Business development · 24 April 2020

Three ways to create a plan of action during COVID-19

plan-of-action

Future Retail Consulting founder, Catherine Erdly outlines three major ways businesses can create a plan of action to steer them through the uncertain waters of COVID-19…

We are living in extraordinary times. The impact of coronavirus on people’s lives has been immediate and dramatic. It’s leaving many business owners completely lost and, to a certain degree, feeling real grief for what has happened to their business. Whatever the situation, there are always some businesses that do better than others.

There are two choices right now. You can choose to stay frozen in fear, or you can see this time as a chance to re-evaluate and come back stronger. No prizes for guessing which type of businesses do better.

Step 1 – What is happening in your business right now?

Start where you are. What are you still able and willing to do? Take five minutes to think about all the elements of your business and write down what’s still functioning and what has to be put on hold right now. Even if you are still able to operate, think forward a few weeks and try and identify any bottle necks or issues that might be coming up.

For example, you may still be able to dispatch products, but are your packaging suppliers still operating?

Be realistic – how much can you currently achieve given the time and resources that are now available to you? Many of us are now juggling extra responsibilities with children home from school, so even if you technically can keep trading, do you actually have the capacity?

Step two – What do you need to work on?

A SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) is a powerful and simple way for you to run through your business. Identify what has been working well, then list out areas for improvement. To create a SWOT, fold a piece of paper in half and then in half again to give yourself four quadrants. Start writing down whatever comes up in your mind, don’t try and edit your thoughts as they go down on paper. Just let them flow out and put each one into
the appropriate section as you go along.

It’s important to take the time to reflect back on what has gone well and look at your strengths. Starting with the positive will help you remember how far you have come.

With weaknesses, this is not an opportunity to beat yourself up, instead it’s about putting your finger on the areas of the business that need fine tuning. Separate out the weaknesses in to the things that you have known for a while needed more work, and the issues
that have come up as a result of the coronavirus.

Opportunities – these are often the opposite of your weaknesses. So if you know that your website needs more work (a weakness), improving your website is an opportunity.

Threats – this section is a great place to capture all of those niggling fears that have been bothering you. Writing down any concerns that you have about your business is a great way to put them in to perspective.

Step three – Where do you want your business to go?

Imagine it’s two years from now and you are being interviewed about how your business came out of this time. What would you tell that person? Did you pivot, or did you take the time to re-group but your original model was unchanged?

It’s important to connect with what you want the outcome to be before deciding how to move forward. It’s easy when you are in panic mode to lose sight of the overarching goal for your business. Taking a few minutes to visualize your future will help reconnect
with that mission.

As business owners, it is our blessing and our curse that we can choose almost any path that we like. Visualisation helps us see clearly where we want to take our business and keeps us connected to our ultimate goal.

Wrapping it all up – creating your plan of action

Use your areas of improvement that you identified in your SWOT analysis to put together a plan of action. Try splitting your plan into short term objectives, medium term and longer term; short term (in the next month) actions cover quick and easy wins, or areas that need urgent attention. Medium term covers the next 2-3 months and your longer term goals will be anything you’re going to tackle from the autumn onwards.

Mapping out your goals like this can help reduce overwhelm – many of us get overwhelmed as we think we have to achieve everything all at the same time when that is rarely necessary. Don’t forget to be realistic about what you can actually achieve right now. There’s a great saying – we overestimate what we can do in a day but underestimate what we can do in a year.

Taking the time to consider your next moves will avoid any knee-jerk reactions and give you more clarity and confidence as you move forward during these turbulent times.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Catherine Erdly has over 19 years experience working with product businesses of all sizes from high street names (such as Paperchase, Laura Ashley and Coast), all the way down to brand new businesses with just a handful of customers.

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