As I write this article the entire UK is in lockdown. Shops, offices and schools are closed. Everyone has been instructed to stay indoors. Business in the UK has ground to a halt.
These are unprecedented times.
For business it a hugely worrying time and most business owners are faced with the prospect of sitting at home for three weeks with no work and no prospect of work.
The question is, what should you do?
The answer is that there is a huge amount that you can and should do, though I suspect only a few business owners will really take advantage of this time.
The starting point is to try and remember why you are in business, as that will determine what you do next.
Start with Why
Some of you may be familiar with Simon Sinek and his inspirational TED Talk entitled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”. If not, I strongly suggest you invest 18 minutes of your life to watch this;
Simon talks about the ‘Golden Circle’ and what has become a catchphrase, which is ‘start with why’.
He talks about starting with the question, ‘why does your business exist?’
Do you remember why your business exists (and it’s not to make a profit)?
His revelation is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Think about this for a second. People don’t trade with you because of the products or services you sell.
That’s an eye-opener.
So, when all of this is over and business reopens, what will you have done during this time to help people understand better why you are in business?
What exactly is your business purpose?
Last night, in the aftermath of the announcement by Boris Johnson, I sat and wrote down a list of ideas that I, and you, could do during the lockdown to make our businesses better once normality resumes.
It was a short list, but after sleeping on it that list became longer this morning.
You see, I went back to basics, back to why we are in business.
I remember why I started Aqueous in 2011. In fact, I remember why I set up the Limited company, in advance of starting, back in 2005. The motivation then was the same as it is now.
I’ve been in Sales for 35 years and I always remember why I stayed in it that long. I always got the biggest buzz from helping business owners make a success of their business.
That might sound strange, but it’s true.
I’ve helped a start up entrepreneur become a millionaire.
I’ve helped a struggling business turn their fortunes around.
I’ve helped a business going into decline, halt the rot and rebuild itself.
In every case, the motivation for me has been that I love to see other people’s success. It’s never been about what they paid me for my services.
Yes, of course, we all want to make money and if money was the main driver for this business I would have done things very differently. I would have outsourced more, promoted more, gone after much bigger clients and only worried about accumulating cash, not building a business.
But in the end, I did none of those things. I tried to build a sustainable business with a long term view and an ethos that helps customers. With a team that believed in what we did as a company.
When you look at our mission statement it says;
Developing people’s expertise to help our customers succeed.
You see, even our mission is about helping our customers succeed.
And even our values reinforce this – Trust, Loyalty and Collaboration.
If we were any other kind of company, those would read very differently.
Practical steps you can take
All of which leads us to this. What can you do, right now, to support, sustain and grow your business in difficult times?
I remember a good friend of mine, who started a taxi company not to make money, not to move people around but because he was appalled at the awful service and attitude of every other taxi company in the town he lived.
He made it his mission to provide a fabulous service for every single person who booked a cab with him and in next to no time, he was running the biggest taxi company in town.
He wasn’t any cheaper than the others, in fact in some cases he was dearer. His cars were no newer and his opening hours were the same as everyone else.
So why did he flourish?
He was successful because every passenger that got into one of his cars was treated like they were family. His drivers would go out of their way to make a difference, by helping people carry shopping in, by being on time and polite and by daily doing random acts of kindness.
And before long, word got around about this great taxi company who cared about you, not just how much was on the meter.
Today, you are faced with a decision to make about what you want to do to make a difference in your customer’s lives. Will you say ‘no, it’s too difficult because…’ or will you say ‘yes, let’s try something….’?
Personally I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to step well outside my comfort zone and I’m going to record some videos with practical tips for business people stuck at home.
I’ve never done this before and the prospect of talking into a camera does not fill me with happiness. But if one thing I say and share on a video makes a difference in someone’s life, then it’s worth it.
This afternoon, we are having a virtual training session for all of our team. Using online conferencing tools we are able to get all of them online, share a PowerPoint presentation and train them in an area of their role where most would welcome some training.
We are taking the time to invest in our staff because, if not now, when?
And you can do something to help people today.
If you are a tiler, how about writing an article for your website explaining how to calculate the square meterage of tiles you need to tile a kitchen?
If you are a Solicitor, how about an article explaining how the family law courts will be operating online during the current lockdown, and how this might impact cases awaiting trial?
And if you are a digital agency, how about an article explaining to people how to make sure their WordPress website is locked down so hackers can’t get into it?
In each case, you already know the answer to these questions, but your customers probably don’t.
Helping them by writing useful articles and publicising them on your website is a massive investment and one which will pay long term benefits.
After all, Google is all about answers these days, so why don’t you try and create the best answer for the questions that you regularly get asked by customers.
Remember why you started the business
So, back to the beginning. Why are you in business?
Remember what it was that motivated you to become a business owner and work on that.
Figure out what makes you happy and right now, what you could do to share that with people.
Your customers will appreciate it and when this crisis is over, and it will be over, you will reap the rewards of time invested now in building your sustainable future.