Planning During A Pandemic
April 17, 2020
Despair, gloom, isolation, depression...all the words we normally hear during this global pandemic. With this current state of depressed economies all over the world, many small business and SME owners feel as though there is no need to plan rather just endure the cycle as best as possible hoping for a brighter future. To the contrary, planning is a must. When the recovery starts (and it certainly will one day), long-term growth will be a byproduct of planning rather than either (1) doing nothing or (2) haphazard decision-making.
Planning involves many different areas of a business:
Strategic approaches - There are a multitude of strategic approaches that a business can take and each can be equally successful. This creates a competitive marketplace. If a business does not have a clear idea, however, regarding its strategic approach, then it cannot make decisions that will consistently lead to accomplishing predetermined goals. Whether it is during good times or bad times, a business must know what direction it wants to take in order to better compete with rival businesses.
Examples of different strategic approaches might be:
- Striving to be a low-cost provider
- Having a higher quality product or service than the competition
- Focusing on a narrow market niche
If a business is not completely sure of what strategic approach it is undertaking, now is the time to perfect and market an approach that is most likely to secure business currently and in the future.
Marketing - Even though revenues are down in most businesses, marketing is essential to keep a business’ name in front of its customers and prospects. Although the marketing budget might need to be decreased, it is important to concentrate on those marketing components that have and will produce the best results for the money spent.
As the business starts to take an upturn, then the marketing strategy and components can be changed. Marketing is an integral part of any business and cannot be simply ignored even during times of trouble. It is an opportunity for a business to connect with current customers and identify potential customers and convince those prospects that its products and services have intrinsic value to meet their needs.
Alliances - Strategic alliances can be a viable growth option for many small businesses and SMEs. It can be a way to monetize what a business has to offer with little cost or liability. Forming the right alliances can improve market access and allow small businesses to gain entry into markets that would, otherwise, not be open to them. When business is slow, the time might be right for businesses to investigate what type of alliances might be a good fit and then start communicating with potential alliance partners.
Finance - Financing and budgeting are, also, essential elements of planning. A business must plan for the future to ensure sufficient capital is available for operations, asset acquisitions, debt servicing, and possible expansion. Near-term and future cash needs must be anticipated. All small businesses should investigate various governmental assistance programs that are available. With a backlog of applications, businesses should apply as soon as possible. Without proper financial planning, operations can come to a standstill.
Employees - Although many businesses (if not most) have had to furlough employees during the pandemic, these same businesses must plan when and how many employees it will rehire. Businesses will also need to consider if skill sets in the future will differ from the normal skill sets needed today. The best products or services cannot be sold or provided without quality employees, so if employees were laid off, businesses must consider if those same employees will be available when operations restart at full strength. If new employees are to be hired, the business must have proper training to facilitate being back in full operation as soon as possible. Since employees are the most valuable assets a business has, it is evident that employee planning is definitely an important aspect of overall general business planning.
Blueprint for the Future
Although survival rather than planning might seem like the activity of the day, small businesses and SMEs must still plan if even only for the next quarter or next six months. Proper planning today with forethought for the future allows implementation with a reasonable timeline. If a small business or SME waits until “the time is right” before planning and executing action, opportunities might very well be missed.
Planning is a blueprint to build a solid business. It is a roadmap to guide a business to success. Rarely does a business beat its competition by making spur of the moment decisions. Good planning and good execution are interrelated functions that create positive outcomes.