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How to Navigate the New Business Environment
by Tim Timmer
July 29, 2021

Heading home from my friend’s birthday celebration during a mid-March weekend, I was impressed by my apparent driving skills that found me making great time on my return trip. I must have been acutely aware of my timing and speed as I was seemingly missing every piece of traffic on the road.

Then I hit the first town on a Saturday night — very few cars. The next town was the same. Then of course, the realization set in — we are in a new environment.

My thoughts moved to the classic poster depicting the kitten hanging on a rope with the caption “Hang in there, baby.” The kitten’s expression seems to say “I’m going to need a hand here.”

The business climate right now no doubt feels like that kitten. The impact of the virus is real — business is impacted without question.

For our part with SCORE we stand ready to help as we can.

First: I want to send a great big God bless uou to the health care staff standing on the front lines in defense of humankind worldwide. I know first-hand the struggles that this pandemic offers and your dedication to your communities is a calling worthy of applause and admiration. The health care team has our back and is working for solutions as I write this article.

For the business community, I offer the following:

Don’t panic. Keeping your head right now is no small task —but needed for your business. Your leadership requires a concentrated focus on the short-term impact of this previously unknown influencer.

Communicate. Inform your customers about changes. Be mindful that this too shall pass and show you care for your customers as you take steps to change policies and procedures. In addition, stay in touch with medical professional guidance for building a healthy environment and implement change to be as safe as possible. Let staff and customers know what you are doing and why. Inform your financial institution of how things are going. In my experience communicating early about trends (both positive and negative) helps you to better manage through the finances of your situation. In terms of your personal debt you may want to ask for an “interest only” payment at this time or in the future. This could allow you to build some cash reserves for helping through this time.

Adapt. It is time to run some modeling. Run some “what if” scenarios to analyze the impact a potential decrease (or increase) in sales will have. You may already have completed this or be well on your way, but if you need help, call SCORE (via the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce) and we can get you set up with a spreadsheet. Be proactive if/when you need to increase costs to meet new demand or reduce costs if demand falls. Be timely in your adjustments to keep your bottom line in line.

Redirect. You may not be able to sell as many products in one line in the same way you have, but maybe you could switch to a different product or change a delivery method. Some ideas might be to expand online sales or see if you can deliver at a reduced cost to the consumer.

Be neighborly. It seems this point could go unsaid, however noting the recent fights and elbowing regarding the purchase of everyday items such as toilet paper it makes me wonder. How will you feel about the person in the mirror in six months when you have 400 rolls of toilet paper? The point is help each other. If a person you know is running short, sell or give them some — try to help each other. In your neighborhood, if folks are shut in send them a card or positive thoughts and prayers. Maybe drop supplies on their porch (safely). Be supportive of one another and most of all remember to treat others as you would like to be treated.

Your business can be a shining example to the community if you exhibit creativity as we all work through this together.

On one recent Sunday, I heard a robin and then saw three flying as I went into the grocery store. Reminds me that spring is coming and with it a change in seasons — ahh the summer in Northern Michigan is marvelous. The point is this season of pandemic will pass as well. Keep the faith.

About the author
TIm Timmer
Tim Timmer
Tim Timmer is vice president for business banking with Northern Michigan-based Citizens National Bank and a volunteer business mentor with SCORE’s Tip of the Mitt chapter.
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