Covid-19: Bail, Bunker, or Prepare

We have, as with most other businesses, been struggling with the right business strategy to navigate the Covid-19 economic cessation.

I chose the word “cessation” very purposefully as this is the most accurate description of what we are experiencing. The economy as literally stopped. The lights are off and we really have no idea when they will be turned back on and what the business environment will be when and if they are turned on. So here we are, in the dark, wondering what happens next. But the reality is even more complex than not knowing what comes next. As Donald Rumsfeld once said, you have the “known unknowns”, and the “unknown unknowns”. The known unknowns we can provision for, we know we are not going to have revenue (we understand the “what” of the problem), we just don’t know how long that will be. We can mitigate this known unknown by controlling costs, applying for SBA 7a loans, furloughing employees, restructuring debts. But what about the “unknown unknowns”, what are these? These are the ones that are much more challenging to navigate because they are missing the “what”. What will the economy look like when we are no longer in cessation mode? Will it be different? Will my business model still be viable? Will I retain my customers?

How do we deal with these unknown unknowns?

I am a fisherman and avid boater, as such I often will head out into the open ocean for hundreds of miles on my quests. When you are that far away from shore you have to be prepared for all kinds of unknown unknowns. Engine troubles, hull troubles, tackling challenges, catastrophic events, different fishing conditions. You don’t have the luxury of knowing what will happen, you can only try to be prepared to handle it. So, I have taken this same approach in our company.

During this period of economic cessation, we are deep cleaning our equipment, pulling maintenance, reorganizing our storage, painting, pressure cleaning, preparing the operational side of the business. We are preparing ourselves to be ready for the unknown unknowns. But we are also working on setting ourselves up to be able to take advantage of the unknown unknowns as well. These are changes in our competitive landscape, emerging new businesses, new revenue opportunities, etc.

We are working on refining our business value messaging, organizing our marketing communication strategies, creating digital marketing campaigns, direct mail campaigns, web presence upgrades, video marketing content, product and service brochures. Basically we are making sure our marketing “tackle box” is full of all the different types of “fishing lures” we may need. We are making sure all the hooks are sharp, we are organizing them in such a way that when it is time to use them they are easily deployed.

My clients often ask me, should I be marketing now? My response is always the same, I do not know. But I know one thing you should be doing, getting your marketing ready for deployment. Because much like in fishing, once you find the fish you don’t want to miss your opportunity because you failed to make sure your tackle box was full and ready to go.

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