5 Strategies to Move Your Kansas City Small Business Forward during COVID-19
By guest contributor Doug Stine of Stine-Nichols Plumbing
Our lives look much different now than they did a few months ago. We’ve had to change how we work and where we work as our businesses face an unprecedented situation that’s likely presented plenty of challenges and forced us to wear many hats.
My name is Doug Stine, and I run a Kansas City-based plumbing company called Stine-Nichols Plumbing. Having been a business owner since 2014, I’m sure I am not the only owner out there who’s had to take a step back to reassess how to move forward. While this current pandemic can be traumatizing for many, it’s also a unique opportunity to reassess and work on the business.
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through some of the practices our team is implementing to move forward during the pandemic and how you can use some of these strategies in your business, no matter if you’re reopening or still working on ways to navigate the “next normal.”
You have control
We’ve seen countless businesses alter their operations or close down. You’ve likely gone through a wide range of emotions and had your daily routine completely altered. All of this change and uncertainty can make it incredibly difficult to stay focused and maintain productivity.
No matter if you work in an industry that’s been deemed “essential” to continue operating or vice versa, it’s vital to acknowledge the things you DO have control of and accept the overlying situation. This will make it much easier to move forward. Speaking of moving forward ...
Focus on the ‘big picture’
Every business is operating differently than they were when the year started. Even though this might’ve meant decreased revenues for the quarter, you can’t let it have this same negative effect on the coming months. On this note, I’m referencing a focus on the “big picture.” If you haven’t already, now is a great time to develop a long-term plan.
Establish metrics and analytics needed to determine the productivity of your business during normal working operations.
Update budgets and various other planning tools to ensure future profitability.
Define standard operating procedures to guarantee employees know exactly what is expected of them.
Reflect on past performances over the prior year or so and determine how you can learn from more recent mistakes.
These suggestions are just scratching the surface of all the big picture items you can consider. So envision how you foresee your business in the future and craft a plan to achieve it.
Bottom line: As more and more restrictions are eased and businesses reopen, you’ll be able to implement those “big picture” goals you already set the groundwork for.
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Work on your business
We’ve all heard the popular business quote, “Work on your business, not in it.”
There’s never been a better time to work ON your business. Now that you’ve outlined those “big picture” items, you can move to the second phase of planning and work on those day-to-day items that can still have a sizable impact on your business. We chatted with some fellow business owners, and here are a few of our favorite tactics for doing this:
Marketing: For most small business owners, marketing is something that you know you need, but simply haven’t had the time to implement. After all, maintaining a consistent presence on social media, optimizing SEO, website design and anything else marketing-related takes quite a bit of time and effort. During this down time, start planning on how to focus on these areas. Maybe that means outsourcing some of these responsibilities or just figuring out more efficient ways to work them into your own schedule. (Remember, you don’t have to do everything. Start small. Just take an hour or two and focus on the marketing efforts that will have the most ROI.) Marketing is a foundational piece to all successful businesses. If you’re planning to scale, make sure you have a plan for incorporating marketing.
Brainstorm new revenue streams: If you’re a freelancer or in the early stages of entrepreneurship, it never hurts to have extra streams of income to help fund your main business. Use this extra time to brainstorm new services or products to sell. Additionally, keep in mind that these streams don’t have to be anything revolutionary. Also, think about how you can pivot your current offerings to reach new audiences.
Perfect your processes: Systems and processes can be the difference between a successful business and a lackluster one. They define everything from how you hire a person and what that employee’s average day looks like, to how you sell your particular service or product. Make sure there’s no gray area when it comes to your internal systems and processes.
Bottom line: Figure out where your business might have some room for growth and make it happen.
Work on communication, mindset and morale
As a business owner, you have a unique position in this pandemic. For one, you need to maintain your normal duties as a leader. However, the second half to this equation is going to evolve around being a “voice of reason” for your employees. In a world of social distancing and “working from home,” business looks a little bit different. With this, I’ve broken it down to three concepts you could prioritize:
Communication: I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of Zoom meetings and conference calls at this point. Embrace this digital-communication technology and let your employees see you as often as you can—ideally every day. Stay calm and maintain transparency when communicating with them. They’ll likely have plenty of questions and deserve real, honest answers from you.
Mindset: For anyone who’s held a managerial position, you know that mindset is everything. In times where there’s a “stay at home order” with an ever-changing end date, it’s important to challenge your team to adapt. Think outside the box. How can we shift our thinking from being reactive to proactive? This problem-solving mentality will be a deciding factor for small businesses all over the world.
Morale: Lastly, your employees will look to you in times like these. Have patience with your employees as they develop their own hacks for working during this time. Remember, for the vast majority of workers, this is a massive change. It will take some time to adapt. Be sure to listen and be supportive.
Bottom line: Business owners need to understand it won’t be easy. Take advantage of the resources available and plan for ways to thrive.
Prioritize mental health
When times are anything but ordinary, one facet of your life that you can’t ignore is mental and emotional health. Without being in the right mindset mentally, there’s going to be a slim chance of staying productive during traditional working hours.
In order to prioritize mental health, consider adopting these practices:
Develop a routine: “Humans are creatures of habit. If you quit when things get tough, it gets that much easier to quit the next time. On the other hand, if you force yourself to push through it, the grit begins to grow in you.” This quote from award-winning author Travis Bradberry says a lot about how humans are accustomed to approaching daily life. We’re built in a structured environment. From early experiences in school to life in the workplace, there’s no denying that we’re creatures of habit. During these uncertain times, develop a routine and stick to it. It’ll help promote productivity and avoid outside distractions.
Take a break: Go for a walk if you’re struggling with focus. Listen to a podcast while you’re working to foster creativity. Network with fellow business owners to learn how they’re approaching these unique challenges. All in all, remember to maintain your sanity, even in a world appearing to get more unpredictable by the day!
Bottom line: Change your perspective and view this time as an opportunity to improve your business, learn a new skill, gain a better understanding of your audience, gain more clarity of your business and anything else you’ve always wanted to work on.
There’s nothing you can do to change the pandemic, but you can follow some of the steps I’ve outlined to improve your personal situation and take action.
About the author
Doug Stine has been in the plumbing world for over 45 years and is the owner of Stine-Nichols Plumbing. As a full-service plumbing contractor, Stine-Nichols does everything from commercial design-build projects to residential service calls. He served a five-year apprenticeship with Plumber's Local Union No. 8 and graduated in 1977 with a Building Trades Journeyman Plumbers License. He also holds a master plumber's license in Missouri and Kansas. He blogs weekly at StineNichols.com and is contributor to various plumbing blogs.
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