As entrepreneurs and small business owners struggle to deal with the fallout from Covid-19, I recently came across some insights from University of South Australia Professor Jana Matthews, who suggested ways to help those people survive and even thrive.
“Whether a company will survive in times of uncertainty – and is positioned for growth on the other side – will largely depend on how CEOs and executives lead now,” Professor Matthews says.
“We’re all dealing with unprecedented uncertainty. And while it’s impossible to predict which companies will make it through all this, there are things they can do to increase their odds.”
Here are five tips from the professor:
- Balance dollars with sense. Look at your accounts and project your cash flow over the next few months – do you need to collect receivables or delay expenditures? Are you in a position to lend your business personal funds? Can you ask some of your employees to take vacation days now or drop down to 80 per cent, if necessary? Remember, there are also government grants available, so check these too. If there’s still a shortfall, go to the bank to discuss a loan.
- Double down on your winners. Not every company will do it tough this year – if you produce products such as hand sanitizers, soaps, toilet paper or ventilators, you may have your best year ever. Study which of your products or services have been selling and focus your efforts on those. If you identify the customers who have been buying these, you can also target your marketing.
- Think laterally. Find out what people are buying and look for openings – can you make the straps that secure facemasks or key components in ventilators? If so, let the manufacturers know your capabilities, or alternatively, make the product yourself. If manufacturers need the product in a different way, look for alternatives, Now is the time to be flexible and adaptable.
- Look critically at your company. ‘Strong Eye’ your company, people and products as if you were an outside investor. Are there any gaps, oversights or weak spots? Ask your employees to help scan, as these are the people in the ground, in the thick of it. What can you do better, more efficiently? Where are the double-ups? Be open and ready to listen, then take action. Also, think about what changes you, as the leader, may need to make.
- Have the courage, brains and heart to lead. It’s not easy to lead through chaos at this velocity of change. It takes brains to analyze and develop strategies to keep the company alive. It takes courage to stop doing what used to work and move into uncharted territory. And without question, it takes heart. Empathize with your employees who are worried about their jobs and their futures and remember to provide them with frequent updates – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Weed out any misfits, or non-performers, and do everything you can to keep your great people on board; you will need them to help you grow once we’re on the other side.
I can’t emphasize enough that now is the time for creative leadership and recognizing opportunities, not wallowing in self-pity. Take the world by storm and be the entrepreneur you were born to be!
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