It’s not always easy, but thinking one, two or three years in advance can help you better predict and react to changing business conditions.
Take steps to permanently future proof your business.
Check you have the right team
Now is a good time to ensure you have the right team. If you’ve had employees self-managing, now you will see who you relied on the most, which skills were missing (consider hiring them in) and which did you not need (maybe you need to find other things for them to do).
You may have also found certain staff if they’re not needed for direct customer contact production work better from home. This could reduce office costs.
When you consider what you needed to make your business work in times of stress, identify any bottlenecks or issues such as one key customer for the majority of your revenue or one major supplier for the majority of your raw materials or supplies. Other actions you can take include:
- Reduce the length of your supply network or at least have alternatives that don’t require materials to come from outside the country or State
- Identify any critical supplies, raw materials or ingredients and have an extra month of inventory (without unnecessary stockpiling) to keep you going if supply suddenly ceased
- Document any lessons learnt that will help you run a better business and then implement.
Seek wider insight
It’s often in times of crisis that you’ll find you can’t do it all on your own. Identify who you can call on to gain advice about growth and future strategies. Some sources include:
- Obtaining advice from your trusted advisors: your lawyer, accountant, banker, mentor
- Getting market research feedback from your customers, your suppliers and other stakeholders
- Speaking to other small business owners
- Making sure you are regularly getting up-to-date information on your industry, research and development breakthroughs and particularly on what your competitors are doing
Update a one-page SWOT plan every quarter
To keep ahead you’re better to have a plan (you can delete the word ‘business’) that you review on a regular basis and just asks the most critical questions which are:
- Strengths: what you’re (still) really good at and what you’re doing to protect these from competitors
- Weaknesses: what (still) isn’t quite working that well and ways to eliminate them
- Opportunities: what new products, services, customers, markets, technology or trends that could change the way your business works
- Threats: the events outside your control that you need to minimize
Focus on cash flow
In a crisis, having cash reserves to outlast a dramatic fall in sales without having to close the doors is a lifesaver. Decide on how much working capital you need and then outline where this may come from when you really need it (business savings, access to loans or your own capital).
Complete a lean business plan
If you have a full business plan, consider writing shortened versions on a more regular basis. A Lean Canvas approach will help you sketch out the main components of your business strategy which includes:
- The problems you solve for customers
- Key customer segments
- Your unique service proposition
- A solution to the problem
- The channels to your customers
- How you will generate revenue streams
- Your cost structures and how you make a profit
- Key metrics to measure performance
- Your unfair advantage.
A business plan of course is just a piece of paper so it’s important once it’s written, to decide what needs actioning and set up a cadence of tasks.
Stay on top of evolving information, focus on making sales and maintaining cash flow, reach out to people you trust for their input and advice, work closely with your team – and you’ll be well positioned to be a stronger business in the future.