If you are a business leader, who keeps her/his ears on the ground all the time, then you surely are feeling the tremors of what is about to come. The occasional cold winds (disappointments) hitting on us when the sale pitch keeps ending in a no-go. The regular buzz from your account department rings an alarm that the food storage (financial kitty) is not enough and when your village (team) keep coming back to you with failed outcomes while looking for potential leads. You know that winter, one of the worst winters are ahead of you as a business.
We read the news, we hear the chatter, we join the gossip but why do we not see the signs within our own set up. Because if we do, as the leaders we are, we should at this point of time, be working on the choices that you will take NOW, the decisions that will ensure you do not loose your best, you do not fail your own & you surely do not have to pull the shutters down.
I speak here along with thoughts and of some other leaders I have been chatting up with recently and we all have started taking some of these steps that I write here. But it was not easy to begin. When we read that Mark Elliot Zuckerberg informed his employees that he is upping the game when it comes to performance just to survive the coming slowdown with the right people, we knew & we bitched about him. We said “he can afford to do that, because of what he has built as a business, people will fight to be there, even his best. But, can we do the same thing? If we push our people, the best of our best will rather choose to take the door than fight to remain” so it means, what you do now as choices & decisions will mean “make or break” for you as a business. I repeat, for YOUR business. You have to look deep within your systems and take strategically smart choices. Choices that will last this super challenging times that are coming straight at us.
I would love to jump in to mention the things that you can do to get prepared but I would rather first give you some signals that you can look out for. (Note that there could be many different and other signs than the ones I mention here)
- The first signs are when almost all of your sale pitches ends with the lead stating that they need something like your offering but cannot afford it at this point.
- When your Target Group seems to be shrinking and at a speed that every week, your “go to market” strategies feels like failed efforts.
- When your monies in the kitty seems to keep hitting the reserves or even below
- When the bills pile seems higher than the expected income
- When your team seems to start loosing the fire in them to keep pushing (reason could be that their efforts are not showing results at work or that their own financial conditions at personal level is getting tough)
- Your gut seems to never be confident on status of affairs at work. For every leader, there is an inner built mechanism called the “gut” that sends alert signals for the danger that is about to come and it is happening on a very regular basis for you
It is now time to sit up straight, get your “seeing the hard truth” kinda glasses on, buckle your belt tight enough to hold you in that position & get started. Remember, this act of yours & doing it now, will actually save your much more than you can imagine. You will realise the same when you find yourself sitting within your operational business even after we have passed through this slowdown. Its your choice, today, you are on a crossroad where on one side is a road that you would have your business running (a little badgered and bruised, but still alive and kicking) or the other road will take you where you would be on your living room couch (ready to pen down the lessons you learnt as you pulled your shutters down on your business). The choice is yours, my job is to make this noise and try to be heard.
We passed through a pandemic, the customer needs flipped overnight, we assume that if we could survive a pandemic, we could survive anything. We are way away from the truth. Pandemic was something that hit us all in the same manner, a slowdown is a monster that will eat us from within us. To make you understand, our decisions and the time we take to decide on things will kill us in different ways. If we don’t hold the best with us during these times, it might kill us. If we work through all this, our weakness or a habit of not being able to work through dry days might very well just kill us. So, let us get the shit together after all.
- Always the first thing is to look into is “your offerings”. Look at how much you can re-design your offering (product / service) wherein you can bring your prices down and still have a decent profit margin, not forgetting that the value for our customers is intact or increased if possible
- When we have to bring our “cost of offering” that is when you look at multiple things now. Your team salaries, your marketing strategy cost, your operational cost, because all of this is what sums up to your offering’s cost.
- Salaries – Try not to push your people to perform better in difficult circumstances, rather speak with clarity to them, respecting their own ability to decide & request a salary cut acceptance from their side. Frankly those who accept will be the ones who will fight this time out with you, those who do not will actually be the right ones to let go, coz their fears of tough times will not let them perform in such situations. So, let it be their decision, you be outright clear to them.
- Marketing – Sit down on your GTMs. Find strategies, those which can be executed in worse case scenarios with least amount of investments (instead of hiring a social media company, hire a resource who knows it within with lesser payouts. instead of running paid campaigns, be more intelligent on and do it organically, instead of traveling to meet potential clients wasting monies & loosing time on travel, push for more calls & online meets, wherein there could be more sale pitches in a day instead)
- Operations – This is were some of the most difficult decisions have to come in. In operations the highest cost is on the infra-structure. We have in the past been in WFH, we can do this again, but what holds us are these reasons (we just got out of WFH, our clients / investors / team would think we are not capable to manage an office, my team will not be productive) you can go for a 100% wfh or even partial but what you cannot do is let your fears and ego stop you from taking this decision. Further, your deliverable team can be supported with more streamlined processes, more productive approaches to increase their ability to deliver better, faster ensuring that lesser resources are needed to cater to more clients.
- Mental Health – Your mental health will impact your team’s state of mind and motivation. But, your mental health depends on your safe zones intact. Safe zones are things within our mind that gives us the feeling of security, stability and scalability of our business and also our lives. It is critical that we address these zones immediately to prepare in a manner that will have all the 3Ss intact. Here are few things that can help you do that.
– Parallel Income. Hard hitting but as a leader, there is no shame to be able look at other gigs that you can bring in some monies through, which will not hurt your attention needed for your business plus will keep your security zone intact for your mental health
– Fitness Regime. Stability comes when you are strong enough to take it all. Sylvester Stallone once said, “life is not about how hard of a hit you can give, it is about how many you can take & still keep going” to take all that the coming days is going to bring on to you, you need your physical strength. It has been proven to me and many out there, a fit body means a stronger mind.
– Planning Ahead. There are these things that we keep saying, “one day at time” or “when things get tough, just put one foot ahead of the other, heads down and keep moving forward” its important to understand that all this is true but what is even more real is we do all this, after putting a long term plan in place for your business & yourself for these challenging times. Without your line of sight on what is coming and what you will be doing, walking on day to day basis on this path is preparing yourself to stumble more than ever, get faced by challenges without being prepared to some extent. So, get on with it, the plan would not be very attractive, very interesting but the fact that you have a plan for your progress or scale, even in your worse, is the key.
I have been one of those people, who cannot write if I have not gone through it myself or working on it myself. I am writing a book on fitness, every time I slip my game on my workouts, my writing stops. So, writing this blog at 4 am in the day, is a clear message that I mean it all, we will have to pass through this together and come out of it stronger.