Category Archives: management

Checklists for the re-start of your business after Covid-19

Good management is required now more than ever.

Looking back over the past three months, you may be thinking, OK, that was painful, but it has to get better from here. For most of us, the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on our businesses were unexpected disasters and the final consequences are not yet entirely understood. Nevertheless, we have to try and work our way out of it.

So what are the right management strategies and action plans to get through this economic turmoil and uncertainty with a more resilient and stable business?

Here are the lessons we’ve learned from previous economic crises and business setbacks:

  1. Do not rely on the headlines.

The media are not helpful to you.  They will provide neither balanced reporting nor insightful analysis for input to your planning or decision making. You will have to dig deeper. Make sure your market data and competitor intelligence is current and accurate.

  1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Keep employees and customers informed. They may be worried, confused and need to be reassured that they can count on you. You may not have good news for them, but they will appreciate hearing directly from you and are not being left guessing what's coming next.

  1. Keep on Selling.

Now is not the time to cut back on marketing and sales. Your efforts now will be even more conspicuous and effective if your competitors back out of the market and away from their customers. Be selective and very focused. Work on building stronger customer relationships by being relevant and responsive to the current economic circumstances.  Avoid the cry for help advertising that only confirms “we’re desperate and we need the sales.” Customers are looking for strength, not weakness. Calmness, confidence and competence are much more appealing to potential buyers who are still healthy and want reliable long term suppliers.

  1. Do quickly what obviously needs to be done.

If it’s clear to you it's also clear to the people affected. They’re waiting for you to act and will be more confident and proactive themselves, if they see you taking action. Face the facts, don't fight the facts.

  1. Adapt.

Remember Darwin's survival of the fittest: those who adapt to their environment are most likely to survive; not the strongest or the biggest. This is not the time to be stubbornly persistent about your plans. Look around and be creative. Your destination may still be the same, but the route, the vehicle and the passengers may need to be changed.

  1. Be confident, but cautious.

Recognize the difference between calculated risk and a hopeful optimism. Make a decision if the potential outcomes and their probabilities are reasonably clear, but hold fire if they’re not.

  1. Show conspicuous leadership.

No one can do it better than the person who is ultimately responsible and can speak with sincerity and integrity on the concerns, strategies and plans. Lead by example, not by rhetoric.

A 10 point diagnostic to develop the short-term action plan for your business

From my experience, most businesses benefit from a regular health check – a business diagnostic that takes a thorough look at the whole business and identifies priorities and the potential for better performance.

At this point, for the recovery and survival of your business after the coronavirus shutdown you need to take a closer look at these 10 checkpoints and identify the most urgent priorities to get your business up and thriving again in the new business climate of 2020.

  1. Start with an updated strategic plan. Find your last business plan and review it against the new business environment and operating protocols. Prepare the new road map with clear milestones and a timetable to achieving your revised business objectives.
  1. Use your updated strategic plan to guide management and employee decision making. Monitor results against the plan. Review, revise and react quickly to customer responses and the changing business environment.
  1. You’re still in a competitive business: Are you keeping score? Compare your key performance indicators to the top performers. Learn from experience and adjust as necessary to achieve better results.
  1. Evaluate your performance in re-building long-term loyal relationships with customers, suppliers and strategic partners. Ensure you are showing your loyalty in return. You will need the support of all of them.
  1. 5. What about the people you need most: your employees? Get their feedback on any new concerns. Do they still believe you’re a great place to work?
  1. Assess each of the six P's in your marketing mix in the new post-Covid world – Product, Positioning, Promotion, Price, Packaging, and Placement. Fix what's broken.
  1. Assess your corporate image against the biggest and best brands in your business. Do you still look as good as you really are compared to them?
  1. Re-evaluate your online services. Are your competitors raising customer expectations? Do it better now. Don’t wait to be asked. And remember to turn the WWW upside down and think MMM – Manage, Market, and Monitor for improved results online.
  1. Review all your marketing communications. Do they capture the four C’s – Current, Clear, Concise and Consistent? Make them relevant and appropriate to the new business climate.
  2. Review the use of information and automation technologies in your business. Are they part of the solution or part of the problem in responding to new demands for productivity and performance?

Share these ideas with your management team and use them to improve performance. You will do even better when we get closer to normal business conditions again and there should be fewer areas to improve on when you do the next business diagnostic.

Good management will be tested during these times, but good decisions now will mean a better business in the post-Covid future.  Keep at it and we’ll get there together.

Be better. Do better.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

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Best Advice Ever

And it still applies - Don’t Waste Time!

One of the bizarre side effects of the economic shutdown and being told to self-isolate and work from home is that the pressure to be productive and meet deadlines seems to have evaporated. The sense of urgency has dissipated. Everybody is preoccupied with the pandemic and keeping themselves safe more than meeting their obligations at work.

With lots of time to ourselves, procrastinating is easy. Nobody’s watching. Who cares anyway? It can wait until we’re more in the mood for it. It’s a bad attitude and a bad work habit to get into.

This article from Uncle Ralph’s Random Ramblings in DON’T DO IT THE HARD WAY, is a timely reminder to make better use of the time available to you, pandemic or not.

The Best Advice I Ever Got

In three words: DON’T WASTE TIME.

In providing the following background story, I may appear to be ignoring that advice by taking more time to write about it and requiring you to take more time to read about it.

But the advice is really about making choices on how to use the limited time available in one lifetime. It does not exclude learning, relaxing, or quiet contemplation instead of continuous frantic activity. In this case, I am choosing to reinforce the message and help make it memorable by telling the story (in keeping with the theme of the book). You may choose to read it for the same reasons.

I was at UBC in Vancouver in 1964, my first year in Engineering. All first-year engineers were given the Engineering Handbook providing all the advice and information we needed to successfully complete the following four years of study. The book was full of useful material and started with welcoming comments from the Dean of Engineering, the University President and other dignitaries with all the usual flowery clichés expected in these messages.

One page was reserved for Steve Whitelaw, President of the Engineering Undergraduate Society. Steve was a popular President with a reputation as a very bright, creative leader. That reputation was based on his leadership in a number of engineering student stunts that made the national news, like the time they kidnapped another university’s mascot or hung a VW beetle from the Lion’s Gate Bridge.

His biggest coup was bringing to a conclusion the long campus debate over some weird concrete modern-art sculptures that appeared one-year on compass. They had received the scorn and contempt of ‘ignorant and uncultured’ engineering students, but were vigorously defended by the arts faculty and administration.

The intensity of the debate exploded on campus and in the local newspapers on the day the engineers went on a rampage and completely destroyed all the sculptures leaving them in heaps of broken concrete and steel. That’s when Steve finally advised everyone that the engineers had built and installed them all in the first place.

So his advice in the Engineering Handbook would have attracted our attention. It was a blank page with his signature and just three words:

DON’T WASTE TIME

Call it leading by example.

Be better. Do better.

And take care of each other,

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more in Uncle Ralph's books of advice for Entrepreneurs: Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 

Random Ramblings from your Uncle Ralph

 In the current environment of a corona virus pandemic with its devastating effect on lives, businesses and economies around the world, this article seemed appropriate for reconsidering.

(An extract from Don’t Do It the Hard Way – 2020 Edition, p.117)

Managing in Difficult Times

Ignoring or avoiding a difficult business environment is simply not possible.  It will happen, sooner or later. A credit crisis, stock market meltdown, or a looming recession all affect the attitudes and actions of consumers, employees, investors, lenders and business managers. What are some helpful ideas to respond effectively?

Stay focused

Avoid being distracted by the bombardment of bad news. Stay focused on customers and employees, especially the ones that you have and want to keep. Don’t freeze. But don’t over-react.  Be calm, rational, reassuring and pro-active.

Don’t just share the pain, provide relief.  Misery may love company, but everybody still remains miserable if you just talk about it and do nothing. Try to be more creative and take appropriate action. Don’t neglect the good news; look for the silver lining in the dark clouds – maybe currency exchange and interest rates are down temporarily, so now you can expedite foreign currency sales or re-finance some lending to improve cash flow.

Be relevant

Take a close look at your customers’ changing needs and your product or service offerings.  Do you have recession proof products or are they vulnerable? Costumers will be postponing or redirecting their purchase decisions in the current challenging climate.  Can you keep their business with a new cost-reduced service or a more creative approach to packaging, pricing, terms and conditions?

Leverage the sense of urgency

Nobody is unaware of the current economic circumstances affecting your business. Employees are already aware of the issues and the problems in front of them, so it will be easier to get them to accept the solutions. That means it’s more likely that they are receptive to expense reductions, removing frills, postponing projects, reducing assets and conserving cash. It may be opportune to revise compensation or bonus plans, change distribution channels, move marketing programs to lower cost online approaches.

Take advantage of the sense of urgency that exists. Now is the time to resolve lingering problems; just be cautious not to do permanent damage to key employee, customer and supplier relationships that you want to retain.

Recognize the changing environment

You probably started the year under different assumptions that affected corporate budgets and business plans.  Sales targets may now be unrealistic and should be adjusted downwards to maintain the rewards and motivation for top performers who continue to deliver in spite of challenging times. Try to use an external benchmark to justify the adjustment and not give the impression that you are forgiving poor performance.

Look for opportunities generated by the crisis

If you have been smart enough to stash cash and build a relatively secure business, then you can take advantage of some unique opportunities that exist.  Build your team by attracting top performing employees who may be ready to move from shaky competitors into your welcoming arms. Or buy out a competitor, if the company is suddenly for sale at a bargain price.  The big boys are doing it; so can you.

Talk to your banker

Make sure she is not worrying unnecessarily. Or at least worrying for the right reasons and hearing them directly from you.

If you are in better shape than most and credit is available, then increase your credit limits now to handle the potential unexpected impacts and to support the new opportunities you may want to pursue.

Avoid being the unwilling prey

Recognize that competitors may also see you in difficulty and seize the opportunity to raid key employees or buy you out at a distressed price.  You need to keep close to your key employees and ensure their career plans remain with you. If you are a likely target for merger or acquisition, then start working on your choice of preferred partner and determine your business valuation under normal circumstances, not current crisis conditions. Then take the initiative before you lose control of the situation. You and your business will be better for it.

In summary:

  • Be brave, be flexible, be creative.
  • Analyze, decide, take action.

And don’t neglect to wash your hands!

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, 

Del Chatterson

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Novel NO EASY MONEY and Uncle Ralph's   Business Books

NO EASY MONEY, “You never win playing by the rules.”

The first in a series of Dale Hunter Crime Novels, this novel an explosive mix of crime, cash and computers in the 1980s.

Entrepreneurs face challenges every day. It’s hard to be a hero. This is the story of a young entrepreneur in the computer business under threats of violence from the Montreal Mafia. He wants to survive to protect his family and not play by gangster rules, but it will require courage and creativity and the support of some new friends. Somebody is going to get killed.

Uncle Ralph's Business Books

DON’T DO IT THE HARD WAY

“A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, only a fool insists on making his own.” 

Learn from how to be better and to do better by sharing the stories of experienced entrepreneurs and avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes that entrepreneurs make.

 

 

 

The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans

“It’s about the process, not the product.”

This 2nd Edition Comprehensive Guide provides all the tools, tips and techniques you need, including Real life case studies, Sample Business Plans and Financial Templates.

Do-It-Yourself Business Plan?  Yes you can!

The books are all available NOW in hardcover, softcover, E-book, Kindle or KOBO online at Amazon or Indigo and Chapters & Paragraph Books in Montreal. Or 39,000 bookstores around the world.  If you ask for it, they’ll deliver it!

Buy a book. Tell all your friends, they’ll thank you later. 

Thank you all for your interest in my fiction adventure and my business books. Enjoy the read!

Del 

Author Website: DelvinChatterson.com

Delvin Chatterson, Author An entrepreneur and business advisor, consultant, coach and cheerleader for entrepreneurs, Del Chatterson has written extensively on business topics for decades.

He is now writing fiction with a short story collection in progress and this series of Dale Hunter crime novels. Originally from the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Del has lived and worked for the past forty years in the fascinating French-Canadian city of Montreal, Quebec.

 

Wrong. Character matters

angry bossWhether you are a CEO, politician, celebrity or simply a humble hard-working entrepreneur or employee, performance is continuously being assessed by the results you achieve. Does it matter how they are achieved?

Some people think not, results are all that matter. They’re wrong.

Character matters. Ethics, attitude and approach matter. Tactics and methods matter. Success and the desired results may appear to be achieved, regardless of the behaviour. Immoral, irresponsible, ruthless, and aggressive behaviour may even appear to have been necessary to achieve the results. Wrong again.

The apparent short term gains will eventually be lost to long term reactions. The used and abused will get even. A legacy of accomplishment may be completely forgotten, when the true character is revealed. Just ask Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein or Rosanne Barr.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com for more Blog posts and articles.

Join our mailing listfor regular e-mails with ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:"Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Choose your critics

And maybe still ignore their input 

Somewhere in the process you are going to hear from the critics. You may even ask for it. For product development, customer satisfaction, or market testing, you'll be asking, how do you like me so far?

The first step in getting constructive feedback is to choose your critics wisely. Are they relevant to your target audience? Are they knowledgeable, perceptive and willing to contribute?

You still may not like all the answers. But you should not be asking people who are too complementary, kind and generous. You want to be surprised, or disappointed. To learn something you didn’t already know. Maybe you’re worrying about the wrong things. You can try to think like a customer, but it’s better to ask what they’re thinking.

To get valuable feedback from willing critics and retain the right to choose what you use, remember to make two requests at the start:

1) Please be honest, and

2) Please don’t be offended, if I choose to ignore your input.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Qualifying Questions

Is it Strategic or Operational?

train wreckedBefore leaping into action, it is important to ask yourself some qualifying questions and make better decisions about both the immediate and the long-term action required.

Entrepreneurs are inclined to act instinctively and “just do it” when they are presented with a new challenge, opportunity or problem. No time wasted. Let’s not make it complicated. Generally, that’s an important trait for making progress quickly. But often, a quick assessment of the strategic and operational issues will lead you to better long-term results.

Think about it. Your wagon was rolling smoothly down the track, but on the last curve it suddenly flew off the rails. It happens, right? Well, before you yank it out of the ditch, set it back on the rails and push it down the track, ask yourself some qualifying questions. First operational, then strategic.

Is there a flaw in the track or something broken on the wagon? Does it need to be fixed now? How can we prevent it happening again?

Then, are we on the right track? With the right wagon? Do we need to change direction? And most importantly, what have we learned that we can apply to the future.

Keep learning, to be better and do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

My first business novel, No Easy Money, is coming soon. Learn more at my Writing Blog.

Deadlines can be deadly

Don’t overdo it

mistakesMost of us agree that deadlines are necessary. They help us to scope the work and make a plan.  Awareness of the deadline helps us to focus and get the work done on time.

But, the stated deadline may be entirely arbitrary or self-imposed and it may actually not be very important. Seldom is it absolutely necessary to be on time or don’t show up at all. (Except maybe to catch a flight, make a tee-time or deliver a keynote presentation.)

Deadlines can be helpful until they become an obsession. Then they become a distraction from focusing on the work quality and content. Time is running out and you’re not yet finished? You’re not yet proud of the work you've done? Re-negotiate the deadline.

Don’t obsess over deadlines. Make sure they’re real, not arbitrary or imaginary.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson 

 

 

Juggling too many balls?

Maybe more than one is the first mistake

JUGGLING

 

It’s not the number.

It’s the amount of time you spend on each one before throwing it back into the air.

Try it.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

 

Disaster insurance

Reducing risks

business-disasterStrange concept, insurance. You hope the disaster never happens, but you bet that it will and buy insurance to recover when it does. The insurance company takes your money and bets against you, also hoping it never happens. If it happens, you win (at least on the insurance), they lose.

Flood, fire or theft, commercial liability, death or disability. You can insure against any of those disasters, but should you?

It is probably a losing bet. The insurance company has the advantage of pooling a large number of clients with the same risk and being able to more precisely calculate the odds. Your choice is to take the bet or decide not to buy insurance and accept both the risk of the disaster and the potential consequences. Maybe you can recover with the money you saved on insurance premiums.

You can, of course, reduce the risk and the costs by making good preventive choices. Quitting smoking and avoiding sky diving will reduce both the life insurance premiums and the risk of premature death.

What about business risks? Same concept.

Reduce the risk of disaster and the potential consequences by maintaining security systems, signing long-term contracts and confidentiality agreements, having back-up plans and appropriate insurance coverage, meeting regulatory and environmental requirements, hedging on foreign exchange and receivables and preparing contingency plans. Review the risk management checklist in your original Business Plan and update the status and plans annually.

Don’t wait until the fires are close enough that you can smell the smoke.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

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