by Athan Slotkin, The Shadow CEO
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has already hit small businesses hard. What’s worse is that some experts are saying this is only the beginning. Whether or not the pandemic ends within a month or a year, small business owners need to be ready to buckle down, reassess, and even make changes to their business strategy in order to weather the storm (and beyond).
Here are seven best pieces of advice for anyone running their own business right now.
1. Analyze your ongoing burn-rate in both normal scenarios and ‘bear-bones’ scenarios.
Look at where your business is spending, and consider which expenses are. Think about excess marketing, rent, the size of your company, and other expenses that may be reducible without affecting your standards. Efficiency is crucial for success and outcompeting rivals. Many businesses run with excesses, and this is the perfect opportunity to get a leg up on them.
Consider where you can optimize your burn rate. Perhaps there are some areas where you can reduce spending and make up for that by increasing your own effort levels. Make sure that any optimizations you make are well thought through. As a CEO/owner you only have so much time and bandwidth. The key is to run as lean as possible without sacrificing quality.
2. Think about adapting to current market trends in a complementary way.
Current market trends are going to be difficult to understand and predict, but this might work to your advantage. If you spend time understanding the current landscape of your market and the world, you can reoptimize your business’s positioning. If you’re able to capitalize on this now, then when quarantine lifts you may have an entirely new revenue stream to leverage or a whole new business pathway. Your business could transform and come out of quarantine stronger for it.
3. Look at your competition – what are they doing and what can you learn?
Some businesses are suffering more than others right now. Study the ones that seem to be making it through this crisis and learn what they’re doing differently. Look at both your indirect and direct competition for the best understanding of which strategies seem to be effective. While some strategies may not apply cross industry use what you can and make these strategies fit your needs.
4. Consider the value of your time – is there something you can be doing – related or otherwise – that’s a more valuable use of your time?
One of the hardest things to come to terms with as an entrepreneur is knowing when a business pursuit is worth it. This pandemic is an excellent opportunity for introspection. Assess your business, look at how much time you’re spending, and understand how much money you’re generating (or could be generating). Then earnestly ask yourself: is this pursuit the best use of my time?
In the short term, it may not make sense to continue putting the bulk of your time and resources into your business. If you can temporarily reduce your burn rate to zero (or near zero) it may make the most sense for you to look at other areas to make money (freelancing for example) and then lean back into your business when the timing is right.
5. Think about the mid-term – is something changing in the way your customers are thinking?
While the short-term will continue to be dominated by the pandemic, it is important to think about what happens in the midterm as well. Are your customers going to change how they think or act after the pandemic passes? Maybe some of them will continue preferring using services or buying products remotely.
You must consider whether traditional business models are going to continue making sense after things “return to normal”. Take for example limited capacity experiences like theaters, airplanes, and cruise lines. Each of these sectors will have to consider how the traditional business model is going to play to customers in this new context. Like businesses in these sectors, ask yourself how you should be shifting your business model and strategy accordingly.
Whatever the case, keep this in mind and evaluate the assumptions you’ve made; understanding which of these assumptions will hold true and which ones you’ll need to adjust.
6. Even though you may have a bit more downtime right now, this is an opportunity to read, take courses, and learn – so that when things are a bit more normal, you can fly by whatever competition you have.
Look at this quarantine as an opportunity to level-up as an entrepreneur. Spend your time reading advice from experts, researching other businesses and entrepreneurs who have accomplished what you want to, and dig through the data to gain a better understanding of your market and competition. For most successful entrepreneurs reading about business, researching the competition, and improving the self is a full-time night job. The quarantine gives you an opportunity to condense even more of this into a shorter period. Leverage this to your advantage.
Many of your competitors will be using this time as damage control and downtime. You should seize the chance to get ahead and make yourself into the best entrepreneur possible. If you can, leverage this opportunity so that when the world opens back up you can fly past the competition.
You can start getting an overview of all things business here.
7. Keep an open mind – things always change in business – and you’re an awesome entrepreneur.
The world is a scary place right now. Eventually, things will get better.
Entrepreneurship is always full of challenges and this is no different. Approach it like you approached any other roadblock. The fact that you’re reading this and thinking about how to make it through places you ahead of most.
You’ve got this.
Keep your chin up and keep on keeping on.
The Shadow CEO Athan Slotkin is a serial entrepreneur and award-winning business plan strategist. He’s successfully tested and launched multiple businesses, across industries. His rapid, iterative, heavily-analytical approach has been the key to over 500 new entrepreneurs in 2018 and 2019 alone, helping them package up their business with business plans, financial models and presentations, while teaching them how to become the stellar CEO they want to become along the way. His work has been featured across, TV, radio, and conferences worldwide.