As we navigate this really tough stretch of the Covid crisis, can we at least look for a silver lining? Nearly all of our security dealers have told us that their service and installation work is way down. Many have had to reduce hours or even lay off staff members. There’s just not much work to do right now as we’re ‘hunkered down’ and waiting this out.
This is a terrible place to find ourselves, with one unexpected silver lining: quiet time.
Time At Last?
Three months ago, our dealers were somewhere between “extremely busy” and “completely buried”. Not anymore. I got a call from a Long Island dealer two weeks ago. We commiserated about the current state of things. He was looking to upgrade their software, and make the billing processes simpler and more bulletproof. “I’ve wanted to make this change for years, but I finally have time to follow through and get it done,” he said. After a demo and several phone calls to answer questions, his company is the newest Cornerstone dealer. He took advantage of his quiet time to make a strategic move.
Customer Outreach Now…
Quiet time is rare for small business owners. Now that we have some, it’s a great time to reassess. In the near term, we can take on operational projects like upgrading software. But remember that it’s extremely important to be reaching out to your customers right now, and at least every month or two. They need Covid reassurances from their security company:
- We’re strong and here to serve you; we’re not going anywhere
- If service is needed in your home or business, we can safely handle it (gloves, masks)
- This is a good time to consider upgrades or interactive services
- This is a good time to test your system
- If your ability to pay has been impacted by Covid 19, please call us – we’ll work with you
…Then Build Your Plan
Quiet time finally gives you some space to develop a clear 3 – 5 year game plan. If you don’t already have one, this is THE perfect time to build one.
SWOT is a Start
You Tube and various websites can give you details about assessing where your company is currently using ‘SWOT’: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Starting with ‘where we are’ is invaluable in helping to decide where you are going. If you have an internal management team, they all need to be part of this. If you’re smaller and don’t really have an internal team, lean on your advisers and key vendors. Your central station rep, your software company, your accountant, your equipment supplier, and others should all be willing to help you size things up. You need people who can be direct and honest with you. They should be willing to donate their time – just make sure you have a framework (like SWOT) to help keep the discussion short and focused.
From Here to There
From an honest assessment of your starting point, start looking at goals. Where do you want to be 3 – 5 years out? You need to set some financial, marketing, staffing, operational, and other goals. Financial goals are quite specific, just make sure they’re realistic. If you’re at $2 million in sales growing at 10% annually, is it realistic to target $10 million in 5 years? Maybe, but not without a huge change in your structure and business practices. Set goals that are aspirational but realistic.
Goals Beget Tactics
Once you set some basic goals, start looking at the tactics year-by-year to get there. Do you have the tools you need to get there? What are the big projects that you’ll need to complete to reach your goals? How do those projects lay out, year by year? Should you diversify into new lines of business? Do you have business activities or bottlenecks that are getting in the way? Do you have the team we need? If not, when and how do you need to enhance your team?
Work ON Your Business
As a business owner or manager, it’s rare to have the time to think strategically. We’re usually putting out brush fires or working hard on sales and growth activities. We’re usually 95% consumed with working in our business. At this moment, many of us are now in that 5% window where we’re able to work ON our business.
This window is a great time to create your roadmap to five years out. We are all challenged by not knowing exactly how and when we we’ll emerge from this crisis. But emerge we will. When the economic wheels start turning again, having a clear and specific game plan to turn to has several benefits.
A Plan Clarifies
First, a plan makes it easy to set priorities—defer projects that don’t directly contribute to your goals, and vice versa. A plan, shared with your team, will help them stay focused. It also gives them confidence that you all know where you’re heading, and you’ll be rowing in unison. Any plan will change and evolve. You’ll need to improvise and adjust. Based on facts on the ground, you’ll need to shuffle priorities, as you always do. But there’s nothing like the clarity of saying: in five years, we’re going to achieve X, Y and Z. Then you work backwards, developing the intermediate tasks and projects to get there. Normally, there just isn’t time for this. But for all Covid has taken from us, it’s given many of us this precious quiet time. Use it.