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Go the (Social) Distance: 5 Actions to Take for Your Business Right Now!

In this time of uncertainty and fear here are five things you can do for your business - and your sanity.

It’s a scary time right now.  Fear of pandemic, loss of business – and even a scarcity of toilet paper - have made us all anxious. We all are feeling threatened - and not only about catching the virus.  News outlets are warning of a coming wave of layoffs and job reductions caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

It’s really concerning for the small business owner, who is especially vulnerable to economic downturns.

What can you do?  Don’t sit around and wait.

Here are 5 actions you can take now - not only to survive, but to thrive in this challenging time

1)    Calm Yourself

Just as airline’s emergency instructions tell passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before helping others, business owners need to attend to their own fears before they can assure their staff, clients, families and community that the business will weather this storm.

What steps are you taking for self-care?  If you can clear the anxiety from your mind, even for a short time, you can think clearly and plan.

If you are anxious, here are two steps you can take:

First, find your happy place – the activity that takes you out of your own mind for a while.  It might be exercise, meditation, painting, hobbies, or putting together a puzzle.  Although binging on Netflix might be your go-to, chose an activity that gives you space to think – otherwise the anxiety resurfaces when the show is over.

Second, make a gratitude list.  Fear and gratitude cannot exist at the same time.  List what you have to be thankful for and you will have the antidote to fear.

2)    Evaluate Your Business Situation

This is the time to evaluate your business and make a plan for moving forward.  Have you ever done a SWOT analysis?  It’s a listing of your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

In this time of business slow-downs and close-downs, it’s even more important to evaluate, or re-evaluate where you stand and make a plan for moving forward.

SWOT Analysis:

S is for Strengths: List your practices’ strong points.  What do you do well, maybe even better than your competitors? Is your customer service top-notch, do you have the latest equipment and comfort measures for your patients?

W is for Weaknesses:  What could you be doing better?  An existing weakness may be magnified in the current crisis.  Is your practice technologically savvy?  Do you have the infrastructure and expertise to move some work to virtual?  List these weaknesses.

O is for Opportunities:  Make a list of the opportunities you have.  How can you capitalize on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses to take advantage of some of the opportunities this crisis has presented?  Your patients may be bored at home – you could start a newsletter or send out daily tips on oral hygiene.  Do you have a social media presence?  This could be a great time to start one. How about short videos on proper brushing techniques, countdown on the number of times to brush per day, offering dental fun facts, or a Facebook poll on “why you love your dentist”.

How about for the financial side of your business - what opportunities and protections is the government providing for small businesses right now?  What steps do you need to take to take advantage of them?

T is for Threats:  What are the threats right now to your practice?  Make a list and face them directly - don’t stick your head in the sand.  What is your financial situation?  How long can you stay afloat?  Work with your accountant or business manager to get a head start on a contingency plan for a worst case scenario.

Take the information you gathered in your SWOT analysis and create a course of action.  Detail a list of strategies and tactics to take advantage of your strengths, improve your weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities and minimize threats.

Detail what you can do immediately and what you will do when the crisis is over. 

Then - take an action.

3)    Reach Out to Connect

Every business today seems to be sending out a message to their customers detailing what steps they are taking to curb the spread of the virus, but how many have reached out individually to check on their patients, clients or customers?  How about an old-fashioned written note or a call on the telephone? 

Check-in on how this is affecting your patients, on whether their family is healthy, and how are they managing their own fears.

Let them know you are thinking about them as a person.

Maybe this is also a time they could be encouraged to set up their next appointment for after the crisis has passed.  Encouraging everyone to look to the future and realize the crisis will be over at some point, can give a sense of hope.

Reach out to check-in on friends and neighbors, too.  We all need to connect with each other in this challenging time.  Be creative – a nearby neighborhood has organized front porch parties at 5pm daily, with everyone coming out onto their porches at the same time.  Other neighbors are writing chalk messages on their sidewalk or the end of their driveways to share messages of support with passersby. Family group texts and video chats can keep us connected.

Don’t forget your staff – they are also fearful about their jobs.  If you are not working virtually with them, keep in touch.

Stay connected to your whole community.  We’re all in this together.

4)    Plan for a New Normal

When our lives get back to normal, will it be the “normal” we are used to?  Likely it will be a “new normal” – one where work becomes more virtual, where we are aware of close contact in groups and even where we appreciate store shelves full of toilet paper.

For your business, the new normal may include creating a formal contingency plan for emergencies or shut-downs in the future, planning for more virtual ways to serve patients and making some of the changes that were illuminated in the SWOT analysis.

5)    Live in the Moment

Finally, if you are lucky enough that you and your family are healthy and all that is required of you is to shelter in place - then embrace it and enjoy this unique time

It’s a great opportunity to spend time with family, playing games, or getting projects done.  Maybe there is a certification you have been meaning to finish, a closet you have been wanting to clean out or a room that needs painting.

Also, this is a history-making time.  What will you say when future generations ask what you did during the “Social Distancing of 2020”?  Will it be that you spent the time full of anxiety and fear for your business? 

No – you’ll tell them you calmed yourself, analyzed your situation, connected to others, made a plan for the new normal and lived in the moment.

So, take some action – and go the distance.

Editor's Note: Lee Ann Pond is the founder and CEO of Engaging Leadership, a firm dedicated to helping organizations engage their leaders, teams, and employees for peak performance. She is also the creator of the Engagement Ring, a framework for helping leaders understand the core tenants of engagement – which is also the topic of her Amazon bestselling book:  The Engagement Ring:  Practical Leadership Skills for Engaging Your Employees.

With an MBA, executive coaching certification, and fifteen years of C-suite experience, Lee Ann is an expert at helping newly promoted managers or business owners transition from a technical role to a leadership role.

Lee Ann lives in the Richmond, Virginia, area and enjoys her family, travels, and rescue pup, Mr. Pickles.

To learn more about Lee Ann’s work or connect further, visit https://engaging-leadership.com