What Has COVID-19 Unmasked in Your Business?

Michael Collins Commentary

What Has COVID-19 Unmasked in Your Business?

As COVID-19 continues to impact our society, it’s easy for daily business obligations to blind owners to the importance of evaluating their operation in light of the ongoing social and economic challenges the pandemic has created.

While a top to bottom review may not be possible in all cases, a key aspect of any evaluation is to clearly define what your company does without getting bogged down in “business-ese.” If you’re a petroleum marketer who sells gasoline to convenience stores, don’t confuse things by describing your business as “enhancing the synergistic mobility of automotive units through world-class, game-changing distributive technologies.”

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Likewise, be clear about your target market. Are you selling to anyone who is retired, or is your service primarily for retired couples who like to travel and are often gone for months at a time? The more precisely you’re able to define your customers, the more successful you’ll be in either expanding your base or drilling deeper in order to increase value.

What about your current cost structure? If COVID-19 continues as a threat for months or even years, will your overhead allow you to survive or even thrive? If not, can something be outsourced, delayed or discontinued? Are there fixed costs, repairs, supplies or other aspects of your business that you can change to keep your company competitive?

What about your other resources? Do your marketing budget, equipment, employees and operating hours align with your revenue stream? Are you investing money where you get the biggest bang for your buck? We’ve all heard the definition of insanity, so if you’re doing the same thing by spending money in the same way while expecting a different result, it’s time to evaluate your return on investment in all areas of your operation.

The ultimate goal of any business should be to focus on providing a unique product, service or experience that not only makes money, but separates you from the competition. Commerce is drowning in a sea of sameness. Thus, this is the time to determine what business category you truly own as opposed to merely trying to replicate another company’s niche.

In a crowded marketplace, small things make a big difference. This is especially true in a world where sanitation and safety are top of mind. Therefore, if your company’s purchasing or payment process requires a physical exchange of documents, signatures, receipts or something as preventable as cashiers handling credit or debit cards, you must find ways to eliminate cross-contamination. No one wants to get sick from using an unsanitized keypad or pen.

During the next few months, one of the most powerful things you can do is systematically reexamine your business’s purpose, process and procedures. Maintaining a safe location for customers and employees is critical, but adapting your business to meet the continual changes wrought by the pandemic is essential. Remember, if you focus only on preventing illness without finding a better way to do business, your firm faces an uncertain future in a post-COVID-19 world.

Mike Collins is a community and economic development specialist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He holds a degree in political science and a master’s in public administration.