General partner of Album VC looks ahead to a post-COVID world
“I own a small business and it is doing ok right now, but it is challenging to make decisions given the uncertainty going forward. Are there any strategies that can help me navigate?”
Focus on where you have line-of-sight.
We don’t have clarity into the future. At the same time, there are some things that you as a small business owner know well, such as your existing customers. Take inventory of your customers and what they will need to remain by your side―whether that’s adapting your product/services to the current situation or simply keeping in touch so that, as life finds a new rhythm, you remain in-step with them.
This advice implies that this may not be the time for certain actions―like putting the same energy and resources into marketing to prospective customers. The current situation has introduced new risk, and your job is to decide how to reallocate pieces of the business toward less risk. It doesn’t mean you won’t make some bets along the way. Which brings me to my next point…
Turn back the clock to a time when you had to innovate and use the current circumstances as an opportunity to adapt! Whether you are a software startup or a local barbershop, there was probably a time when you asked yourself, “how are we going to stand out?”
Dial it back to that point in time when you were just starting. Back then, it was a matter of getting your business off the ground or not at all. It was breathing life into your ideas or letting fear and hesitation take over. Pick yourself up and get back to that mindset. It’s time to consider how your customers’ needs have changed and adapt to meet them where they are.
Remember, your service providers are likely asking the same question. Just as you are concerned about sustaining your business and its customers right now, so too are those business owners serving you. Consider what they can do to keep you as a loyal customer.
Unfortunately, the pennies saved and PPP dollars won will not be distributed fairly or proportionately across all small businesses. It’s just part of the flaw inherent in how quickly this has all happened and how rapidly government and small businesses have had to adapt. So, your fate is disproportionately in your hands. It doesn’t mean you need to be rude or have sharp elbows, but you may need to jockey a bit for yourself and your business. Every day, every bill, and every dollar matters. Ultimately, these decisions may mean some cost savings that can help offset your near-term shortfalls in revenue.
Rely on what has worked for you to until this point. There are times in life when the wind is blowing just right, in those times we have the luxury of weighing every option and seeking out new options. This is not one of those times.
The point is that right now we are all being stretched in unfamiliar ways and we don’t have the luxury in time and choice that we once did. In this time of limits, accept what you have, decide among the choices you do have, and roll with it.