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Posted by Matt Mead on July 27, 2020
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4 Ways to Avoid Becoming Nonessential During Unstable Times

All businesses face times of instability. From changes in the marketplace to changes in the economy, there’s pretty much only one thing you can count on: that change is inevitable.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The question becomes, will you survive, or will you thrive during times of upheaval? Depending on what you do, it can go either way. If you want to ensure that your company or business not only survives but thrives, here are some steps you can take to make sure you are adding value and helping navigate your company to a profitable outcome for everyone.

1. Upgrade your education. Don’t just sit around waiting for somebody to tell you how to fix something. It’s critical to be proactive, seek out the knowledge you need, and figure it out yourself. If you’re a member of upper management or even the owner of a business and you are not great at accounting, or you don’t know how to read a P&L properly, or how to check your cash forecasting, learn. You don’t want to wait until you have to fire people or things get dire and you’re going out of business to go the extra step and educate yourself and your teammates.

The first step is to find out precisely what you don’t know and reach out for help. You don’t need to come up with all the answers on your own. You can take a course or talk to a mentor or colleague. Practice saying, “Hey, I’m having this challenge and looking for some guidance. What do you think? Can you point me toward some good resources or give me some advice?” When you stretch yourself and your knowledge base, you’re more likely to come up with new solutions instead of recycling what you’ve been doing.

2. Understand where profit opportunities exist. Unfortunately, a business doesn’t run on good feelings all the time. The company has to have profitability. And that takes knowledge (see above). If your profit centers have weakened, then you need to recreate how they operate – DO NOT adopt a wait-and-see mentality because it will lead to potential devastation.

You must be proactive. Look at and modify your product offerings or change how you target new customers, and for sure, reduce fixed expenses where at all possible. Embrace automation where you can and use people-based data companies like Oracle or EpekData to help access the data analytics that helps you identify your ideal customer profile (ICP).

3. Shift from a fear mindset to an opportunity mindset. Everything comes down to mindset. And in times like these, the human gut reaction is to immediately be fearful of the future, whether that be impending layoffs or not being able to count consistent revenue streams. Whatever your situation, you have to look at these shifts and say, “How do I embrace this? How can I reinvent?”

Reinvention, by the way, is different from pivoting.Pivoting is when you make changes to an existing system. Reinvention is when you create an entirely new system. If you’re in the corporate training business and there is a sudden change in demand for large group training, you need to look at ways to make your service valuable. Perhaps you take physical training services into virtual webinars. Maybe you break-up training into smaller, topical video modules that companies can have employees consume at their own pace, or you might even offer your training modules to non-corporate businesses. Colleges and universities are struggling with their sales and systems and changing how they offer classes and course fees.

An opportunity mindset helps you get creative and motivated in new ways, and it is important to realize that if you are facing these challenges, so are your competitors, big and small. And inevitably, some of those competitors will not adopt an opportunity mindset and will instead try the wait-and-see approach, which might mean they don’t survive, and is all the more reason for you to see opportunity in crisis. Fewer competitors means more customers in the market needing your services. You have to shift first and stay the course.

4. Avoid analysis paralysis: Data without insights is useless. You can’t triage a transition, or a reorganization, or an acceleration on data alone. That’s why you need to look for relevant data points in the mix as you’re trying to make decisions about how to transition, how to reinvent, or pivot—whatever catchphrase you want to use.

Any time you’re making critical decisions, you need to find the relevant data—the data that gives you actionable insights. Actual cash burn rate, payroll to sales %, percentage of your digital marketing ad spend that is hitting real customers, the gap between variable and fixed costs, and tax liabilities are all examples of where data is essential. Don’t be afraid to get the ugly numbers; if they’re real, you can’t be oblivious to the obvious. You can’t be irresponsible and ignore them, thinking they will magically get better. They won’t. You have a responsibility to everyone around you, if you are the boss, to be responsible and have the hard conversations and enact a strategy and plan of action that ensures you all survive the crisis at hand or transition in the market. Take action until the numbers look good again.

I often say, “Sell through it.” And, as you review the four tips above and extract whatever tidbits you might find useful, I’ll leave you with one final thought: Topline revenue is the critical lifeblood of any organization.

If you find yourself and your company in a position where everything changed, and people aren’t buying the way they used to, before all else, triage and fix that. If you were an inbound sales organization and calls stopped coming in, figure out how to build an outbound funnel and get on the phone and in front of people. If you find that your product is not “essential” or needed during the current environment, create or find a product that solves a problem and implement a plan to start delivering it. Even if this is a temporary fix, you can’t be afraid to have an opportunity mindset and analyze the data looking for relevant data points on what will generate profit for your company. All that’s left is to consume the knowledge needed so that you can sell that solution and lead your company through the situation with confidence.

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