We have participated in calls with business leaders and we have heard two themes: 1) whew, we made it over that hurdle, now what do we do to get over the next one? or 2) I don’t even know where to begin. There are five stages your business will go through in our current environment. Or I should say, five stages your business CAN go through. Whether or not you reach each subsequent stage depends on how well you complete the one prior. Here are the five stages and the steps to take in each stage to advance to the next.
Stage 1: Shock and Stabilize
This is the moment bars and restaurants were shut down dine in service. The moment the Stay Home order was issued and you either had to close or start working remotely. The moment one of your employees tells you they have tested positive for coronavirus. (it will happen, so start planning now). As a business owner, you anticipate and plan for these situations. You watch for signs that your business is going to be impacted.
What To Do in Shock and Stabilize. During this stage it is important to be there for your employees. Remember, they have less information and control of the situation than you do – so they may feel even more out of control. Be there for them. Communicate what you know and what you don’t know. Ask them how they are doing. Listen to them. Give them grace. You will want to jump to plan. Yes, AND make sure that you are there for your employees.
Stage 2: Plan
This is when you start to figure out what to do next. You ask questions like “how do we continue to make money?”, “how can we reduce expenses?”, “how do we need to adjust how we operate?”, and “what do we need to do if we need to shut down quickly?”.
What To Do In Plan. During the Plan stage, it is important to engage your employees in the process. As owners, we tend to want to make the decisions, construct the plan. We do it with the best intentions; we want to take care of our employees and make sure our business is viable. One of the best things you can do for your employees and your business is to include your employees. You need to harness the energy and creativity of your employees to figure out how to move forward. Provide information about the big picture. Share the impact on your business. Ask for ideas to minimize or reduce the impact. Listen to their ideas.
Stage 3: Implement and Adjust
In Implement and Adjust, you are putting these actions into place. You adjust your menu options to make take out easier. You adjust your operations to support the new way of doing business. Unfortunately, this may include notifying employees that they are being temporarily laid off.
What To Do In Implement and Adjust. This stage will require you to spread your focus a bit more. You need to continue to monitor the environment to watch for any other ‘shocks’ that can impact your business. Continue to engage your employees. Include them in planning for these changes. Help your employees develop the new skills and learn the new processes as your business shifts. Their hard work is keeping your business going (you couldn’t do it without them). Make sure they know how much you appreciate their work, their ideas, their patience. Say thank you. If you have had to temporarily lay off employees, stay connected with them. Reach out to them every few days to see how they are doing.
We have found many businesses are in Stages 2 and 3. It feels like plan, implement and adjust is our new normal. CAUTION: Don’t get stuck there. It will be tempting to stay in Stage 3 — to monitor and adjust, monitor and adjust. Tempting because you may be starting to feel a sense of normalcy or a sense of control. But also, we are tired. This situation has whiplashed us, stressed us out and stretched us beyond what we could have ever anticipated. We are just worn out.
We are going to get through this. It will get better. I truly believe we, as a country, as a people, will be stronger. But to do that, we can’t ease back into the way we used to do things, we need to charge into the other side prepared for bigger and better.
Stage 4: Prepare for the Future
In Prepare for the Future, you are planning how you are going to charge into the other side. You are looking at the future of your business when these restrictions are over and how you are going to operate.
What To Do In Prepare for The Future. Identify your business goals. Are you going to adjust your services based on your recent experience? Develop plans for ramping up. How many employees are you hiring back and when? What is your plan to get the supplies you need to open back to full service? How and when should you be communicating with your customers? Review your policies and procedures. What standard operating procedures do you have? Do they need to be updated?
This is a perfect time to review your people strategies and human resources practices (yes, I am biased — because it is important, not just because I am an HR person). What is your current hiring process? Are you asking questions relevant to the culture of your business? Do you have offer letter templates? How are you onboarding new employees? Do you have regular business updates with employees? Do employees understand how what they do every day impacts the success of your business? Do employees feel recognized for the work they do?
Stage 5: Move Forward
This is the moment we have all waited for — the moment we are on the other side. Your business is more effective, more efficient and more viable than it was before. When we get here, we celebrate.
I read a quote recently by Kevin Costner, “When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment or the moment defines you.” I refuse to be defined by this moment — I choose to define this moment. To use this opportunity to make myself and my business stronger. Who is with me?