How to Survive COVID-19

Develop a Plan to Ensure your Company’s Success

By Keith Beveridge

Given that almost all of us have been directly impacted by COVID-19, what do we do now? Most states have announced a “lockdown” that al-lows only essential employees to travel. Fortunately, so far, this does not apply to auto glass companies as we are included in the essential business category. Auto glass companies provide services to the transportation sector that are crucial in keeping people, services and goods flowing to where they need to go.

So as we try navigating these uncharted waters, how do we manage our fears as managers and/or business owners? Kathy Miller Perkins recently wrote an article in Forbes on the “4 Truths for Leading in Uncertain Times.” Her conclusions were: 1) Do not become paralyzed by uncertainty; 2) Find some stability in chaos; 3) Learn to live with ambiguity; and 4) Accept life’s paradoxes.

What this means is that now in this time of uncertainty we may need to make decisions with incomplete information. You need to collect what information you can, look to your corporate values for guidance and recognize that you will never have enough information. Make your decision, communicate it to your staff and then implement it. Acknowledge to yourself that you made an imperfect decision and you will live with the repercussions. Keep in mind that once you determine that you made a wrong decision, you can always change it. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Richard Branson, serial entrepreneur of the Virgin Brand, once said something along the lines of “It is better to make a wrong decision than build up a habit of indecision. With indecision, you do not act, and action is the basis of success.” Also keep in mind that you will learn from any mistakes and make a better decision next time.

According to the San Diego Zoo, it is a myth that an ostrich puts its head in the sand in times of danger. If ostriches sense danger and cannot run away, they will dig a hole to conceal part of their body and lay their lightly colored head and neck on the similarly colored soil to hide. They don’t actually put their head in the sand but they do implement a defensive strategy. In these uncertain times, you need to also keep you head out of the sand and develop your own plan. To do this you need to overcome your fears and put a plan together to address them.

Facing Fears

So what fears come to the surface of everyone’s mind that you do need to address? These are many fold–from financial to operational to human resources to sales and marketing. Let’s go through some and you can probably think up additional issues for your specific business.

1.Cash Flow – you need to understand your current financial situation. The old adage ‘Cash is King’ applies here. Can you afford to pay your bills? You need to review what money you currently have in the bank and what money you expect from your current sales and/or your account receivables versus the outflow of cash for payroll, rent, insurance, product purchases and operating expenses. If you are forecasting a positive cash flow, this is great news. You should continue to regularly monitor your cash flow and be judicious with any new expenses and/or the timing of your payments. If you are forecasting a negative cash flow, you need to start to take action. Some lenders are offering to defer some payments. New government programs such as the CARES program has been put in place. For example, the US Treasury has offered to defer payment on your 2019 tax liabilities until later this year. Other creditors to contact about potential deferment are your local state tax authority, landlord, bank, vehicle and other lenders.

2.Operating Costs – now is the time to review any and all costs. Go through your detailed expenses and decide what is necessary and what you no longer need. Do this at your business but also your home. For example, do you still have a landline? If so, does anyone call it and if so, who? Now may be the time to rationalize some of these expenses.

3.Human Resources – you need your staff to work and keep things running but do you need them physically in the office? If not, have you set them up to work efficiently from home? If you do, have you taken the necessary steps to keep them safe while they are there?

4.Customer– have you connected with your regular customers? Have you sent them notice that you are still operating (assuming you are)? Or have you let them know that you are not operating or with limited service. Since you can no longer meet with them, you could make a quick call to check in and see how they are doing. This will be appreciated.

5.Employees –have you had a team meeting and checked in with your employees? They have the same fears as you for the business and for yourself. Your employees want to know that you have a plan. They want to know if they will be paid or laid off and what is happening with their benefits. Your employees have their own cash flow fears and are looking for your leadership. If an employee needs help and you can afford it (see #1) or even if you can’t, figure something out for them.

Stay Calm

The next step after you have begun to address your fears is you get a chance to be the voice of calm. Set this tone by your interactions with your staff, your customers and suppliers.

1.Be relevant – check in regularly with everyone and let them know you are available. Go old school with a call or even direct mail to set you apart but keep up with your digital marketing.

2.Keep your normal cadence – you don’t need to make significant changes to your routine. If you have a weekly staff meeting, keep doing it recognizing you can do this by videoconferencing rather than face-to-face.

3.Don’t push – most everyone is distracted so prioritize what you actually need accomplished today and let the little things go.

4.Double down on customer satisfaction – if you have an issue (or even if you don’t) go the extra mile for your customers. They will remember your organization for this.

5.Invest in yourself and your staff –you have always said when things slowed down you or your staff would take that online course. Now is a great time to start your AGSC or ROLAGS Certification.

6.Help your suppliers – you need them for your long-term success. Pick-up your parts if you can. Pay your invoices if you can and if you can’t be proactive and make arrangements to pay. This helps both of you and will be remembered.

Manage Mentally

As COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be going away any-time soon, manage the mental state of you, your employees and your family. Here is what to keep in mind.

1.We will get through this – many people remember the recessions of the 1980s, 1990s, 9/11, the Housing Crash and the corresponding Great Recession. We will persevere.

2.You are not alone – connect with your family, employees, mentor, suppliers, advisors or peers. They have similar fears and together they do not seem as significant.

3.Focus on the positives – they are around. All you need to do is find them.

4.Fear is natural – recognize it, deal with it and realize it will be back.

5.Get some sleep – Studies show that you need additional sleep in times of stress.

6.Get at least 30 minutes of exercise – Studies also show that you need additional exercise in times of stress. If your gym is closed, you can always walk out-doors or workout at home.

7.Limit media – Less is more when it comes to social or mainstream media. Do not get fixated on issues that you cannot control but it is important to remain informed.

8.Help others – Reaching out not only feels good when you do but helps puts things in perspective.

9.Evaluate your priorities – This is potentially a good time to reflect and reprioritize what is important.

10.Give Thanks!

Checklist for Next Week

1.Prepare and/or review your weekly cashflow report.

2.Make necessary adjustments to your weekly spending and pay your employees first.

3.Contact your banker, vendors or lenders if you need assistance in these trying times. Keep in mind that you may be eligible for an SBA loan but significant restrictions still apply.

4.Proactively reach out to your customers via telephone, mail and social and let them know how you can service them.

5.Draft a crisis communication plan with weekly goals.

6.Overcommunicate with your staff. Let them know what is going on.

7.Exercise 30 minutes or more

8.Get 30 minutes of additional sleep.

9.Limit your media access. Install Screen Time or similar app on your phone and you will be likely surprised on the results.

10.Give Thanks!

Week 2 and Following Weeks

1.Prepare and/or review your weekly cashflow report.

2.Make necessary adjustments to your weekly spending and pay your employees first.

3.Continue to proactively reach out to your customers via telephone, mail and social and let them know how you can service them.

4.Review marketing communication plan and assess results. Make necessary adjustments.

5.Overcommunicate with your staff. Let them know what is going on.

6.Exercise 30 minutes or more.

7.Get 30 minutes of additional sleep.

8.Limit your media access. Install Screen Time or similar app on your phone and you will be likely surprised on the results.

9.Give thanks!

Editor’s Note: This article was competed on March 28th and reflects the conditions in place at that time.

Keith Beveridge operates Beveridge Consulting which specializes in strategy development, marketing and operational review. He is an authority on windshield repair and the customer experience. He is a former member of the boards of directors of the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC) and the National Windshield Repair Association (now NWRD) and the former chair-person of the Repair of Laminated Auto Glass Standard (ROLAGS) Committee. He is a former senior vice president of Novus.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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