Those who adapt survive; those who don’t are in peril
A modern-day interpretation of the adapt or die off concept first introduced by Charles Darwin, many brick and mortar businesses are coming up against the ticking timebomb of exhausting their 2-3 month reserve of operating capital as shutdown orders continue. While there are Small Business Development programs being created to help keep businesses afloat, many worry it will be too little, too late.
What can you do to ensure you are one of the few that can survive the uncertainty of the pandemic?
Think of Your Strengths
Two things got me thinking about this topic this week.
First, the number of brick and mortar businesses I work with expressing extreme stress over the current situation.
Owners are sitting at home feeling powerless to do anything about the massive hemorrhage of money going out without the benefit of business services income to offset the bleeding.
I’d like to suggest you are not as powerless as you might think.
Earlier this week, I went through an exercise with one of the online networking groups I belong to. This is a group full of rock stars – people who know all the important people, people who are well-established with popular podcasts, TV stations, connections with important people. Compared to them, it was easy to envision myself as a lowly ant, overwhelmed by their brilliance and believing I had nothing of interest to offer them.
But the challenge had been thrown out to examine our own networks, experience, and products for those things that might be helpful to the rest of the group. Without much confidence, I sat down and began making lists for each of these categories – who did I know, what had I done, what can I offer.
Not going to lie. It was slow going at first, painful, and I wanted to throw in the towel more than once. My first thought was I don’t know anyone important – skip that. I don’t have any outstanding products per se – skip that. I do have an interesting background of experience, so that was easy to get rolling on.
As I filled out that section, it occurred to me I knew some important people through those experiences. I added them. I realized some of the services I offer are unique because of those experiences. I added them, too.
By the time I was done, each of the three lists looked decently impressive. Maybe not as impressive as some of the rock stars, but I at least had something I could feel confident about, something I could offer. By the time I finished, I realized I had a great deal of value I hadn’t even recognized when trying to compare myself with others. Just looking at my own accomplishments, though, there was plenty I was proud of.
The beauty of this exercise is you don’t have to stop just with your own contributions. You can also look at the skills, experiences, connections, and natural talents of your employees and business contacts. Is there anything they can contribute to help the overall effort? What kind of collaborative effort might you be able to put in place with their help?
Think of Your Pivots
With this renewed confidence in what you and your associates can add to the overall effort, the next step is to figure out what elements of your brick and mortar business you can modify to meet the current situation.
Restaurants, for example, have been offering take-out and delivery services for their communities while their dining rooms remain closed. They’ve even been working with local government regulations to relax some of the delivery restrictions, such as being able to deliver beer with your pizza – something that hasn’t been allowed under normal circumstances.
Grocery stores have been coming up with equally impressive pivots. In addition to delivery and pick-up services, some grocery services have been incorporating new rules to protect citizens while still providing access to in-store wares. These might be limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at a given time, requiring all patrons to wear face masks before being allowed entry, or developing one-way shopping aisles, ensuring only one or two people can peruse an aisle at the same time.
What do you already have in place today that can be adapted to meet the current situation? Examples of this type of pivot include local distilleries switching from alcohol production to the creation of hand sanitizers or clothing manufacturing companies converting their fabrics into face masks instead of spring dresses.
Think of Your Stretch Points
Once you’ve gone through the above steps, it’s time to look at how you might be able to stretch beyond your current comfort zone. Adaptation is not always comfortable after all. The easy move here is looking at how many employees you can move to virtual office hours. Chances are, this is a step you have already considered when the shutdown orders came down.
But there is more you can do here. For example, are there any products or services you can transition to online offers?
Daycare services might be considered an essential service at least for those families with essential workers, but how can you keep your other parents engaged and eager to come back to your school when this is all said and done? Perhaps some of your teachers would be willing to film short videos on their computers at home demonstrating small activities parents can do to keep their little ones happy and active during this time. Maybe your administrators can offer helpful words of encouragement or strategies for how to deal with social withdrawal and temper tantrums.
Auto mechanics could offer house calls to perform no contact repairs to vehicles with minor issues. Landscapers can offer similar services, conducting negotiations over the phone prior to arrival at the property in question. Hairdressers could offer brief videos with tips for individuals willing to tackle quarantine hair on their own.
If you have a mailing list of your current clients, which you should, email blasts featuring these unique approaches can both generate some degree of quarantine income at that same time that you remain top of mind for customers attempting to get back to normal once the emergency is past.
In the end, rather than spending your time worrying about things you can’t control, you could interrupt this disruptive, negative cycle of powerlessness into more productive, more creative, and more positive actions.
Bottom line, it’s now time to return to one of the most basic principles of good business development: Identify the present need and adapt your strengths to meet that need.
if you’d like some help brainstorming ideas you can implement, be sure to schedule a consultation call with us. We’re all in this together!