Much of the world is still in isolation and practicing social distancing and needless to say, small businesses are feeling the loss, particularly product-based businesses. I too have had to pivot my business as I navigate this new world of working at home with my four kids at the table with me.
In many ways I feel like I’ve reverted back to the start of my entrepreneurship journey. I started my first business, which was a stationery and gift line, in 2008 when we were entering the great recession. A lot of people thought I was crazy to embark on a new business venture at the time, but I found a way. It’s given me the confidence and motivation to know that we will get through this low period we’re all experiencing. It may take more grit and perseverance from us small business owners, but I know we can do it.
Business advice isn’t a one size fits all and what works for one person may not work for someone else. Especially right now, there’s no overarching playbook on how to run your business. However, in this article I’ll share 4 strategies I’m currently implementing in my own business in hopes it offers you some direction in this uncertain time.
Strategy 1: Set your priorities and stick to them
The very first thing I did was I wrote down my priorities. It may sound simple, but it’s the most important thing you can do for your business right now. In times of crisis, you need to be clear. For me, it boiled down to 5 main things:
- My Proof to Product Team
- My mastermind clients
- The Proof to Product podcast
- My Paper Camp E-course students and by extension our entire alumni community
- My Proof to Product Labs group coaching program
Everything else — and I mean everything — has been placed on the backburner. Potential collaborations, special projects and even explorative chats with people… anything that doesn’t align with these five priorities have been either postponed or canceled altogether.
If you need help keeping yourself accountable to this new model, put up an “out of office” email message. I put one up a few weeks ago that says my family and I are in isolation right now and I’ll be slower in responding to emails. I also specify that my current coaching clients and Paper Camp students are my priority and that everything else will have to wait. In addition to alerting my network what my schedule looks like these days, it’s a daily reminder to myself so I don’t run astray.
Strategy 2: Take a red pen to your business finances
I’m sure if you’re like me you take a good look at your numbers every month. You can probably quote last month’s numbers by memory at this point. But this time around, I did two specific things.
First, I calculated what type of runway I have. Meaning, if no other money came into the business for the next few months, how long would I be able to keep the doors open? I looked at how much cash the business has on hand, as well as what our average monthly expenses are. Then I calculated how many months our cash reserves could keep things going.
I can tell you from first-hand experience, as well as having worked with dozens of the clients I mentor to run these numbers over the last month, that knowing these numbers WILL reduce your stress even if the answer isn’t what you want to hear. There is comfort and empowerment in knowing where you stand financially. And, when you run these numbers, you can then start to make a plan for what to do next.
The second thing I did with my finances was look at where we might have redundancies or unnecessary expenses. Do you use a social media scheduling/posting service that you can cancel for the time being and return to posting manually? Do you really need to be paying to transcribe your podcasts right now? These are just a couple of questions you should be asking yourself as you scroll through your monthly statement.
Lastly, look at your finances through the lens of your priorities. For example, one of the priorities I set were my team members. That means finding a way to keep them on payroll is of utmost importance. By reducing my expenses in other areas, I’ve been able to ensure they keep their same hours. This may look different for you and your business and that’s alright. Just make sure your financial decisions are in line with the priorities you set.
Strategy 3: Strip your systems and processes down to the basics
This past month has been a re-education of how things were when I first started as an entrepreneur–I’m sure many of you feel the same way. Many of us have returned to our kitchen tables and our “warehouse” to house our products is the basement.
I’ve had to strip things down to basics with how we execute certain processes. To do this, before I embark on anything in my day, I ask myself two things: “Is this task necessary?” and “Does it align with my priorities?” If something doesn’t benefit the overall health of the business or drive revenue, then you don’t need to be doing it.
In keeping with the current economic climate, you also need to strip your products and services down to the basics. By this I mean, asking yourself: what is going to help people the most right now? What’s a realistic price point given the financial hardships many people are facing?
Knowing that I was launching a new coaching program in the middle of this pandemic, I revisited the marketing plan for Proof to Product Labs which just launched at the end of April. I removed things that felt unnecessary, made adjustments to what the program includes and lowered the price for our initial launch to make it more accessible to a larger group of product makers.
Strategy 4: Connect with your people
Chances are you’ve heard this message ten times in the past week, but it is so true. In hard times it’s so important to connect with your people–your clients, colleagues, community members, partners–the people in your business who matter the most.
Everyone is going through a tough time right now, and now more than ever we need to be checking in on one another. Having empathy and taking time to listen to each other’s circumstances will build stronger relationships that will serve us well in the long run. Remember that we will get through this. It begins with putting one foot in front of the other.
Katie Hunt is the founder of Proof to Product, a business strategist, and mentor to product-based entrepreneurs. She’s worked with thousands of entrepreneurs through her in-person conferences and online courses she offers. She is also the host of the popular podcast, Proof to Product, where she takes listeners behind the scenes of growing a product-based business. Guests share their successes, struggles and how they’ve made difficult but important transitions in their business to continue growing. For more information, visit: https://www.prooftoproduct.com/