Quarter 1 data was unprecedented. And like so many other things that will measure COVID-19’s impact, the data of disruption will define our performance and recovery strategies as we set clear goals for a post-pandemic new normal.
How deep, how sharp and how exponential the impact is still up in the air. The way back will require a rebound mindset as we rebuild financial cushions, refresh our operations and innovation engines and become better versions of our pre-pandemic selves.
While recovery will vary across segments, these 10 guiding principles are a good place to start.
1. Go long.
Through past recessions or economic shocks, maintaining customer relationships for the long haul has been a proven winner. This has been a guiding principle of mine for all times, good and bad. Talk to your customers, feel their pain points and adjust accordingly.
2. Do whatever it takes.
You can’t make money on a job you don’t have. Focus on what you do best and what’s most profitable and, if necessary, adjust revenue expectations or make difficult compromises with customers so you can live to fight another day. Unless it is an impossible situation, do whatever it takes to hang on to the relationship, the account, and recover and rebuild it in a position of strength. And look around you: You may be able to expand your customer base by drawing in new business by way of offering a different level of service.
Listen to your employees, partners, customers and vendors and engage them in a two-way conversation about issues and concerns, learn how they are being impacted and how you can become a resource. It’s easy to send e-mails but don’t. A one-way conversation about your shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders aren’t what your stakeholders need to hear. Pick up the phone and keep the personal relationship going. Publish critical information on your website, create a video and link to it. In any crisis, lead with empathy, be accessible, listen and respond accordingly.
4. Be strategic & informed.
Become informed about unemployment and government relief funds for workers, and financial assistance and other resources to help your businesses as a result of COVID-19 impacts. Work closely with your tax and legal teams, or other consulting advisors to build a strategically solid financial recovery plan.
5. Protect cash flow.
Implement proactive strategies to protect cash flow and prevent problems. Seal leaks in the system, stay on top of receivables, focus on variable costs and ask for better terms. Use slowdown time as an opportunity for planning. Cash will continue to be an issue – especially if the economy does not rebound quickly.
6. Build a strong offense.
Playing defense and being reactive will leave your company in an understaffed state when the pendulum swings back. Do everything you can to keep your team together and look for ways to recruit available talent from other companies that let people go to save money.
7. Have a winning strategy.
Become your company’s Chief Inspiration Officer and its motivating force. Your team must be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Articulate how any organizational changes you’re making, like cutting costs to save jobs, are good for the team, good for employees and communicate change messages in a positive way to keep morale high.
8. Walk the talk.
This is not the time to buy a new car or send contradictory signals. It could be a good time to buy equipment since the equipment market is depressed. If you do that, communicate the thought process and again, explain why your decision is good for the company and your employees.
9. Fix what’s broken.
Audit business practices and workplace habits for an emerging economy. Clean up the bad habits and waste that may have proliferated or been hidden by a robust economy.
10. Don’t cut back on marketing and sales.
Difficult times are exactly when your business needs a strong value proposition, relevant messaging, marketing and sales. Homeowners and commercial real estate clients are re-assessing service relationships, and are making changes in how they buy and contract for landscaping. PR, community service and video will keep your brand front and center and help make your company a trusted resource.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of Lawn & Landscape, “Words of Wilson”, and is published with permission.