How to Think About Business in the Time of Coronavirus; Plus a Checklist to Reboot Your Business

You are not alone if you now are wondering what comes next. Almost every business owner in America is wrestling with the same question, “How will I reboot my inactive business?

But that’s not all. How long will our businesses be closed before we can reopen? When will we be able to put our talented and wonderful people back to work? Will our business ever be the same as it ever was? Your guess is as good as mine and anybody who tells you that they know for sure is dead wrong.

We might be looking at a very long and protracted situation where our businesses are closed through the summer. Or, we might find ourselves opening for business in weeks or months, much faster than some could have ever imagined. Or maybe, we’ll all be forced to deal with occasional stops and starts in our businesses as this pandemic moves through our society in fits and starts. 

Instead of asking when all of this will end, I’d like to propose an entirely different set of questions. 

But first, let’s talk about how we should set our minds for the challenge ahead. Coming to terms with this will help or hurt your own ability to make good decisions for your business in these uncertain times.

There is a natural tendency for us to push the things down we don’t like about ourselves and hold up the things we do. Why? Because the bad things in our lives make us feel bad and the good things in our lives make us feel good.

But when we push the best parts of ourselves up into our view and also push down the things we don’t like about ourselves, we’re not actually living in reality. And if we’re not careful, this primal duality (good vs bad, right vs wrong) can trap us forever in a box and hold us back from going where we need to go now with a clear head. For some, this can create a blind spot in our ability to make smart and thoughtful decisions in uncertain times.

Living in reality is when we’re able to bring up into view and carry what we like and don’t like about ourselves equally – and to love and accept ourselves anyway.

I bring this up because NOW is the time for you to be honest with yourself – if you haven’t been already. NOW is the time to look squarely at your business with clear eyes and an open mind. NOW is the time to remove your preconceptions and biases about how things “should” work. NOW is the time for you to plan ahead – with your head set right. You owe it to your families and employees. You owe it to yourself.

Are you ready? Great, now let’s jump right in and answer some important questions about the future of your business. You can use it as an outline to plan for reopening your business, or you can simply use it as an occasional MRI for your soul. 

Checklist To Reboot Your Business During COVID-19; or “an MRI for your business and soul”

  • How should I be thinking about this moment in time? Do I have my head in the sand or am I looking for the opportunity in the chaos? 
  • How much change might be coming in my type of business or industry? Will the market I’m in go away? What happens if people stop shopping in my stores or at my business? What’s my plan for when my revenue gets cut by 50 percentage points – or more? What should I do if people no longer want to walk inside my store? What if there is a complete shift to shopping online? Is there a technology investment I can make to solve the problem for me? Which partnerships would I need to have in place? If I am unable to move all sales online – does that mean I go out of business? 
  • What are my real needs vs wants right now? If I don’t get this right – and invest in the wrong things – will I hurt my ability to reset and grow the business at some point in the future? Where am I able to cut costs right now without harming my business? How do I know what I should not cut so I can ramp back up again when the time is right? 
  • How do I shift or pivot my business in the event people don’t want or need to purchase my professional service? What are my options to change or pivot my business into something else? Are there any business ideas – maybe something to the immediate right or immediate left of my own solution set – that I might be able to jump into and thrive? What other products or services am I already set up to deliver well? What are the best “problems to solve” for my business to focus on? Is it still what I think it is? What are the real pain points my customers have – and have they changed or simply gone away during this pandemic? 
  • What opportunities might I have in my own business that my competitors might not? Is my business set up to shift its focus over to a different (and potentially better) industry or sector?
  • Which clients must I keep in order to keep my business alive? What’s my plan if I lost the one or two clients that make up more than 50% of my revenue? How can I improve this ratio?
  • If I must pivot my business, how do I start this conversation with my core team? What’s my actual strategy and plan for changing my business? How will I know when the time is right to consider this step? 
  • Which personal markers (or lines in the sand) can I set up so I don’t continue to throw good money into something that is essentially gone forever? Who do I trust to engage in this conversation? Who will “give it to me straight”? How will I know when I’m given good advice?
  • What is my business doing right now to prepare for the future? Do we have a new strategy and action plan in place for a “smart reopen”? What does a smart reopen actually even look like? 
  • Do I need to develop a new “roll-on roll-off” plan (for rolling reopens and rolling closes) should this pandemic keep coming back over the next year or two? What would a “roll-on roll-off” plan even look like over time? How will other businesses in my industry roll-in-and-out of business during this pandemic? What are the timing issues (and potential ramifications) of having my business continue on with multiple rolling opens and closes – stops and restarts – over a one to two year period? 
  • What will my core team look like when I reopen the business? What do I do if my most critical employees find employment elsewhere? How do I replace them? Who do I replace first? Second? And so on…
  • How do I get my marketing and sales teams back up and running smoothly? When should I begin to consider re-hiring or staffing up my various departments?
  • How do I reset talent acquisition and recruiting to prepare for a better future? Is this the time to completely revise my approach to talent acquisition and recruitment? If my approach is outdated, is this the right time to invest in a better approach.
  • When is the right time to attract talented people who might be a great fit for my business? How do I identify the people I want to potentially hire? How do I reach out? What are the best practices and tools best suited to help me? When is the right time to begin attracting new people into my business? How do I open an honest dialog with potential candidates without over-promising? 

The most critical issues I see ahead of us might be those large seismic shifts occurring right now under our noses and across millions of businesses, including: huge hits to travel and tourism, shoppers leaving the mall in droves, consumers avoiding physical stores, the working-from-home moment, major changes in the way people consume media and sports entertainment, and the death of the dinner buffet. Whole industries – restaurants, family businesses, hotel chains, cruise lines, construction firms, and many small and local stores – are facing some very big headwinds.

Meanwhile, some business owners might be dealt a double-blow – finding they have turned their business back on only to be forced to turn everything off again. How does the average business owner prepare for such a moment when it’s hard enough already to start up a business in the first place?

This poses an even more difficult set of questions. Is a “roll-on-roll-off” strategy even remotely possible? Will business owners have the judgment and character to manage through these uncertain times? Will they be able to make the tough, unpopular decisions necessary to steer their business through to better times?

I’m an eternal optimist. I choose to believe anything is possible if we put our hearts and minds into it. But, man, if there was ever a time we needed clear minds and hard work combined with a large measure of hope and faith, this would be that moment.

In closing,…If this article was helpful to you please share it with your friends and peers. Were all in this together. 


CHRISTOPHER MENGEL brings over 20 years of insights to business owners and talent leaders inside emerging technology and professional services firms to implement new initiatives, develop new strategies for growth, carry out organizational and cultural change, manage complex projects, and fill business-critical roles. Have a challenge you want to solve? Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter and subscribe to his posts or contact him.


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