The coronavirus has thrown us all into uncharted waters and is causing a lot of anxiety about our business survival.

Ann Hawkins has been advising business owners for many years, in good times and bad, so we asked her to answer questions on the best way to ensure our businesses survive.

Find out more about Ann’s work at www.annhawkins.com

This is a transcript of a Q&A in the Drive the Network Facebook Group

This is a list of 7 things you can do right now that will help you feel more in control:

  1. Check your cashflow. Figure out how long you could last without any additional income. Cancel all unnneccesary expenditure, especially automatic subscription renewals.
  2. Look at quick wins. What will bring in more income without spending anything.
  3. If revenue looks like a problem, check available sources fo help. Contact bank and lenders early.
  4. Don’t catastrophise. Work with what is, not what you imagine it to be. Most things we worry about never happen and if they do we generally cope OK. Nothing lasts forever.
  5. What can you do now that will put you in a strong position when things change? Could you pivot? Offer services on-line, widen your customer base, automate?
  6. Check with existing customers – are they cutting back, starting something new? Do they need to pivot, could you help?
  7. Ask for help. There are lots of people only too willing to share their expertise and experience.

Should we do “business as usual?”

Helen Lindop Is there any point in trying to sell anything at all at the moment is we’re small B2B service businesses?  Would we be better planning for when this is over, upskilling ourselves, tweaking our marketing plan?

Ann Hawkins I wouldn’t advise spending any money on trying to attract sales right now but if you have things that are low/no cost its worth continuing with what you had planned. Alternatively, if you can create something that keeps you in sight and may increase your customer / fan base for being helpful that would be even better.

A lot of business will soon be taking stock of what’s happened, and how vulnerable they are and making plans to do things differently so if you can place yourself to help with that, that’s good.

And yes, reviewing your own plan, doing things you didn’t have time to do before is all good.

Tania Verdonk It depends what kind of business you are in but personally what I have found is that it is still a great time to build relationships (we certainly all have something in common at the moment!) . It seems to be a great time to do the things that “you don’t have time for”.

Pile of business cards? Maybe it’s time to actually add them to your CRM (Customer relationship management system) and while you are doing that, why don’t you give them a call and hear how they are? Not to sell, but to be human.

Ann Hawkins Fabulous idea. Just checking in with people with no ulterior motive is great!

Tania Verdonk I think a lot of people have asked, “has my purpose (in work, in life) changed in the last week?” What seems to have mattered A LOT last week, seems to matter less now. It could cause a lot of anxiety but for some, it might also be the push to do that thing they always wanted to. I’m sticking to “normal” as much as I can but also keeping the door open for new.

Should we offer discounts or free services?

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts Does offering out free stuff a) undermine your normal offerings and b) seem incongruous and just jumping on the bandwagon?

Ann Hawkins Only offer free or discounted stuff if it is different and of different value to your full price services – otherwise its hard to justify putting prices back up when the crisis is over.

Also only do it if it will broaden your potiential customer base. There’s no point in giving stuff away to people you’ll never see again.

If you want to be available to help clients and potiential clients these are some other strategies you might look at:

  • Create a new product or service that has minimal cost to you to deliver but may lead to future business.
  • Offer extended payment plans.
  • Offer Pay What You Want options (with a clear indication of what the product or service usually costs)

Should we change our marketing messages?

Karen Arnott I’ve switched off my scheduled social media posts, and had lots of marketing stuff ‘ready to go’. It feels icky to continue with those. I don’t know if I should send my next newsletter out?

Tania Verdonk  Lots of posts just don’t seem appropriate at the moment. It is like you are ignoring the elephant in the room but you don’t want to continuously say THERE IS AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!

Ann Hawkins The newsletter is probably a good way to keep in touch with people by sharing what’s really happening and maybe some heartwarming, positive stories too. It’s a much more personal connection between you and your customers. Sharing what you do to stay positive and healthy could also be really useful and bring you closer to the people who share your values.

What we don’t need, in the words of the inimiatble Dr. Draper aka Ryan Wallman is an email from a CEO telling us that their particular brand of deodorant / shoes / cycling helmet is “there for us in this troubling time”.

Getting perspective

Angie Moyes The thing I am finding most shocking is just how fragile the -all-of-it is, its only been, less than a week in the UK and its crumbling.

Ann Hawkins A bit of perspective: the financial crash of 2008 affected small businesses very badly but fortunately, there has been solid recovery. Before the virus struck, small businesses were back to creating about 62% of all new jobs. Small business owners were report that finding qualified employees was their number-one problem. If that happened then, it will happen again. Small businesses are incredibly agile and resilient. Think about what will work for you to survive and make a quick recovery.

Neil Bharawha (Cambridge Fruit Co.) found his business disappeared overnight when most of his customers sent their employees home to work. He took to Twitter to ask his contacts for help and within 24 hours had changed from corporate fruit deliveries to home deliveries of fruit and veg. The speed of the change and the support he got from his local connections has been fantastic – and will probably be a case study when this is all over.

Ann Hawkins Another bit of perspective. Business is only a part of our lives. Of all the things you’re juggling, your business is the one thing you can afford to drop. It won’t break, it will just sit there until you pick it up and dust it off. Everything else is fragile – including you – and you’re right to give those precious things all the attention you can. Look after yourself first (mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually), then look after your nearest and dearest. Everything else flows from that.

And worth repeating: Money is just a commodity, a tool, and its cheap right now. If you have strong emotional reactions to dealing with money, talk to someone. Don’t let fear paralyse you or stop you from making decisions.

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If you’d like to contact Ann for more specific advice, you can find her at www.annhawkins.com, on LinkedIn, on Twitter @AnnHawkins and of course, in the Drive the Network Facebook Group