Business owners, particularly small and medium-size business owners, are some of the most resourceful and resilient people I know. They’re used to looking at their business from both a macro and a micro lens at the same time: going from “the view at 30,000 feet” to “down in the weeds” and back again. Sometimes this constant flipping back and forth can feel chaotic, but I believe it’s one of the superpowers of SMB owners.
One of the things I often say to the small and medium-size businesses I work with is that their size is their strength. Large organizations are like barge ships – they’re big and have a lot of capacity, but they move slowly and are hard to turn around. Smaller organizations are like speed boats. You’re more susceptible to waves, but you can go faster and make changes to your course much easier than a large vessel.
The first piece of advice I have for SMB owners in challenging times, like the ones we’re in now due to the coronavirus pandemic, is to use your nimbleness to your advantage. Keep your focus on the big view, but also be responsive and amenable to changing things up on the fly. Don’t be afraid to throw your plans out the window and make new plans. You can likely do so faster than your larger competitors and respond to a changing marketplace more quickly than they can.
One thing I see all business owners struggle with (even in the time before the coronavirus pandemic) is collecting enough data, and properly analyzing it, to make business decisions. When times are good, it can be easy to take your eye off metrics. Things are working, and sales are coming in, so there’s no urgent need to take a deep look at your systems and strategies.
But when times aren’t so good, you need to be ruthlessly efficient, and weed out what’s not working. Any effort that’s costing you time and money, and not returning on that investment, needs to be slashed. But before you can make those cuts, you need good intel, and that can’t be based on guesses.
We all make assumptions about our businesses, and many business owners suffer from consensus bias – the assumption that other people (such as potential customers and clients) think the same way they do. What I love about data is that it’s great at challenging assumptions. If you’re collecting clean data that you can properly analyze, it can tell you some hard truths about what is and what isn’t working.
The trick is in making sure you’re looking at the right metrics for your situation – that’s the “key” in that business phrase “key performance indicator This leads me to my second piece of advice for SMB owners: focus on the one or two metrics that clearly show you’re on the right path to efficiently achieving your business goals.
Finally, seek support, because it is there for you. I’ve seen companies like Microsoft (and my own company, Camp Tech) provide amazing offers to help small and medium size businesses. They’ve created resource centres, provided free digital training for SMBs, and offered versions of their software for free. Also, check with your local Small Business Resource Centre, BIA, Chamber of Commerce, or your city or town’s Economic Development Centre. They’ll point you in the direction of programs and offers that can help.
As part of Microsoft’s Future Now event on October 27 and 28, I will be joining Hilary Zaborski, SMB Customer Segment Lead for Microsoft Canada to discuss how the global pandemic has changed our work dynamics and the ways in which we can support our communities while managing business though this crisis. I encourage you to register now and join the conversation!
It’s a hard time to be in business, but challenging times are often when you truly discover what you’re made of. You got this, and I believe in you.