5 key changes that will make your business more resilient
Wednesday, May 06, 2020
When I used to teach business classes to prospective business owners in Seattle, many of whom were turning to business ownership as a way to move out of poverty, I always shared the downside of running a service-only business. Ironically, I used my own business as an example of what not to do, which my students found amusing.
My story was that I had run a number of business providing services (writing, coaching, consulting and teaching) for decades and that this was extremely risky because if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. This meant more than just not having paid vacations, it meant that in order to bring in income, I was fully dependent on my ability to physically show up. If I was ever seriously injured or suffered a long-term illness, I was in deep trouble. It also meant that my business model wasn’t really a business, it was self-employment because it wasn’t scalable nor was it sustainable.
During the pandemic, the businesses that have been hit the hardest were nonessential businesses dependent on physical customer contact. This has forced many of these businesses to take a good hard look at their business model. Before, they may have been vulnerable to a natural disaster, but few ever expected that a pandemic would forcefully close their doors.
Painful lessons, yes. Some businesses won’t survive. Those who do will have some things in common: a willingness to get creative, to think of what they offer in brand-new ways, and to be more prepared in the future for the unexpected.
Everything from cash flow to location-dependence to types of goods and services offered are being scrutinized under the lens of the pandemic. What’s being discovered is that it’s become necessary to let go of many of the old ways of doing things and even pivot when necessary, which may mean that a business may resemble nothing of its former self.
So, what does that look like? Here five key changes that businesses can make to become more resilient:
Diversify income streams
If your focus has been on providing one particular type of product or service or even a menu of services, it’s time to consider other add-ons that will bring in income. One example includes adding a membership program or subscription service to your customers.
This helps cultivate loyalty and keeps the flow of income steadier. Another example is to simply expand your offerings. If you only offer a service, add some products. If you only offer products, add some services. If you offer both, add some classes. Affiliate marketing can be another source of income.
Do more work online
If you’ve run a totally brick-and-mortar business, or one that involves lots of contact with your customers, consider setting up more ways to access your offerings online.
Many restaurants for example, have set up online ordering and payment and then let customers simply stop by and pick up orders, reducing the need for physical contact. Setting up online shopping, online courses, online sessions, and online groups are all ways to take advantage of the technology we all use every day.
Pivot some offerings to address current needs
As we saw, a few distilleries pivoted from making liquor to making hand sanitizer. Some clothing companies pivoted as well from selling clothes to selling masks. It’s clear that the pandemic has opened up the need for lots of new products and services.
For example, when I played some online board games with family members, I noticed the platforms weren’t that great and remarked that some companies are probably working on making these online game platforms even better.
Learn new skills
Expanding your offerings or products may involve a bit of a learning curve. Thankfully, somewhere online there’s probably a class for that. Thousands of free classes can be found all over the internet, along with many affordable ones offered by a half-dozen, well-known online platforms offering pretty much anything you’d like to learn. Maybe in the process, you’ll even get an idea for a class you’d like to teach as well.
There’s no need to soldier though these changes alone. There are lots of groups popping up all over the internet offering support to business owners. Many can also be found on Facebook consisting of either local business owners or even national and international groups. The SBA, along with SCORE, also offer support of different kinds.
A few closing words about my business. While still primarily offering services, a few years ago, I finally began focusing my efforts on creating products and offering online classes. I’m currently exploring recording audio tracks and doing a podcast.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
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