Healthy things grow - including businesses!

When I saw this graphic at the foot of this blog, I immediately related to it! On both a personal and business level, the 3 stages of Survival, Acceptance and Growth and the associated feelings, thoughts and actions have all been evident to varying degrees since the outbreak of COVID-19.

SURVIVAL

My first and overwhelming thought when lockdown was announced was ‘How is my business going to survive this?’. Thankfully we’d had a strong 9 months of trading so we had money in the bank which I projected would last for approximately 6 weeks but I could see that business would slow considerably and we’d begin to haemorrhage cash faster than we could get it in.The Government’s furlough scheme was a lifeline that we couldn’t afford to not grab hold of so we put the majority of our staff on furlough on March 24th, having first asked them all to provide me with a ‘state of play’ report for each of their roles.This would allow myself and 2 other non-furloughed staff members to pick up as much of their work as possible. We then got on the phone and informed all of our customers who we were installing for that we would not be returning to site for the foreseeable future - thankfully not a single customer objected to this decision and were in fact supportive of it.

The next survival action we took was to discuss our financial situation with our bank manager and we applied for a CBILS loan to tide us over for a further 3 months (this was based on our worst-case scenario of no new business or income coming in for that period).That was approved for 100% of what we requested which gave us much-needed breathing space to be able to right the ship and take stock. It’s worth clarifying that CBILS is a fantastic loan with the following benefits:

- Over a 6 year term

- No repayments for 1st 6 months

- Interest-free for 1st 12 months

- No early repayment penalties

- No personal guarantees required

- Interest rate 2-4% above base.

However, you have to demonstrate a strong case for needing the loan.

Decisiveness is key during the survival phase.You need to make well-informed but quick and clear decisions. This isn’t easy in times of crisis but it’s imperative.

ACCEPTANCE

The survival phase was intense but thankfully quite shortlived. Acceptance of the situation has taken somewhat longer.Something I implemented early on was to maintain a routine.This included going into the office (on my own of course!) each week day, just as I did pre-COVID. Routine is necessary and powerful as a way of keeping a semblance of normality.I discovered this phase to be one of ‘emptying my mind’ and thinking outside of the box with regards to how we could do business differently; where we could find efficiencies; what the bigger picture might look like.Because business, and therefore busyness, had slowed, I had time to think more expansively.I had time to discuss. I had time to plan. In short, I was able to work ON the business to a much greater proportion than previously. What was also a pleasant surprise is the fact that we are still receiving enquiries, and good ones at that.We closed 3 significant contracts in April, with the result that April was only around 12-15% down on previous months. May is lining up nicely too.

Acceptance of the situation by our staff was and is critical for their own mental well-being so we established a WhatsApp ‘Furlough’ group where staff could post jokes, fun stuff about what they’d been up to and even recipes! A ‘Pure Team’ WA group was also set up where I posted a weekly ‘State of Nation’ video piece (4-5 mins long) where I feed back to the team how the business is faring.This has proved to be invaluable in keeping them all connected to the vision and reassuring them that the business will survive, and even thrive, during this pandemic.In addition to this, we have regular phone calls with the staff to check in with them.

Acceptance allows you to rest and dream - and it’s from dreams that new things arise!

GROWTH

As we emerge from this pandemic, the opportunities for growth will be numerous.As a business, we’re taking advantage of the fact that many more people will have the time to do research for their home renovation/building projects; the dramatic decrease in pollution is something we want to encourage people to maintain by taking up renewable energy. Whilst many competitors will be tempted/forced to cut back on marketing expenditure, this is the time to INCREASE your market profile and be noticed!Remote networking via ZOOM etc, whilst sounding like an oxymoron, could actually increase our networking circles and spheres of influence.The place of digitally-driven products and systems that can be managed remotely will massively increase - for some time now we’ve been promoting and installing internet-based heating controllers that allow us to monitor, diagnose and remotely fix (or at least go out to a customer forewarned and therefore forearmed) customer’s heating systems.

Healthy things grow and as a nation we may just come out of this in a healthier state.Sales of bikes and home-gym equipment has soared during the crisis.To extend the fitness analogy to business, now is the time to take a health-check on your business.Where’s the fat and how can you reduce it/cut it out?What fitness regime can you put your business through - i.e. where can you make efficiencies; what business/work systems can you make more effective; in what areas of the business can you build more muscle and capacity (e.g. we’re expanding our sales capacity).

Good, strong and well-thought out STRATEGY is crucial for healthy growth. Use this time to strategise WELL!





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