Time for Plan “B”…

March 31, 2020

(NOTE: Most of this post was originally the contents of an email to the Milford Business Association members in Milford, Michigan.)

Anytime a crisis hits people quite naturally formulate a quick plan to deal with it. If you recall, I wrote about having a plan way back on March 20 in my post “What is your plan?” Doesn’t that seem like a long time ago? The Corona Virus crisis is turning out to be one in which that plan (we’ll call it plan “A”) isn’t working out for most. It’s time for plan “B”.

Plan “A” is the one that most bought into initially, which said, “I’ll just wait out the next two weeks” or “I’ll just close until April 3 or April 13”. That last plan was what many small business owners used as Plan “A” in my area. Plan “A” was a very passive plan – the hunker down and wait it out plan.

Now we have been told it will be at least April or May before we can even think about easing the restrictions on travel, crowd gatherings and working. It is clear that at least half of the year will be gone before America starts the road back to something approaching “normal”. No matter what you may have believed going into this crisis, it is clear that it is time for Plan “B”.

For the small business person, Plan B is a proactive one that deals with the reality that this situation is liable to be with us until late summer and that you need to figure out how to do business under the rules that have been imposed by government. For almost all, that means finding a way to do business without being able to welcome visitors into your physical stores.

Many small businesses already had a web site or a presence on Facebook and other social media sites. Now is the time to expand and leverage that presence to allow your customers to do business with you. If your web site didn’t have an eCommerce capability before, now is the time to add it or highlight your alternative. You need a way for customers to order and pay through your web site or via a phone call. It is also the time to figure out how you are going to deliver products to customers – on-site pickup or delivery, somehow.

For some small businesses in the services industries, it may well mean delivering your services via on-line sessions, either interactive in real-time or pre-recorded. Churches are using both methods during the shutdown and some fitness and health related businesses, such as personal training and yoga have already launched on-line classes.

The keys to creating a Plan “B” that will get you through this is understanding the needs of your customers and making it as easy as possible to do business with you while the shutdown lasts. You can do that through advertising, offering incentives and making the shopping and delivery experiences as easy as possible.

You can start with the assumption that the customers do not know what you are doing during the crisis. Begin your road back by informing them of your plan B – how to do business with you; what your hours of “operation” will be; where to go on line (web site or Facebook) to see your goods and how to order products; what incentives you will be offering; and how they will get the goods or services that you provide. For some, it is also about informing the customers about your new, spring product lines. This crisis hit right when that seasonal transition was to take place.

In the same “What’s your plan” blog post I described the four phases that people go through in crisis situations. Most are now exiting phase three and entering phase four. They are starting to put some creative thought into how they will live under the constraints imposed by this crisis and they are looking for ways to get the things that they need and want. It is up to you to tell them how to get those things from you.

Communications with your customer base is more important now than ever. Using ads in your local paper (like the Spinal Column in the Milford, Michigan area) to reach your local base is a critical part of that communications. People are home all day and have time to read those papers. Your ad in the local paper can tell the customer base many things – “I am still here”, “I am open for business”, “I am working hard to help you get through this crisis”, and “We will get through this together”.

So, take some time to craft your message for plan “B” and get it out there to your customer base. I think you’ll find a very receptive audience that is ready to find a way to do business with you.

Go for it; but have a Plan “B”…

July 23, 2014

Anticipating difficulties is far better than recovering from failures…

OK, so today’s quote is from me (at least as far as I know). There is a difference between anticipating the difficulties in any venture and having a “negative attitude”.  My wife is always admonishing me not to be so negative, which is how she sees my caution in certain things. Most of the time I’ve probably let that caution man thinkingget the better of me and she’s probably right; however, I reserve the right to at least consider in a somewhat thoughtful way what might go wrong and try to plan for it. It’s is when I let that planning turn into anxiety or fear that I need the slap upside the head (a duty she only too happy to perform).

The story of Captain “Sully” Sullenberger having the presence of mind to safely land his crippled airliner in the Hudson River is an example of someone who had anticipated what could someday happen and who had planned, as he put it, ”all my life for this moment.” Sullenberger had thought about what he would do if the plane that he was piloting lost power and he had to set it down. He knew instantly, based upon that planning what to do that fateful day. It was not instinct and it was not a plan concocted on the fly (other than perhaps the circumstance of being close to the river to begin with); it was the result of thoughtful deliberation of what the alternatives would be in such a case and what the best plan of action might be. He had anticipated this emergency.

For our run-of-the-mill, type of day-to-day plans, spending a little time thinking about what might occur that could throw your plans off could avert disaster. Checking with the Road Commission web site to see what roads may be closed or severely limited due to construction before you set out across town could mean the difference between arriving for an event on time or being late. Checking the weather forecast could mean not getting rained upon without your umbrella at hand. A few minutes up front can avert disaster and is time well spent.

So, in day to day life; does every invitation to someone to do something (maybe asking for a date) have toalternate outcomes be accompanied with anticipation of difficulties or failure? No, but knowing what you’d do or say if the person that you are asking is already busy for that time is at least advisable. What are the other times when you might be able to get together or plan the date? What other event might he/she want to accompany you to? When is another time when he/she did not have plans already? Obviously, if you get absolutely no positive answers to any of those approaches; it may well be that this is not a person who wishes to spend any time with you. Time to move on to Plan “B” or person “B”. At least, if you have a plan “B” you can tell yourself that you are not recovering from a disaster; you’re just moving on with life as you anticipated that you might have to.

Anticipating difficulties does not always mean that you do things to avoid them. You would have to hunker woman thinkingdown in the corner of a room and never move, if that was your only strategy to deal with rejection or difficulties. Rather, anticipating the difficulties gives you time to consider the alternate approaches to overcoming them and to choose the best plan. It may also provide you with a readily available Plan “B” and “C”, if needed. So, take a moment before launching into your day and think about any of the things that you have planned for which you may need to anticipate any difficulties and plan ahead. Have a great and safe day; and have a Plan “B”.