We crafted our COVID survival plan and monitored it daily, with a particular focus on cash generation. Things were going according to plan – mostly. Our revenue estimates were too conservative. But customers started to pay us much more slowly, increasing our outstanding balances due from them by 35%.
With the plan relatively intact, what do we do? Continue to maintain a conservative posture? Or is there an opportunity for us to take some risks to strengthen our future?
We had some things working in our favor. We were able to access financing and were among the first businesses to get the PPP loan. The relationship with my capital partners has allowed my business to cultivate relationships with advisors (bankers, lawyers, accountants) to facilitate better access to financing than most. I fully recognize that some of these inequities in access are perpetually a problem in our society. However, as CEO, it’s my responsibility to take advantage of these opportunities to keep the business alive and our people with us.
Making the shift from conservative to risk seeking was a a function of the framework honed as I’ve contended with crises in my tenure.
“Life after death” – What exists in the great beyond?
When going through crisis, I tend to simplify things by thinking about extreme cases. Is our industry going to exist after this in some form? We serve apartment and other owners of rental housing, providing them with property maintenance and renovation services. I think that it’s safe to say there will be “life after pandemic.”
I’m too young for this.
I have had several conversations with business owners in their 60’s who would rather hang it up than go through another down cycle. This is not an option for me. I’ve got a young family and more directly, I was excited to navigate this crisis. I need a few more of these stories to graduate from Rookie CEO
Most Heists Happen at Night
“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste” or “It’s always darkest before dawn.” Here’s an original one “Most heists happen at night.”
We focused on three things during this time:
1. Acquiring great talent
There are two types of roles in our industry that are very difficult to fill: Sales and Technical Supervisor. These roles are revenue-generating for us. So we advertised the positions. This created a lot of buzz for our business. It sent a strong signal to our competitors, customers, and potential employees that we were at a minimum stable and future focused. We were zigging when others were zagging. As a result, we were able to recruit some great folks onto our team.
2. Acquiring technology services at a reduced rate
In the first couple of months of the pandemic, there was a freeze in spending. Part of our long term plans included a technology upgrade. We were able to secure very favorable rates for those services from firms that would otherwise not be so inclined to work with a company our size.
3. Acquiring companies
We looked into potential acquisitions. We haven’t closed any deals yet. But we continue to turn over opportunities that could become great additions to our organization.
Rookie top reads on growth strategy
Chaos can yield great things if you’re willing to be brave.
Key insight: Even during times of crisis, there are opportunities out there. If you’re willing to be brave and act on them, you could see great long-term results.
Summary: This hit close to home, so it was definitely an article worth including. Giving examples of chaos and the opportunities it’s yielded other companies, and it’s an encouragement to be bold and pursue what you want rather than being in fear.
“Weird and wonderful” ideas are emerging during the pandemic, and we’re here for it.
Key insight: Even the weirdest of ideas can work during this time, so don’t be afraid to take risks during an unprecedented time.
Summary: The pandemic has proven that everything we know has essentially shifted, so it’s time to embrace the weird, the bold, and innovate without being scared of being out of the box or weird – this is the time to explore and discover what’s possible!
You can’t discuss opportunity without risk, so it’s important to look at the new opportunities emerging and the risks associated.
Key insight: Go into opportunities with your eyes open. Being bold is important, but so is doing your research. Acknowledge the threats, but don’t let it stop you from exploring.
Summary: Content marketing and referrals are great ways to attract new customers but it only works if you know your demographics well. Think about the ‘anchor customer’ we were referring to before and apply that to your own context using these tips. What do they find valuable and what would they like to see? Once you know your users better, it becomes easier to attract and retain new customer segments.
This guide has a lot of insight on different ways to reel new customers in, and how to keep them from leaving.
Key insight: Know your customer and don’t just stick to one channel.
Summary: Digital businesses are likely to see a lot of growth during this time, for obvious reasons, but there are a lot of risks involved, too – especially once the chaos clears. It’s a great summary article that talks about the benefits such as larger market share if you have the cash to make a move.
Have an idea that could help with COVID-19, even in the smallest way? Turn it into a business.
Key insight: As the world continues to be unpredictable, this isn’t the time to hold back. If you have an idea that could genuinely help with the efforts, it’s worth exploring even in the smallest ways.
Summary: It’s not easy to turn short-term innovations into long-term business ideas, but the article lays out the importance of exploring these innovations and how to ensure you grow sustainably while pursuing a social enterprise.
In case you’re looking for more industry inspiration, here’s a great round-up of other companies doing well during this time.
Key insight: Even if opportunities look unlikely, the pandemic has proven that success is unpredictable at this point. Look at what the successful industries have in common and how you can bring that to your business.
Summary: The article touches on five different businesses, ranging from global names to smaller companies, and why they’ve seen so much success despite restrictive measures and lockdown.