Reacting to the COVID-19 challenge

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Jim Huston provides examples on how some companies are handling the coronavirus and its obstacles.

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July 1, 2020

Travels with Jim follows Jim Huston around the country as he visits with landscapers and helps them understand their numbers to make smarter decisions.

Entrepreneurs are an interesting breed. They come in all shapes and sizes. Becoming one isn’t for the faint of heart. Once you become one, staying one is even tougher. Successful entrepreneurs love not only people but also challenges. It’s important to understand that owning a business no more makes you an entrepreneur than owning a saddle makes you a cowboy… there’s a lot more to it.

Entrepreneurship is all about character. Circumstances don’t determine your character. Rather, they reveal it. Too many people, especially consultants, tend to think that success is all about having the right technology, having the right software or implementing the latest management technique (fad). They’re wrong. It’s all about becoming and staying the right person.

Because the current COVID-19 pandemic is so unprecedented and insidious, it provides us with not only one of the greatest challenges, but also one of the greatest opportunities that our nation has ever seen. Solving this problem will reveal our character, not create it.

Here’s how some of my clients (fellow entrepreneurs) are responding to the current coronavirus challenge:

Having the determination to succeed, regardless of your circumstances, is pivotal if your company hopes to survive this pandemic.

Analysis and action.

Loren has a great company in the southwest U.S., and he planned that his 2020 revenue would equal or exceed his 2019 sales of about $12 million. Due to the current pandemic and to the fact that he probably would not get his 80-plus H-2B workers, he reduced his 2020 sales projections to roughly $6 million. This wise entrepreneur did his homework, refined his numbers and faced the crisis head-on. He didn’t sulk or have an extended pity-party. He took decisive action based on good analysis.

Ken was building a great company in a booming Texas market. He knew his margins were far too thin and that he needed to calculate his costs and pricing more accurately. He had a fantastic marketing team and a production team that could hit any goal set before them. Then it all hit the skids due to the current pandemic. March/April sales took a big hit and the future was very uncertain, but he brought me in to do my analysis anyway. We established a 2020 baseline budget for all divisions and calculated daily revenue goals for every service that his company provided. His salespeople and production team responded to the challenge with vigor and, at this point, it looks like his 2020 sales will exceed his projections. This seasoned entrepreneur and his team faced adversity, spit in its face and prevailed.

Henry and Tom are in their late twenties, and they closed a deal last year to buy a company in New England where they had been working for a number of years. They both had degrees in turf management and knew the production side of the business. Nathan, the previous owner, had been a client of mine for thirty years and brought me in to train Henry and Tom about the business side of things. We created a budget for 2020 and reviewed all of the pricing for their services. They were excited but a bit nervous about their new venture. They knew that if they achieved the modest increase in sales that we had projected in the budget, everything would work out fine.

Once the pandemic hit, their anxiety increased significantly. However, they had a good plan that was quantifiable, easy to monitor and simple. They also had a good support team to back them up and encourage them. They dug in and focused on sales because they knew that if they sold the work, they’d get it done profitably in the field. Tracking each and every lead and its status provided them with a daily progress report as they pursued their goals. They knew exactly what was in the pipeline and could see their steady progress. This lessened their anxiety and gave them confidence that they could be successful.

Common theme.

These four entrepreneurs had a simple, measurable plan that they could track throughout the year. Not only could they see how they were progressing toward their annual sales budget, but they could also see how they and their crews were doing on a daily basis. However, they had something more. These individuals had the determination to succeed in spite of (not because of) their circumstances. If you’re going to thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic (or during any crisis), you’ve got to have grit. Remember, it’s not the size of the dog that’s in the fight, it’s the size of the fight that’s in the dog. Bark loudly, my friend, but bite harder!

Contact Jim Huston at jhuston@giemedia.com