment and from a cloud-based system? Were you able to fulfill on-line orders? Were you able to adjust your menu completely and offer take-out? Were you able to set up safe meetings or safe shopping options? The businesses that have succeeded in weathering the pandemic are the ones that either had good digital systems in place already or migrated quickly to digital options. Having the right technology and the proper technology in place has been a lifeline and a necessity during the pandemic.
Business Lesson: Embrace technology, or you’ll risk being outdated at best – and left behind at worst.
Best Business Practice #4:
Systems and processes are the only way to deliver your product or service with consistency and quality—while saving time and energy.
Businesses that had good systems and processes in place were able to make changes more easily. How did you change and train for new protocols in your own business? Did you involve your team in this process? Most feedback we’ve heard from businesses confirmed that involving your team in creating new processes is the most effective way to ensure everything runs smoothly, so revenue streams can be maintained.
Business Lesson: When protocols need to be changed regularly, having systems in place is much easier than reinventing everything from scratch. It saves time, energy, and patience!
Best Business Practice #5:
Plan as much as you can: Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, and long-term. Have a Vision, Mission, and Core Values statement to fall back on and align with new systems.
When COVID-19 hit, businesses that had previously completed any sort of long-term strategic planning often had some sort of a disaster plan, or a “what if” plan, in place. These businesses were much better prepared than those that had no plan. Although I have yet to hear of a company that was completely prepared for a pandemic shutdown of the economy, some were better prepared than others. They also had a Vision, Mission, and Core Values Statement that kept everyone aligned throughout the turbulence.
Business research has shown that every 10 minutes of planning can save up to 2 hours of spinning wheels. So, taking time to plan daily is extremely important and has proven to be crucial for any business’s long-term success.
Business Lesson: If you’ve never actually sat down to plan the future of your company, now is the time. If you have, it’s time to revisit your plan and make any necessary adjustments. We’ve already lived through Phase One of this pandemic. Now is the time to plan for not just another wave, but also make the necessary planning that should be done regularly as well. Planning for the future with “what if” strategies allows your company to act, rather than react.
Best Business Practice #6:
Be on top of your finances. Maximize revenue and minimize expenses at all times.
COVID-19 has taught us the value of having cash flow and a business nest egg–or at least a cushion. Businesses that weren’t on top of their cash flow were caught off guard and put at risk.
Business Lesson: Even when cash flow seems really healthy, it can be tested at a moment’s notice. In the same way that it’s important to have a personal “rainy day” fund, businesses also need a 3 – 6-month nest egg at all times to protect them from the unexpected.
Best Business Practice #7:
All company leaders need to hone their leadership skills regularly.
We’ve always known that leadership is important to any business and have found during COVID that strong leadership is more important than ever. Every leader needs to refine their own skills continuously so they can lead with quiet calm, both in crisis and beyond crisis. Those leaders who had the Three Levels of Leadership mastered were able to lead their businesses effortlessly through one of the most difficult times in over a century. They were able to lead themselves first, so they could be an example for their team, be there for their team, and enable their team to lean on them. They were able to lead their business, to make the quick and informed decisions they needed to and adapt to the ever-changing situation.
Business Lesson: Leadership is an invisible skill that all companies need, and it’s more important now than ever before.
Best Business Practice #8:
Work-life balance is key.
What most people noticed before the pandemic was how busy they were. Everyone was running at breakneck speed with full and busy schedules. COVID forced everyone to slow down. Some business owners actually said they felt guilty for enjoying the time off. It’s important to realize it’s okay to slow down and take time off. It’s okay to enjoy the new pace. Your mindset is key; don’t feel guilty if you enjoy slowing down. Perhaps this break was needed – were you on your way to burnout?
Business Lesson: It’s okay to slow down when you need to.
Best Business Practice #9:
Have a hiring and training process in place, to ensure your team has the proper skill set and training.
One thing that’s extremely important in any business is hiring the right people with the right skills for the right tasks. The pandemic forced most business owners to stress-test this process: They needed to evaluate who to keep in some cases, re-train their teams rapidly in other cases, fundamentally change the structure of their teams, or all of the above. Do you continuously evaluate your organizational chart to ensure you have the right people doing the right things? Do you assess whether you need to add any skills to the plan Do you have an in-depth hiring, on-boarding, and training process?
Business Lesson: Having a clear organizational chart and plan with hiring, well-documented on boarding and training processes means that you’re prepared to scale up or down whenever you need to.
Best Business Practice #10:
Have a strategic marketing plan that is budgeted for, planned, and scheduled for the entire year.
Did your revenue go up or down because of COVID? Did you need to change your business model? Did your target market change? Most importantly, have you communicated these changes to your customers? One major impact of COVID was that it changed customers’ buying habits. For most businesses, this has made it all the more essential to create a marketing plan to win back the customers you may have lost because you were closed, working remotely, or whatever the case may be. Do you have a strategic marketing plan for getting your regular customer base back? These are the customers who know you best, and who may have been forced to stop buying from you for a variety of reasons. You need a plan to get those people through the door, online, or wherever you need them to be.
Business Lesson: Take time to create a marketing plan for attracting, retaining, and recapturing your customer base.
If you were following best business practices prior to the pandemic economic shutdown, chances are your business weathered the storm much better than most businesses. If you have questions about any of these best business practices, give us a call or send us an email.
We help business owners and leaders maximize their value by streamlining and implementing best business practices within their organization. As a result, they realize not just tangible results, but intangible benefits, such as improved company culture, increased control over costs, better team engagement, streamlined operations, and a consistency and improvement in workflow – just to name a few.