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COVID Pandemic Business Lessons

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By Debbie Gregory.

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It does not matter whatever area your small business is in; it looks very different today than it did last year. Unfortunately, it might never look quite the same again. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced every industry to drastically change the ways in which they conduct business to keep both their employees and customers safe.

Below are a few powerful lessons that you can take away from this pandemic and ones that will assist you in changing your business for the better:

1.) Be Flexible:

COVID-19 tossed a massive wrench into all our plans this year. Regardless of when you re-opened, when you plan to re-open, or if you never closed your doors, you must be flexible and creative when solving current problems. If you can embrace these challenges, your business will not only survive, but should grow once the pandemic has passed.

2.) Consider Alternatives to The Standard Office:

Many businesses have been forced to close entirely or work with a very limited amount of staff in the office while the rest worked remotely from home. Many businesses are now choosing to allow their employees to stay remote indefinitely as they close physical offices to save on overhead. If you can do it, now is the perfect time to embrace working with reduced overhead while providing your employees more flexibility in their work schedules.

3.) Utilize Technology:

Utilizing tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Skype businesses are keeping employees connected, focused, and on-task. These tools also continue to facilitate camaraderie by allowing virtual team lunches, meetings, happy hours, and more.

Technology is also helping companies keep on top of customer service with chatbots, messengers, newsletters, and other online tools; as well as helping companies expand their offerings with things like online stores. Technology has made the transition from traditional office to home-office incredibly simple as well as boosted how companies can find and communicate with their customers. Helping to keep business marching forward, keep up morale and keep everyone feeling connected to one another.

VAMBOA recognizes that many small businesses may need to update their computers and technology.   For this reason, VAMBOA has made the decision to partner with Dell Technologies to VAMBOA members and friends significant discounts on their outstanding technology products.  Here is a link to check out what they offer:  https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

4.) Involve Your Customers:

When looking for new and creative ways to boost your business during these challenging times, it is an excellent idea good to involve your current customers.  You need to find out from them how you can better serve them.  They may have a few ideas that you would never have thought of without their input. Some businesses have pivoted to online sales, at-home kits that are delivered, virtual meetings or gatherings and much more. Your customers know what they want and adding their desires to your offerings may open up a whole new revenue streams for your business.

5.) Pivot:

If your business is not open, you need to find a new way to get your offerings into the hands of your customers. If you have not yet added other services or ways for people to purchase your offerings, now is the time to do so!  If you are a restaurant then offer curbside pickup, online ordering, delivery services, or at-home meal and dessert kits. If you are a retailer then open an online store. Find ways to bring people together and connect your products and services to them.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and will continue to dramatically change the way small businesses operate as we head into the future. To survive and thrive, you need to find new and unique ways to continue to serve your customers.

Please check out the discounts for VAMBOA members and friends offered by Dell Technologies to upgrade your computers and technology here:

https://vamboa.org/dell-technologies/

Rebuilding Your Business After COVID-19 : Part 2 of 2

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By Debbie Gregory.

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The current COVID-19 pandemic has been raging all over the world since late 2019 and almost every small business has suffered various types of negative financial effects. Having a keen understanding of exactly how much your business has suffered, as well as having a solid plan in place, will dramatically help your business get back on track during this pandemic and hopefully after the danger has passed.

In Part one of this mini-series we covered some ways you can prepare your business.  This part will continue to provide you a few more things you can do right now to prepare your business for a post-COVID-19 world.  VAMBOA, the Veterans and Military Business Owners Association wishes you great success and prosperity.

 

4.) Time to Revise Your Budget:

To place your business back on its feet, you may need to invest a significant amount of money and/or resources to make money.   You may need to launch new ad campaigns as well as invest in new marketing materials and collateral.  You may also need to determine if you need new inventory as well as there might be new and improved   equipment that you need to buy.  You may also to hire or rehire employees with additional skills such as eCommerce expertise.  You must have a clear vision of   how much you need to get your business rolling on a day-to-day basis.   It is a reasonable assumption that your pre-COVID-19 budget is no longer applicable, and you need to tweak it for this “new normal”.

 

5.) Put Together a Re-Build Timeline:  

It will take hard work and energy to get your business back following the pandemic and doing everything all at once is not very realistic. Putting together a timeline that prioritizes your most important actions will help you reach each of your re-opening goals in an easier and quicker manner. For example, you may want to start by securing a loan, then rehiring your employees, then restocking inventory, etc. Also, make sure to track your progress each step of the way.   Having a timeline and plan in place will keep you organized.

 

6.)  BE PREPARED!  Put Together A Plan Now for the Next Crisis:

Though this pandemic seems like a once-in-a-lifetime event, the reality is that an emergency of this nature may well happen again and again.   For example, we are seeing a resurgence in hot spots and COVID 19 cases in areas that may have re-opened too soon and may have to close before they can again reopen. Use what you have learned during this pandemic to put together a comprehensive plan to help you insulate your business from future shocks and downturns.

You may want to:

  • Build up liquid cash savings
  • Pay down or pay off any debts
  • Trim your nonessential spending
  • Find ways to help your staff work more efficiently
  • Cut operating costs

 

The more you can prepare now, the better off you will be once the pandemic has passed. Having at least one plan in place will greatly improve your odds of surviving now during these tough financial times and eventually thriving again more quickly and more efficiently.

 

Rebuilding Your Business After COVID-19 : Part 1 of 2

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By Debbie Gregory.

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Unless you have been living under a rock or in seclusion, you understand the COVID-19 pandemic has ground many businesses to a halt and wreaked financial havoc all over the world. Many businesses are continuing to struggle as the pandemic continues to rage months after it first began. According to a recent study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), as of March 30, 2020 approximately 92% of small businesses that responded said they were suffering negative financial impacts as a result of the pandemic. Only 5% said they have experienced no effects at all.

A plan can dramatically help your business get back on track once the danger has passed. The short-term outlook for businesses varies widely depending on your industry.   No one knows what the “new normal” will be and we can only make guesses at how the overall economy will look. There are a few things you can do right now to prepare your business for a post-COVID-19 world.  They include the following:

 

1.) Assess the Overall Financial Damage to Your Business:

Before you can start planning how you will recover, you need to know exactly how your business has been impacted.  Now is the time to collect all of the numbers (from places such as profit and loss or cash flow statements) in order to compare them to previous years and determine just how much it has affected you. Next you will need to take a close look at how at what other parts of your business have been impacted including if you had to lay off workers, you were forced to greatly reduce marketing budgets or it became necessary to have workers perform their jobs remotely from in home offices.

 

2.) Will you Need Funding to Recover?

Your business may need a fresh infusion of cash to get back on its feet. The earlier you get the ball rolling on financing, the better off you will be. Take the time to research your options so that you find the right financing for your individual needs.

There are several options that you may consider, such as:

  • Small business loans and microloans
  • The Paycheck Protection Program (which is designed to provide funding to small businesses that are struggling to retain their employees during the pandemic)
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans(short-term pandemic financing for things other than employee retention)
  • Business credit cards
  • Business lines of credit
  • Inventory financing
  • Merchant cash advances
  • Small business term loans from banks, credit unions and online lenders
  • Vendor trade-lines
  • Accounts receivable financing
  • Purchase order financing
  • Equipment financing
  • And more

Each option has its own pros and cons so do your research and always consult a professional if you need guidance.

 

3.) Revise Your Business Plan:

Your business plan may have been working perfectly for your business pre-COVID-19, but now it may need some fine-tuning or outright re-writing. Specifically, you need to consider how your business will be able to adjust to the new normal once to survive during COVID or hopefully after it is gone. Take a good look at what was working for your business before the pandemic that may not work as well now and see where you can adjust or improve to remain competitive in your industry.

If you previously had a traditional brick and mortar shop before COVID-19, you may want to now expand into eCommerce or digital offerings since more people are turning to online shopping for all of their needs. If your employees are now working from home, you may consider keeping that arrangement.  In other words, you need to fine tune your business.

You should also take a good look at the current trends and what your competitors are doing in your industry. You may find a gap that your business could easily fulfill which could be critical to reclaiming and expanding your customer base going forward.

 

The second part of this series will offer you more recommendations including going over your budget, your budget, your re-build timeline and why you should have a plan in place for the next crisis. Stay tuned.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Currently you might be working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are a few more tips to help you get into the swing of working at home, help you be productive from your new home office and help you maintain your overall mental well-being:

 

Establish and Keep Regular Working Hours:

It is important to set for yourself and make clear when you are working and when you are not. If possible, try to keep with the hours you normally worked at our office. If those hours were 9am to 5pm then try to make that time period, your workday. Working from home has placed you in charge of your environment and your work schedule. This means that you will have to hold yourself accountable as well as recognizing when enough is enough and not overdoing it and burning out.

 

Communication is Key:

If you are just learning how to work from home, the transition will require a great deal of patience and good communication skills because you will encounter a variety of challenges in your new workday.

 

Put together a plan that clearly spells out expectations for how often you should check in and how you will tackle any changes or new assignments. This plan is likely to change as you go along. And that is OK.

 

This is a new and unique situation for everyone. It is important to make sure that you are communicating with your coworkers and managers as issues or challenges come up in order to overcome them appropriately and quickly. Never hesitate to reach out to the same people that you would normally turn to for help.

 

Recreate Your Commute to Help Prepare Yourself for Work:

Your morning commute does not only get you to work; it also gives your brain time to prepare for work. Just because you are not leaving your home to work right now does not mean you cannot help yourself mentally prepare for your workday in a similar manner.  If you listen to music on the way to work, start your day with the radio on. Maybe play with your pet, do a quick workout, or spend a few minutes on your favorite hobby.

 

The same goes for after work.  If you generally spend time commuting back home and can wind down from the day, then do something at the end of your designated workday to help unwind. Maybe walk the dog, do some yoga, or read a bit.

 

Remember to Socialize:

Working from home cuts you off from the casual interactions you would normally have with your colleagues.  A lot of people find this incredibly lonely and isolating. Make sure that you schedule regular talks with coworkers or managers, even if these chats are only a couple of minutes long. Additionally, try to schedule less formal chats with your coworkers such as a virtual happy hour after work or a catch-up session.  Don’t forget to schedule regular virtual visits or happy hours with your friends and family during this time too.

 

VAMBOA hopes that these tips will help you to prepare your home office setup and assist you in creating a productive and workday.   Remember that even though our world is upside down now, it is more important than ever to reach out, connect with and take care of one another.

 

BE SAFE AND OBSERVE STAYING IN PLACE AND SOCIAL DISTANCING!

 

By Debbie Gregory.

LinkedIN Debbie Gregory VAMBOA VAMBOA Facebook VAMBOA Twitter

 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are implementing work from home policies for those employees who can reasonably complete their work from home. A lot of people suddenly need to learn how to work from home which is very different from working in the office.

 

Below are some tips to help you get into the swing of working at home, being productive from your new home office and maintaining your overall mental well-being:

 

Do Not Become Distracted from News or Anything Else:

Distractions are rampant at home and are one of the biggest challenges for people who work from a home office. There is always something that needs tending to at home whether it is your chore list, a lingering project, or a loved one.

 

It is important to be discipline and limit distractions in your workspace. If you need to toss a load of laundry in the dryer or quickly check the news, be sure and do so but refrain from large cleaning projects. It is important to take regular short breaks from work as you would at the office.

 

If you are susceptible to distraction each  time you receive a text message, news alert, or someone poking their head into your workspace, remember that all of that will still be waiting right where it is when your work day has come to a close.

 

Manage Your Time Wisely:

Regardless of whether you are working or not, it is essential that you set a regular schedule for your day and keep track of your tasks including those pending and completed.

 

You can use a variety of methods for this but here are a few cool, free online tools you may want to consider:

  • Tasks and project management: Air Table, NovaTools, Trello
  • Sharing documents: Dropbox, Box, GoogleDocs
  • Video conferencing: Skype, Zoom, Google Meetings
  • Team communication: Whatsapp online, Slack, Workplace by Facebook

 

Designate a Quiet Workspace or Home Office:

If you are used to going into an office every day, the separation between your job and your home is a physical separation.   You will benefit from recreating that separation as much as possible with a designated physical workspace at home. If you do not have the space for a full room to devote to this, a quiet corner in the least used room in your home will work.  This space should feel as separate as possible.

 

Tips for a good home workspace:

  • It should be a comfortable space
  • It needs to have good lighting
  • Include the things you need to perform your job (printer, computer, phone, paper, pens, etc.)

 

It is important that your workspace is separate from your home space so that you can mentally turn “on” at the beginning of the day when you enter the space and get down to work; as well as turn “off” at the end of the day.   If you never fully disconnect from work, both your productivity and your home life will suffer so try to balance both.

 

Create Realistic Boundaries with Others in Your Home:

If you are suddenly working from home, you are probably not the only one in your house who is facing this new work life balance. You may find yourself at home with your spouse, children, other family, roommates, or others. It is best to set clear boundaries and share them with the other people in your home. Set times or queues for others to help them understand when you cannot be disturbed.

 

Get Dressed Everyday:

This might seem like an odd tip but putting yourself together as you normally would to go to work will help you mentally prepare for your day. It is very tempting to stay in your pajamas but doing so generally leads to a slower overall start to the day and less productivity overall. It is not necessary to dress up such as wearing a suit.  It is good for your head to shower, brush your teeth do your hair, shave or put on makeup and put on something nice.   You will be surprised how much doing this will improve your outlook and keep you positive.

 

VAMBOA encourages everyone to practice social distancing and STAY SAFE!   Stay tuned for more tips in Part 2.

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