Most of us are experiencing a business slowdown during this time of caution and social distancing as we all do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19. While there’s a shared frustration for many business owners with layoffs, shortened work hours, and even business closures, this enforced “time off” gives us an unprecedented opportunity to reset ourselves and our businesses. I recently heard someone say “as we look towards returning to normal, we should re-evaluate what part of normal we want to return to.” For all of us there is likely to be a “new” normal, and as leaders and business owners we have a unique opportunity to engineer what that will look like: to reset and create something great.
As we look towards returning to normal, we should re-evaluate what part of normal we want to return to.
At this time, it’s important to acknowledge that some of you may not be in that position. Some of you will have closed your doors permanently as a result of this crisis, and that’s come with a huge sense of grief and loss. For you, these questions about your business dreams may be disheartening. If that’s your situation, I want to offer you encouragement to use this time as an opportunity to consider what a reset looks like for yourself. Use these questions in a slightly different context as they apply to your past and your future. They won’t all resonate, but some will and my hope is that they’ll help you think about what your next steps could be. Maybe this is your time to shine in another window.
Time to think
This slowdown is an opportunity for you to think about what you want to create with your business. You may have been thinking about these things already but were either too busy or lacking capacity to make those changes. Here are ten questions that could help you frame the new landscape of your business:
- Are there areas that weren’t working well or efficiently?
- Are there things I would like to do that we didn’t have the capacity to do?
- Are there areas that were working really well that I want to maximize in the future?
- Are there people on my team who were not a fit (productivity or cultural) and what do I need to do about that?
- Are there people on my team who have shown high potential and what do I want to do to encourage and support them?
- Did we have a healthy and well-established culture in our workplace? If yes, what needs to be done to maintain and grow that culture? If no, what do we need to change to get it healthy?
- Are there products or services I want to get rid of (not profitable, time consuming, not aligned with values)? Are there products or service areas I want to explore adding to our business model? How do each of these happen?
- What does my dream business look like? Allow yourself to blue-sky. Create a scenario of your perfect business – people, products, services, culture. How close is your reality to that dream?
- Where is re-invention necessary personally or in my business? Is it time for me to look for/create something new? What do I need to let go of and embrace in order to move forward?
- Where do I need to change or grow when entering this future reality? Are there existing skills I need to hone? Are there new things I need to learn? How and where will this happen?
You’ll find the answers to these questions enlightening, and perhaps even inspiring, as you think about the return of work in the coming months.
Time to plan
This time also allows you to plan the things that arose from your thinking. At some point you’ll be given the go-ahead to re-open, re-hire, and re-establish your business. Are you planning now for what that will look like? Here are some areas to consider.
- Staff planning – in the new future what does your staff complement look like? The same, smaller, or larger than before? How do you plan to fill those positions? What if you can’t bring everyone back? How can you support those people? This is an opportunity to create strong connections between your business goals and the people who will help you achieve them.
- Business planning – will the business structure and/or job roles be the same or different? How will you determine what that looks like? Whose help do you need to enlist to create your new structure? This is an opportunity to streamline, reorganize and establish a business model that will create success and growth.
- Ramp–up planning – once you have the green light to resume business as usual, what does your ramp-up plan look like? What are your activities in months 1, 3, 6 and 9? Who is your first hire(s), (the person/people who can most effectively help you facilitate the return to work)?
Time to create
Based on your answers to questions 8-9, where are the gaps in alignment? Where is the difference between what you dream your business could be and where it was before the slowdown? Here are some things to take action on.
- Purpose and Values – are you clear on the “WHY” of your business? What’s at the core of what you do and why does it matter? Do you have clearly defined core values and have you effectively communicated these to staff? This is an opportunity to create alignment between your core purpose and values and your team.
- Culture – based on your answer to question #6, what steps do you need to take to create the culture of your dream business? This is an opportunity to be intentional about culture – to create something healthy, vibrant and dynamic – a business that attracts and retains great people.
- Leadership development – what is your plan to address your answers to question #10? How can you build in non-negotiable professional and leadership development time and funds so that you keep on growing in your skills, capacity and potential?
Time to communicate
When you’re ready to return to work, what do you need to do to effectively communicate with all your employees and stakeholders? Transparent communication will be essential in all areas.
- What will you communicate to those who won’t be returning to your employ as a result of restructuring or role changes?
- What will you say to employees who are returning to different roles and a different business structure?
- How will you communicate your new business vision/purpose/values/culture to ensure there is buy-in from the beginning? What is your action plan for protecting and maintaining that culture?
That is a lot to think about! We trust these questions moved you toward excitement about what comes next. If this all feels a little overwhelming, we can help. Ask us about our Business Reset Package. We’d love to be part of your re-invention! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more.