by Susan Hileman, NWIRC Strategic Business Advisor
One of the consistent messages we’ve heard as we talk with manufacturers throughout the region is, “I made it through this time, but I don’t know what will happen if we get hit again.” They’re speaking of the impact from COVID-19 shut downs, stalled operations, lost orders, employee absences, and supply chain disruptions. And realistically, we don’t know how long the pandemic is going to last. Here’s what we do know: It has changed the way we do business forever. Some things to consider:
1. Bridge the learning curve of technology. Whether it’s ensuring your remote workers have adequate internet speed and cybersecurity; using Go-To-Meeting, Zoom or Teams to keep in touch with your customers; or using online classes to train for new skills, technology is now an integral part of our day to day business. If you’ve not used technology extensively in the past, there’s a learning curve. But, it’s not a steep curve. Learn how to take advantage of software, apps, and equipment so that you can present your business professionally.
2. Remote sales are here to stay. Trade shows, conferences, and face-to-face meetings are no longer the way we will be making connections or closing sales—at least not for the foreseeable future. This is one of the biggest changes in selling. Plan to enhance your website, train your sales staff, research new markets, use video and social media. The way we do business has changed. You need to adjust accordingly and build a solid plan for business growth.
3. Strengthen your foundation while you can! From a financial standpoint, here is the most critical piece of
advice: get your house in order! Get new customers, enter new markets, streamline your processes, and build your
business strength NOW, so you will be able to financially weather the next storm. Also, guard your cash flow. Unless you have a healthy balance sheet, this is not the time to invest in that potential new service you have been
considering. Invest in areas that build your business strength but minimize the financial risk until the pandemic really is over.
4. People are still your greatest asset. You can have the best product in the world, but if you consistently
overpromise and underdeliver on your customer orders, you will soon find yourself with far fewer customers. That’s the bottom line. So, truly, your customer is not the most important part of your business—your employees are. They are the people who make an assembly line run more (or less) efficiently; coach their peers into forming a cohesive team; and effectively sell your products/services—or lose a great customer with bad customer service. Treat them as if they are the face and heart of your business—because they are.
5. Safety first. It’s true. No matter what else happens, you must take the necessary precautions to ensure your workplace and shop floor is safe and disinfected and your employees feel secure and have the necessary PPE to do their jobs. If you don’t take these precautions, you are jeopardizing not only your business, but the very lives of each employee and their families.
We don’t know how long COVID will be an issue in our day-to-day business lives going forward. We do know that NWIRC and our partners are here to help you navigate the issues affecting your business most and provide the resources and programs needed to help get you through this difficult time. Then, when COVID-19 does flare up again, you’re in a position to achieve the best possible outcome!
Susan Hileman is the Program Manager for NWIRC’s COVID-19 Recovery Program. Learn more about the program here.