How to grow (your business) in the Desert by John Stavrakas

It is true that over the last months we have been living in unusual times that have brought many changes to the world and of course to businesses. However, behind big problems there are always big opportunities, as it always happens. And this is something not to be overlooked.

It is now the time for right management, adjusted operations, new partnerships, wider customer outreach, proper talent management and integration of technology.

Speaking of my own experience, our business is in retail, it profits from tourism industry and since April it has lost 80% of its own gross income. But so far, we have managed to be debt free and implement our basic investment plans, which enables us to a brighter future. We just followed our own way of thinking, planning, and acting.

Seek for government loans with low interest rates but use the received funds to invest and not to solely cover expenses. Make your priority to invest even in hard times. This is how you become better and you gain a bigger part from the market when most of your competitors may just try to reduce costs. During the pandemic there have been many opportunities to get access to funds, just use them the right way. This is the key in having business back to normal fast, and not get stuck in debts for years after the pandemic.

Respect your friends. I mean your partners. Take advantage of your partnerships, redetermine your cooperation and try to find win – win deals. If the wind blows away the massive wall ahead of you, where are you going to seek for protection? Protect your partners and vendors. You need them, because in hard times their help can be critical. Built trust, remain loyal and support. Try to exchange services when necessary, instead of buying. Exchange services for services or services for products. This is the way to reduce cost, but the same time take what you need. Keep cash out of the game for a while. In good, long lasting partnerships, things can work in a different way. Invest in meaningful, strong partnerships. This pushes your roots deeper in the ground.

Respect your friends. I mean you colleagues. Work against a job loss. Having to fire someone due to inability to pay his salary does not show disrespect, but it should be the last option. It is always good to ask yourself: “Do my colleagues perform to their full potential?”. Many times, our colleagues can work better in different roles and under different management. Are you sure you know their real talents? Do you help them perform their best? Is there a talent or a skill you need and don’t have it in your team? Can you develop it instead of hiring it? Sometimes rearranging the roles and the way you address tasks to people can bring better results. Talk with your colleagues and do not be afraid for changes. Even if not everyone is happy, it is only a temporal solution.

Integrate technology in your day to day operations and communication. It is amazingly high the number of small businesses that have not invested on a CRM or collaboration software. It is a fact though, once done, a CRM does not only help in addressing day to day operations and makes communication more effective, but also changes the way we think of our businesses, the way we interact within the company and with our customers, and the way we do sales. Internet and SaaS technology is a big thing, and it should be a part of every type of business. Technology helps you scale and it doesn’t cost a fortune.

Increase your customer outreach, and make sure you say “hi” to all the customers of yours that did not make it to come by, during the corona days. Yes, as we said before, internet is a big place. And you do not increase your customer outreach only by building an e-shop. There is online marketing and there are many tools to help you identify new potential customers. And this is something every business should look into. But it is also of great importance not to forget of all these people that had been visiting you before the pandemic, supporting your ideas and your product, and now they cannot reach you. Or they can?

Sooner or later the way businesses interact with their customers will change. I believe the pandemic brings that change way faster. The pandemic is now an opportunity for the businesses that had already foreseen and had already invested towards that change. And it is also an opportunity for the businesses that can adopt to change. I hope most of us will make it through these weird times and become better. What I know, is that our future does not depend on where we stand now, but on who we are and who we will become.

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