What should your business be doing durning a shutdown?
When determining what your business should be working on during slow period or shutdown situations are opportunities to improve.
Example many businesses such as bars and restaurants have found opportunities to provide partial employment by offering new and creative ways to continue to provide products and services specifically during COVID-19. These businesses are doing what that can to try and survive to turn a profit to keep the doors open. Most business can't afford to be without business for months on end and must get creative to stay open.
Indirect Labor Opporunities
- Sell products online. Contact us to inquire about setting up your site to do online sales.
- Perform training and process optimization.
- Do tasks that are normally performed in different times of the year.
eCommerce or Selling Online
Selling products online is a great way to find some supplemental income during a shutdown. We build and market eCommerce businesses and know that this is not going to work out potentially as you're expecting. eCommerce business are expensive, require lots of work, and in the retails space are very competitive. It can take months to obtain a new audience of buyers and customers for eCommerce.
If you have an existing client base who's looking to purchase online during times of inconvenience you very well could shift toward online availability. Provide online menus, modified, menus, pickup instructions, ordering instructions, are all good examples of information that could be made available on your website.
WordPress website are easy to covert. In fact most website platforms except free or low budget website designer services such as GoDaddy's Go Central or Square up. These are great solutions for getting started but are quickly outgrown by most businesses within are few months.
Process or Lean Improvements
Process or Lean opportunities are a great task during a shutdown or slow business. Many businesses see a slowdown as a time to cut costs or close and open when business picks up again. This could be a very difficult opportunity to achieve since it requires some capital to perform. If your business is new and or currently running on pay-check-to-pay-check this could be very difficult. If you business is not in a situation to accommodate this task we would suggest getting there. It's good business practice to always have some indirect labor going toward training. Many see training as temporary or only with new employees, however, training is occurring or needs to occur all the time. Policies, strategies, resources, materials, market, industry, and more are subject to change and need training updates.
Lean manufacturing has been around for quite sometime now. Many don't actually really know what it means to be Lean. Lean is commonly associated with SIGMA SIX or EIGHT. There're may variations to this but the idea is the same eliminate waste. Waste in materials, resources, time, process, methods, storage.
Lean is a great concept to apply to any business. Really determine what activities are Non-value Add and Value Add. A simple what to determine is this would what actives do people pay your business to do? When a business is performing their taxes are they paid to do it? No, that's an indirect/non-billable task. Sure the business bakes those costs into prices for services and products but if you asked your customers to pay you to do your taxes they would not pay you.
Since everything with your business evolves around operations time spent paying your taxes is a great example of non-value add time. Please don't take this as a suggestion to not pay your taxes. What we would rather do is spend less time doing them.
Identify non-value added activities with your business and lean them out. Can they be remove, shortened, eliminated, delighted, scheduled, and outsourced.
Lean manufacturing is huge and companies spend time and capital investing in process improvements. We are not going to cover nearly as much on this as we could. There's a ton of information available on this but as always it can be difficult to review what out there and determine how it actually relates to your business. We offer process consulting to implement Lean concepts in your workplace to get more done with less. Please contact us to schedule a call with one of our consultants to further discuss or ask questions on this post.
Are we paid to do this activity?
Process is probably one of the more mysterious improvements but every business tries to accomplish. Lean is all about removal of waste. Most business waste lots of time and there's waste in their process. You and or your business are already doing actives as efficient as you feel possible. Most actually change or alter when opportunities are identified. The problem occurs when you've been doing the same tasks since you opened or you're the only one who ever reviews your process.
In Lean there're actives such as Kaizen event. A Kaizen event for the most part is a group of resources from different company roles, department, skill, and or experience. During a great Kaizen event no one gets to hide. Many managers don't like people looking at their process because they don't want their boss or subordinates to have any suggestion that there's opportunity for improvement.
Note: Managers and owners if you're looking to get max value out of a Kaizen event be sure your culture promotes internal growth and is not an environment where people feel they'll be fired for either gaps in process or for identifying process gaps. Everyone needs to know this is not an opportunity to be embarrassed or hide. In fact you should promote this is an opportunity to let it all out and encourage the more the better. If you have situation where some serious abuse, neglect, or criminal activity you may beed to deal with those accordingly.
In most cases and examples lots of emotions and pride comes out but can be overcome with trust and follow through. You'll find that many resources with see this as an opportunity to vent and find relief in knowing their concerns, gripes, and suggestions are heard.
During an effective Kaizen event you should find many ideas for improvement and provide avenues for resolution, goals, and success. Depending on how many departments or the size of your departments/business can determine the size of your Kaizen team. You don't need every profession you have to be won a single Kaizen team. And, you can perform new Kaizen events as often as you want. Quarterly would probably be good but maybe a big one each year would be enough. It's your business you decided. It most examples the first is major and they tend to get smaller as time goes on. During COVID-19 or similar shutdown for your business would be a great time to implement a Kaizen event.
Conclusion, there're always opportunities to improve process within your business. Resources who're performing current tasks may not actually be the best resources to ask how to make it better. If they have great ideas and have not implemented them yet they could be the best resources to ask. If they've implemented all their ideas and you're seeing their best approach to process an alternative resources would be great. Again, try to encourage this exercise is to make people's life easier and is better for company overall. In some cases resources may be required to do more work but it may be work they should have been doing all along. During a Kaizen event you may be able to show how that task impacts downline customers or expand on why they don't want to do it.
Training or Resource Development
Training is always needed and stronger resources are a great opportunity during a shutdown period. Expanding and strengthening your resources can often be a big and beneficial investment.
Simple example opportunities for resources training are:
- 401k or similar benefits
- Security (data, best-practices, fishing emails)
We're not going to go into every detail about training opportunities, however, many businesses have annual required training. A shutdown would be a great opportunity to get that out of the way for the year. Resources can even work from home attend using their mobile device. This satisfies needed training requirements, makes good use of what time you have, and when business is allowed to continue this task is already complete. Your business will recoup the benefits later in the year when you would have had to perform training anyway.
Perform all annual training at the same time! Many businesses try to spread out their training to minimize overhead impact each month. With a forced shutdown you could perform all training in a single opportunity.
What training opportunities are required or exist for your business that you could implement now?
Software is great opportunity to implement during a shutdown. Data migration, training, optimization, integration, and more are all aspects of implementing new software that consume a great amount of time. If you have software you've been looking to implement now may be a good time.
With resources able to focus and get used to software with work low workloads.
Cleaning up software or data cleansing is another task that can be performed during. Many businesses believe their data is excellent. We've worked with companies of all sizes and know to never assume anything. Data is often not as clean as resources believe it is. Much like the Kaizen event resources can become sensitive to attention toward process and data is not different. Again, like before, ensure resources know this is not an opportunity to point out flaws but an opportunity to get caught up of resolve those flaws. It's all in your attitude.
Garbage in garbage out, get your data clean and accurate!
Integrations are often required and taking the time to implement don't always conveniently present themselves. A slowdown in work could be an opportunity to perform or evaluate integration opportunities.
Marketing is another indirect labor task that can be performed during a shutdown. Now, with Social Media marketing it can be super tempting to jump of Facebook and start distributing content like everyone else about a shutdown or similar situation but we would encourage you to not perform that kind of marketing or keep it to a minimum. Provide useful content when necessary.
Marketing opportunities during a shutdown include SEO optimization, business goals, strategy, target audience, vision, and performance are examples of areas for focus. These areas are not going to be specific to a cause to a shutdown. They're specific to the business. Your business is using a slow period to review alignment of your business's goals and objectives.
Maybe you'd like to implement new techniques, identify a new audience, change your message, and or bring additional value to you customers. Focus on opportunities to solidify your brand and connect with your audience through quality content.
Example of marketing opportunities during a shutdown:
- Website update
- New SEO strategy
- Social Media engagements (questions, comments, distribution)
- Vision or mission statement.
Follow up and connect with your existing clients. Don't tell them about COVID-19 public shutdown they already know about it. Instead talk to them. See if they're opportunities for your businesses to help each other. Create a process for you to follow up with your clients regularly. Ask about referrals if you're not able to network. Setup meetings for one-to-ones online.
With a few examples and ideas you should hopefully identify opportunities to make the best of a shutdown situation. We talked about a few different ways to maximize your business's efficiency during slow or shutdown situations. As a business owner or manager you're constantly putting out fires and solving problems. Finding ways to maximize time and resources is the ultimate task and is never ended. Moving indirect labor tasks in-place of billable time may not seem like a good idea but is more productive than doing nothing at all. When you're business is strapped down you're making the best use of your time and business's productivity. Keeping your employees employed for as long as possible without completely throwing money out the window.
We provide consulting on all aspects discussed in this article. Our focus is Systems Consulting and Marketing. With systems review we touch on process very frequently and a familiar with other aspects of business and can be a great resource for questions or support. We are here to help and want to provide solutions to your questions, challenges, and objectives.
Please feel free to comment share this post and contact us directly if you'd like to have further discussion on implementing any of these aspects toward your business.