If you were thinking this was another blog about the importance of wearing a mask or social distancing, prepare to be disappointed. This month it’s all about flattening the business recovery curve as we look down the road to the time when a vaccine becomes widely available and the economy finally turns the corner.

As we all know, there is no roadmap for any of this. We don’t even know when things will return to what is now being referred to as the “new normal.” One could make the argument that things have never been really normal in the business world. The marketplace has always been in a constant state of change. But never at a pace where we can’t even catch our collective breath, let alone a decent break.

One thing is for sure. The world we knew before March 2020 is largely gone. What worked before may not work going forward. Businesses that are barely hanging on now will need to figure out a new business model to sustain them for the next two to five years as we climb back out of the hole we find ourselves in right now. Owners of businesses that closed completely will need to find the energy and willpower to rebuild their existing business or start a new one.

Creative deconstruction is the rule rather than the exception. Long-standing arrangements, assumptions and practices are crumbling in the face of a global pandemic, social unrest and a sagging economy.

On the creative side of the equation, resources and energy are being freed up that can be used to spur innovation and invention going forward. From the ashes of creative deconstruction will rise a new economy with new opportunities.

This is where the entrepreneur truly shines, for in this period of upheaval, they can become agents of change rather than victims.

Even if you’ve been in business for a long time, somewhere deep inside resides the entrepreneur who rolled the dice and built a successful business, often against impossible odds. To emerge on the other side of this historic travail, business owners need to rekindle the entrepreneurial fire that burns inside. This is the time to take risks. Bold ones. This is no time to play it safe. We owe it to ourselves, our family, our employees, our customers and the communities we call home to reinvent and rebuild. Small businesses are the engine of the economy and the primary driver of new jobs and new revenue.

One of the best ways to generate new ideas for your business is to engage in what is known as a Business Canvas. Unlike a traditional business plan, a Business Canvas will allow you to quickly assess multiple ideas, boiling them down to the make-or-break level, like who your customers are, what they want and need, and how you are going to provide it to them. All the other layers of complexities are stripped away in this early stage, providing clarity and purpose.

It starts with the fundamental questions:

  • What are you offering?
  • Who needs what you have to offer?
  • What desires or needs are you meeting?
  • How are you going to let them know you have what they need?
  • How are you going to get it to them?
  • What is your unique value proposition?
  • Which partners do you need to deliver on your promise?

The beauty of a Canvas is you can work on several different ideas at the same time and compare them using the same criteria. No need to seek funding. No need to figure all the pesky details at this stage. This is all about testing ideas and putting it pen to paper to see what rises to the top.

  • As you consider various opportunities (and challenges), think about which ideas will create near-term cash flow for your business and which ones carry more risk but can potentially generate more revenue down the road.
  • Focus on your offerings. For the next months or years, you may want to reduce the number of products or services you offer. This can help you increase profits and give you a higher conversion rate than courting a wider audience with more selection. Many restaurants are already doing this, offering their best sellers in a more limited menu. For example, IHOP went from a 12-page menu to two pages.
  • Think about where the need will be as a vaccine becomes available and the economy begins to reopen fully. Can you do things faster, cheaper or better by rethinking your business model? Can you manage the business with fewer people or locations? What elements are core to your business, and which ones aren’t essential or even luxuries?
  • Customers are changing. They may not go back to their old ways, if for no other reason than the fact that we are creatures of habit. So, where are the opportunities when and if this happens? What can you offer your target audience that others can’t? Again, what need or desire can you fill?
  • Take the time to evaluate your workforce needs. Employees are the biggest cost to any business. As you reconfigure your business, think about who you really need and at what stage of recovery you need them.
  • Talk to your customers. They are the best indicator of where you need to be headed. Conduct research using our SizeUp tool, conduct surveys and do focus groups using Zoom.
  • Get rid of the old and make room for the new. Now is the time to sell off old inventory that wasn’t selling anyway. Get rid of old or surplus equipment. Reduce your footprint. Talk to new suppliers. Think about what services you used to do in-house – marketing, accounting, maintenance, etc. – that can be performed by outside contractors.
  • Communicate regularly with your customers and other stakeholders about your new vision for the company. Keep them informed and engaged so they will be ready to buy when you’re finally ready to sell.

 

Flexibility will be the key to a compressed recovery curve. By combining your entrepreneurial prowess with a powerful tool like the Business Canvas, you’ll be able to find new opportunities in the new economy, opportunities that will help you rebuild and re-invent your business as we finally turn the corner.

Somewhere north of the Seattle, ransacking the garage, looking for my crystal ball,

– Robb

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