This article is a guest post from Pursuit Consulting Corps member Alek Marfisi (Upwind Strategies).
Over 90% of the US workforce is currently homebound, either sick, laid-off, furloughed, or working from home. Many types of business activities can be conducted remotely, and for some companies, a workforce still on payroll but situated at home can open up opportunities to make great improvements to a company’s way of doing business.
Build a business plan
The most valuable investment that a business can make is into their future planning. Unfortunately, this type of work is often long arched, taking long periods to pay off in new sales.
When forced to choose between making sales today and planning for sales tomorrow, small business owners universally choose the prior. For some, this nationwide shutdown could be an opportunity to make those time-consuming investments in building a business plan – and the good news is that it all can be done remotely. Here are a few jobs to consider:
- Develop a sales plan: Put your sidelined workforce to use in thinking of new ways to reach potential customers, incentivize salespeople, and doing research to more accurately price your products.
- Analyze and improve your operations: This might be the time to use your sidelined staff to see if there is a way to improve the efficiency of your operations.
Take a look at how long it takes for your products to move through your supply chain and how long it takes for your workers to complete customer jobs. For each step in the process, have your team ask questions like: Can that step be outsourced or insourced to save money? Can the operational process be sped up or steps be taken to reduce waste?
- Build a budget: Budgeting means choosing how to best use a limited set of resources in light of future plans.
Get your team together to plan out what activities each part of the business will be undertaking in the next year and their cost. From there, make two sets of projections: one showing the minimum amount of sales growth the business will need to cover those costs, and the other showing what will happen if the business’s sales stay the same.
Fix your books!
Many entrepreneurs feel like they don’t have the time or the need to keep accurate books during regular operations. With the shutdown in place, now is the time to get your financial picture in order. If you have staff with some extra time on hand, ask them to enter all your backlogged transactions into your books, categorizing your revenues, expenses, and other costs.
Once you’ve caught up on your bookkeeping, take this opportunity to simplify your financial management. Every business should need no more than two bank accounts (one for operations and one for payroll) and one credit card. If your business is operating with a multitude of bank accounts and credit cards, you’re getting little to no financial benefit from doing so and only making it more difficult to stay on top of your bookkeeping. This is a good time to trim down your accounts.
Build your online presence
With the world revolving around online video-based work and delivery services, now is the time to improve your business’s presence on the internet. Some important improvements to consider are:
- Refresh your website and branding: With much of the business world on pause, take the time now to refresh your company’s logo, webpages, and social media platforms, and enlist your remote staff to help. Even basic changes to your brand identity and an easier-to-use website can help keep your company relevant to customers.
- Review your online payment platforms: As this crisis unfolds, many payment platforms are reducing their fees and offering unique incentives to their merchants. Ask your remote staff to take a look at how much you’re paying in fees and see if it’s a good time to switch.
Also, if much of your business has been by check or cash, consider how you might be able to convert your customers over to online payments and maintain more of your audience.
- Explore new ways to deliver products and services online: Over the past month with social distancing measures in place, troves of business activities that were assumed to be only possible in person are now moving online. With online services reaching the widest acceptance yet, ask your remote employees to look at all the ways you’re doing business. See what can be transitioned to a virtual meeting and transitioned to delivery versus in-house sales.
Train your employees
As the daily pressure to complete sales and workers’ schedules ease-up, consider training your employees in new skills. Employee training programs improve your staff’s ability to generate income for your company and improve their ability to work efficiently. There is also demonstrated evidence that companies with training programs have higher rates of employee retention and employee satisfaction. There are also programs available to financially support your efforts to train your workforce. New York State’s Employee Training Incentive Program and NYC’s Customized Training Program will in many cases pay for more than 50% of the cost of training your employees.
Take advantage of new opportunities
With your staff paid to stay at home, there are numerous new opportunities for remote assignments that can continue to build your business for the future. Let them help you find new ways of doing business going forward, and help them continue to learn new skills while at home.