Getting Back on Track When the Wheels Fall Off

Getting back on track after COVID-19

Using the current situation to reassess, plan and recharge

By Earl Gregorich

So, here we sit. Some of us are still at home in our makeshift workspace, home office or simply the dining room table. Others of us made our way back to a “real-world” office with all the safety precautions and worries that come with that. However, regardless of where you are or whether you think we are over COVID, in the middle of the battle or still haven’t seen the worst of it, you are probably faced with getting business back on track. So, how might we go about this?

Damage Assessment

First, we need to determine what is working and what isn’t. The key is to figure out those things we have at our disposal that can move us forward and not dwell on those things that are no longer relevant or available. When in battle, you have to work with the tools you have and build a strategy that uses them to their fullest capability. This might include restructuring the way you deliver a service if you can’t meet a client face-to-face. You may have to switch what you manufacture if the raw materials you normally use are no longer available or the market has shifted away from your everyday product. Or, you may have to change your product packaging to allow online sales or long-distance shipping rather than in-store pickup. Look for what services the needs of the customer, using the resources you have at the lowest cost to pivot based on your assessment of the damage your company has suffered from COVID-19.

Lessons Learned

Your day-to-day has changed dramatically and there are many opportunities to learn when nobody knows what tomorrow may bring. My advice would be to keep a log of your journey and periodically revisit how you arrived where you are today. When faced with making quick decisions and going down unfamiliar paths, we tend to be so focused on survival that we don’t always see the bigger picture.  Sometimes, going back and reading through your notes will help you see an opportunity that wasn’t apparent before. Or a solution may present itself because now you can see more of the moving parts of your business and how they are working (or not).  As you learn what works and what not to do, write it down! Hopefully, after COVID-19, you will never have to read those notes again. But, if you do, you will want to remember how you did things last time and what not to do along the way.

Proactive Planning

In the case of COVID-19, the only way around the problem is through it, and that takes planning. We have all been fighting to stay afloat long enough by now that we should be more aware of what needs short-term decision making and what can wait for long-term TIps for planning after COVID-19planning. You should be getting into a rhythm of planning short-term daily or weekly courses of action based on current changes to regulatory constraints and community reactions. You should also be taking time to map out a 6, 12 or 18-month plan to keep things going long-term. This is especially needed for financial stability. Every business going into this crisis faced immediate financial changes. Most saw sales decline (fall off a cliff!) and some saw sales grow. Cost structures changed. Labor became a huge unknown and the regulatory atmosphere put an additional strain on the bottom line. Companies that knew the numbers behind their business and could produce credible financial reports not only had valuable information on which to base their decisions, they were also prepared to apply for relief funding. Businesses without credible financial documents could not make sound projections and, in many cases, lost out on disaster funding. Be proactive, know your numbers and make sound plans and financial projections to navigate your way through the balance of COVID-19.

Mental and Physical Care

The last area you need to address is the mental and physical safety of you and your employees. People do not perform well if they feel unsafe or are unsure of what is expected of them, especially when so few things in their life are normal. You have to be a leader and that involves keeping yourself healthy and maintaining a positive attitude. Communication with your employees and those you work closely with will prove invaluable to shortening the recovery time and making it easier on the folks on whom you depend. This may mean that you have to deliver bad news or discuss issues outside the normal workplace challenges. But, if you do this right, everyone comes out feeling better and your company becomes stronger because of it.

No one knows for sure how this is all going to work out

Few of us were able to plan for the situation we are in. No matter your experience, education or planning prowess, you could not have foreseen COVID-19 and planned your way around it without incident. So, as you take the steps outlined above, stop looking back and beating yourself up. Instead, look forward and focus on the opportunities presenting themselves. Strive for a stronger, more vibrant business. Pull from that passion you had when you started this entrepreneurial journey. Rekindle that fire that kept you going through long days and sleepless nights. You most likely didn’t know the outcome then, much like you don’t know the outcome now. That didn’t stop you from pressing on and neither should this.

Remember, if you need a little pep talk or just someone to bounce an idea off of, I’m here, working the Zoom sessions and staring out my window right alongside you.

Earl Gregorich is a Certified Business Advisor and Area Manager of the Small Business Development Center in Greenville, SC, a U.S. Air Force veteran and instructor of several small business programs throughout South Carolina.