There are many articles out there on what to do in a crisis, during a pandemic, working from home etc., but thinking strategically and tactically, what should you be doing now and planning for in the future with your business? This article addresses these questions and offers you a personal example for your consideration. As a speaker, consultant, and author, I personally feel it, but as an entrepreneur and optimist, with a strong resolve and resilience I am finding ways to reimagine myself, and I want to help you to find ways and reimagine yourself in your business too. This blog is little longer than normal, but I believe all of the information provided here will really help you in your business too.
Here we are with decreased customer demand in several sectors (for me in person professional speaking is about nil currently). There are interruptions in our supply chains (I have tried three times to buy a new green screen with lighting etc. and with two previous orders the response came back from Amazon that the vendor was unable to fill the order – the orders were cancelled. This was a first for me.) We are in an economic recession. The question is whether this is the start of a depression. There is no uniform definition of what is a depression, but some look at length of time and others look at depth of contraction or level of unemployment. Either way there is real uncertainty with the future. On the health side, will there ever be a COVID -19 vaccine? If so when? It’s been 37 years and there is no vaccine yet for Aids. That’s not to be pessimistic, simply to keep in mind what could happen. Who knows what will happen relative to a vaccine? Maybe there will be a miracle. These items are beyond our control. However, we have to be able to respond given whatever opportunity presents itself.
Now let’s focus on what you do control.
Your business. To make things happen in the future it is time to plan and begin taking actions now. How do you plan to recover? What is your business plan and your marketing plan? I am a simple guy. I like to reduce things to threes whenever possible. Here are the three questions, I am asking myself and that I am suggesting you ask yourself.
With what I know today what should I stop, start and keep doing during the pandemic?
Explore all costs
Stop the bleeding.
Don’t spend unless you need to.
Consider every expenditure carefully and make sure when you do spend it makes sense given your priorities at this time. Be smart with your budget. Stopping the bleeding just as with triage in a medical emergency is key for you to survive.
What are potential revenue streams?
What am I doing differently as a professional speaker given my market? As a professional speaker I am fortunate to be ahead of the curve with virtual speaking. When I started in 2012 all of my presentations were live. In 2018 it went to 50% virtual and 50% live. In 2019 it went to 60% virtual and 40% live. Now they are all virtual. I am marketing myself as an experienced virtual speaker that can certainly present live should the situation change. I reached out to all former clients (I have given over 400 presentations in the last 8 years), three new market segments that make sense to me given my background and experience, and I am exploring additional possibilities. Why? Because I need to pivot to the new market place. You need to pivot to the new market place too.
Think outside the box.
Make more voluntary presentations. Get out in front of homogeneous audiences. Have fun doing it. Volunteer to speak in front of audiences where your current and potential new market segments are located. Even if you are not a professional speaker, who do you need to get in front of. This is not the time to hunker down. This is the time to get out there and be visible to your clients and potential future clients.
As a consultant, not much has changed at this point. I am well known as a conflict resolution expert on valuation and some other areas with the IRS, business to business, and within businesses (succession planning, shareholder disputes, EEO, labor management). On the other hand, with potentially less professional speaking, I have reached out to all former clients and I am marketing myself to specific market segments where I can add value. So,
where can you add value with your skill set with existing or potentially new market segments?
As an author, I have a potential 12th book ready for a publisher. I am negotiating with three publishers currently. As a writer I have written three articles for journals so far this year and I have written two more that are going through the referee process currently. It is very important to keep your name and expertise in front of people. Articles have appeared in Trust and Estates, Financial Valuation and Litigation Expert and Hong Kong Lawyer. The other two articles are being referred in a national business valuation journal and business journal from a prestigious business school. Consider writing something or hire a ghost writer to help you write something for a publication where your market segment or future market segment reads.
Use social media and offer blogs, provide posts or write articles to help clients and future clients. Show the world that you have something to offer them.
Blogging weekly at mikegreg.com with a host of topics down the side and at collabeffect.com with related topic articles listed with each blog this helps readers find what they want to know. Think of this from the readers perspective. Consider hiring an SEO expert. I know I said to really look at costs, but this is one of the best decisions I lucked into. It’s not about me. It’s about what the reader wants to know. The SEO expert can help with what is clicked on from clients. I don’t care about how many clicks I receive at my site. I care about how many clients convert to hire me from my site. That has to be emphasized to your SEO expert. That is the key to success.
What is your action plan to make these happen?
These are all just ideas. Once you generate a host of ideas, ask the questions. What should I start, stop, of keep doing during the pandemic? Look at everything you are doing. What are the economic, environmental and social impacts of each?
You only have so many hours in each day. You only have so much money to spend. How are you going to maintain balance in your life with work, your health, and your family?
What are you willing and able to do? Determining the impacts of your alternative and then evaluate the impacts. How big or small are the impacts in terms of money, time, physical health, mental health, family and your personal life? Which ones make the most sense to you economically, socially and environmentally? Before implementing anything, do you want to pause, test, reflect, bounce your ideas off of trusted associates, peers, family or friends? Then are you prepared to act? When you are prepared to act go. It doesn’t have to be perfect just well thought out.
Write down what actions you are going to take
Write them down. Who will do what by when for your goals?
If you write them down, you are more likely to carry them out. Make them specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and with a time frame.
Personally, I pause quarterly and look out with my best crystal ball about two years and say with what I know today, what is my best route to get there two years from now. I can tell you my best guess at the end of December changed significantly with my best guess at the end of March. This caused me to really think about where I have been and where I want to be two years from now. How about you? What specific actions are you prepared to take on now with what you know today.
Inspire yourself to take action
Don’t be afraid. It is possible you may freeze and do nothing. That is one alternative, but doing nothing means you are be definition falling behind as your competition reacts. Yes, it is scary and no one knows the future. On the other hand, this is exhilarating and exciting to try something new. Apply the Nike trademark: Just do it! Be prepared for setbacks with two steps forward and one step back. My old college roommate used to have a mantra “forward never straight”.
The point was to keep going. Know it won’t ever be perfect.
You have to try. You have to take your best first step forward. My son told me when he was in Army Special Forces training the phrase they used was “drink water and move on”. That is, you may be tired, hungry and don’t think you can keep going, but no matter what you must keep going. Drink water and move on. Take inspiration from these phrases.
Life is hard. Life is not fair. Everyone experiences suffering. Suffering is part of life. It is how you react to suffering that determines your resilience.
This is the time to pivot, take a second look at what you have been doing and determine what you should and will be doing now and into the future.
With this action plan there is one more question to ask.
What are your plans for when we return to normal or the new normal?
When the economy is doing well, we tend to think it will be good forever. Where were you at in December? When the economy is bad, we tend to think it will be bad forever. Some think this is just a blip. I hope so too. On the other hand, we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best. That has worked well for me and a lot of other people.
Where were you at on April 1st? It is hard to see clear in either direction. Now we are in a downturn with 26 million unemployed Americans. Knowing this and knowing this won’t last forever, what are your plans for when we return to normal or a new normal whenever that will be?
What do you need to do now in terms of training, technology, people or other issues?
Think about it. In my case I have pivoted my speaking engagements, pivoted and gone back to my base on consulting, refocused on writing and expanded marketing into new segments. I spend more time marketing now than I ever have in the past. Why? I want to be in a good situation not only now, but for where we will be two years from now. Most experts think we will have a vaccine in 12 to 18 months. That is my most probable, but I am prepared with my quarterly strategic planning and action plan to adapt if we have a miracle, or to hang in there for a long time should we have a very different new normal. How about you?
Hopefully this gives you some ideas about your business, your business model, your marketing plan, and your priorities in your life. My mission statement includes this in part:
Do the right thing;
Do what it takes, and
Have fun along the way.
I hope this commentary can help you and inspire you to take constructive actions now. Every day is a blessing. Make the most of your today. We will get through this together. Take inspiration in each other. God has given you a gift. Make use of your gifts today. Pause, prioritize and take action with what you can control.
About the author
Mike is a former IRS executive that oversaw business valuation nationally and who brought mediation to the IRS Field Specialists Program. He is a professional speaker, mediator/negotiator that helps clients resolve issues and be more productive as a conflict resolution expert. Is conflict blocking your results? You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]