If there’s anything Freelancers and other business owners and leaders have learned over the past year is that positioning your company to survive adversity is high priority. Baking in stewardship policies that include risk management strategies designed to shield the company from the effects of marketplace instability (or maybe just a tough competitor) is a must-do.
Maintain the business in the way you maintain your home—painting the deck, caulking bathroom tiles, checking the foundation for cracks, putting a sealant on the driveway. When the inevitable blizzards and hurricanes arrive, you’ll weather the storms (earthquakes and tornadoes are something else again, of course).
There is no precise formula for the process. I recommend that business owners and leaders focus on the reliable benefits derived from this short list of basic resources: human capital, operational capabilities, a healthy culture and cash reserves.
Whether a solopreneur Freelancer or leader of a team of 100 or more, know that good leadership yields the best business results, in good times and bad. Those at the top of the organizational pyramid are the responsible party and have great influence on whether the venture finds success or failure. Creating a sustainable business model and obtaining sufficient start-up and working capital are how a good business is born. But there is more.
Creating a healthy company culture is a business-sustaining strategy. Business owners and leaders should understand that when top-down and bottom- up communication is the norm, when leaders model a strong work ethic, when transparency and best practices are followed both internally and externally in customer relationships and when respect, coupled with a degree of autonomy, is given to employees at every level, a winning strategy, expressed through a healthy company culture, takes hold. Good company culture results in employees who are happy, productive and loyal to the organization.
Providing skills-building training and coaching is an investment that also encourages employee loyalty and enables company leaders to maximize their productivity. Such policies and practices nurture company loyalty and come as close as possible to ensuring that when the going gets rough, the company will have a team dedicated to the organization and willing to work hard and smart to support a turnaround. This strategy also gives companies a reputation as a good place to work and acts as a magnet for top talent.
The most effective business strategies are uncomplicated. Learn to distill yours down to one page. When speaking to your banker or potential investors, potential strategic partners, or high-level talent you’d like to hire, the ability to articulate a readily understandable and relatable business strategy will build confidence in you and the company you lead. Start clarifying and simplifying the strategy that guides your venture:
Vision for the future
Big picture goals (short-term, mid-range and long-term)
Key Performance Indicators and the department responsible for each
Top line revenue and market share, two metrics that indicate the quality of the business strategy.
Strategy is nothing without execution. An effective leader gets the plane into the air and flying at cruising altitude. To achieve that aim, properly trained staff, effective and intuitive workflow protocols, IT hardware and software that create operational efficiencies, quality control and an end-to-end positive customer experience are required. Errors, confusion and duplication of work undermine productivity, erode employee morale and result in weakened revenue and profit.
Defining the intended outcomes, practicing good communication, establishing efficient workflow organization, the required technology and the appropriate staffing level and expertise will likely repair obstacles to proper execution. Action plans, complete with departmental responsibility and due dates that the team consents to, ensure accountability and optimal results.
Small to mid-size companies would be wise to hold in reserve three to six months of projected operating expenses. That sum is meant to carry your company through a difficult time or allow you to take advantage of a business opportunity.
Bear in mind that every business is different. The amount of your company’s cash reserve will depend on where the company is. Start-up, new product launch, capital improvements campaign, or growth-expansion-scaling periods are not the time to build the reserve because available cash must be used to support those important initiatives. Discuss with your accountant about when it will make sense to start a capital reserve fund and how much it should hold.
It is also possible to use financing to build your company’s cash reserve and now may be the time to act. The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan on March 30 was extended until May 31, 2021. The PPP Loan can be forgiven and essentially become a grant, but not every loan recipient is able to fulfill the qualifiers. Worse case scenario, the PPP must be repaid within two years at a 1% interest rate.
Thanks for reading,
Image: The Indy 500