We’ve been watching a lot of movies. My three daughters (a grad student, a college sophomore, and high school junior), my husband, and I have varied tastes. The kids are looking back, nostalgically, and watching The Muppets and Monsters Inc. My husband, a true life-long learner, will watch (almost) any documentary or true story adaption (e.g., The Big Short). And me, I love a good rom com—anything with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is a sure hit.
But, a family classic is Field of Dreams. An Iowa farmer (Kevin Costner) hears voices which prompt him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. No spoilers, but a feel-good baseball movie seems like just the ticket in these uncertain and live sports free times. The classic Field of Dreams line, “If you build it, they will come,” is one we small business owners can use now. You have time to re-imagine your business in the post-COVID-19 world. To build the workplace you want. To build the goods and services your customers want. So, start building.
But, how? That’s always the hard part. The how. Imagine it’s Labor Day 2020. You’re looking back. You’re talking to your team. I’m so glad we did this, changed that, and implemented the other. I’ll start you off. How much better off would you be if it’s September and you:
Moved online (or semi online). Moved your files and documents to the cloud (e.g., Dropbox or OneDrive). Moved your brick and mortar store online and are killing it locally and beyond (e.g., check out The Waxwing). Made your services available over video conference and used online tools to share documents and collaborate (e.g., ShareFile and Zoom).
Created the business you want to run. Imagined your ideal client and figured out what she needs. Scrapped the goods and services that aren’t profitable or that your clients don’t value. Stopped paying for stuff you don’t need. Created systems so projects and profits stop falling through the cracks.
Addressed lurking privacy and security issues. Paid for a virtual private network (VPN) so you can use Colectivo’s Wi-Fi securely post-Safer at Home Order. Updated your website’s terms of services and improved your privacy settings. Set up a firewall at your office.
Kept your contacts “warm.” Reached out to clients and prospects regularly. Asked your customers what they need. Provided resources they could use (but not the same resources as everyone else). Were a sounding board in crisis. Leaned on your network for help, ideas, and good cheer.
Covered your bases. Read your insurance policy (starting point for what to look for is here) and filed a claim. Applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Researched other grants, loans, and resources specific to your business needs (start with SBA and WEDC).
Completed your 2020 to do list. Finished your continuing education credits. Updated your website. Rebranded your product line. Revised your customer contracts. Cleaned out your file cabinets (paper and digital). Interviewed new service providers and switched once business improved. Implemented a CRM system. Registered your logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (extra important if you moved your business online and expanded your reach outside Wisconsin).
Learned something new. Filled in knowledge gaps (g., Udemy, Harvard online, Skillshare) in, for example, technology, marketing, and finance. (I’m learning PowerPoint. My team is impressed.) Updated skills or knowledge unique to your business or profession. Learned something you’ve always wanted to know (e.g., Italian, bread-making, computer science).
Enjoy the downtime. Appreciated the family time. Cooked more (ask me about my homemade challah and pizza). Enjoyed your pets. Read more. Exercised. Played lots of games. Turned off the news, sometimes.
We can get all this and more done by September if we start now, plan ahead, and think strategically. Start with these next steps:
Meet with your team. Brainstorm and strategize what you want your business to look like. How do you want clients and customers to feel when they work with you? How do you and your team want to feel at work?
Ask your clients and customers what they need and change what you do accordingly.
Cut the expenses you can and consider negotiating with the rest. If this requires or could require breaching a contract, seek out legal help.
This is your “if only I had the time” time. Use it wisely.
In the meantime, don’t panic. If you build it, they will come.
Stephanie has been practicing law in the Milwaukee area for over 20 years and currently owns Melnick & Melnick, S.C. – a law firm that caters to small and medium-sized businesses. Stephanie also started She Stands Tall to help female entrepreneurs and business owners network, learn, and grow.