How to lead your business through the ongoing coronavirus crisis

Posted: Wed 1st Apr 2020

As the coronavirus crisis continues, business leaders need to find time away from coping with day-to-day issues to develop long-term strategies.

Business coach Andy Clayton talked to Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones about what business owners should consider as they plan for the future on today's lunch and learn.

Andy built an agency business in China to over $10m in turnover before selling it to his largest competitor. He now helps entrepreneurs master the methodologies he used through Petra Coach.

Is this the right time to scale a business?

The coronavirus is having a big economic impact, but some companies are thriving during the crisis.

Businesses that have an opportunity should think about the two key habits needed to scale a company:

  1. Develop good communication habits to move quickly

  2. Focus on a few key things

Communicating with your team

The structure of communications is really important, particularly now everyone's working from home. The best practice for high-growth teams includes:

  • Having a daily huddle to support fast decision making (this can now be carried out online through meeting services like Zoom).

  • Concentrated meetings of the leadership team on a weekly basis (this might be more frequently as you have to move so quickly).

  • Having good task sheets, which create accountability (Andy uses Monday.com).

"There is an upper limit to daily huddles. You have to control the time - it can't be more than 15 minutes. Make sure people don't use it as a chance to get into the details," advised Andy.

The upper limit for the number of people that take part is about 15. Beyond that, you can cascade the huddle process, so each team or management layer has its own huddle.

How do you find an opportunity to pivot?

The impact coronavirus has on businesses falls into three broad categories. You either have an opportunity for growth, have to shut down temporarily or, most likely, you sit somewhere in the middle.

"Whenever you go into a crisis like this, the quicker you can move to minimise costs and preserve cashflow the better you do," said Andy.

He added that companies in defensive mode may need to let go of particular projects or speak to landlords and suppliers about costs. It's important to reach out to all of your customers, have good dialogue and work out what's changed too.

Businesses that think they might have an opportunity to expand their business should consider:

  • What marketing and communication strategies are available?

  • What services do you have on the shelf that are suitable?

"When you're thinking about pivoting, it has to be realistic," said Andy. "It's important to think about opportunities, but you need to focus on what's realistic. When you run the numbers, what could it bring in? Find the opportunities but have a hard look at what can be done."

Finally, he reminded business owners to think about what they need to come out of the situation intact. Particularly as it's likely to pick off the competition and suppliers.

Coping with anxiety and building a resilient mindset

The crisis has put pressure on business owners' mental health. It's important to take positive steps to improve your mindset.

Answering an audience question about coping with anxiety, Andy mentioned the benefits of building a daily routine.

"Morning routines are the most important. Avoid the news, which is difficult, but the negativity that comes from that is hard. Start the day with things you need to do rather than being responsive to what's coming in," said Andy.

Plan what you're going to do the next day when you finish working.

Think about swallowing the frog when you start work. There's often one ugly or difficult thing that needs to be done during the day. Doing that first will make everything else easier. It could be a long email, negotiation or another task that fills you with dread.

Discussing your situation with other business owners

It can be difficult to know how to apply generalist advice to your specific set of circumstances. Andy recommends talking to your peers:

"Groups are so valuable at the moment. Everyone feels a bit scared and lost; this is the closest any of us will come to a wartime situation. What I would say is, having a community around you and understanding what they're doing and sharing ideas has been an absolute lifeline," he said.

Chris has over a decade of experience writing about small businesses and startups. He runs Inkwell, a content agency that helps companies that sell to small business owners grow their audiences through content marketing. You can find him on Twitter at @CPGoodfellow.

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