Blog Post: Safer-At-Home (But You Can Start to "Get Back to Work”) Strategy Building
Safer-At-Home (But You Can Start to "Get Back to Work”) Strategy Building
We have made it through some of the craziest weeks of our lives!
Are you still standing?
At this point it seems hard — because the money situation is getting tense. Expenses are still happening, but clients and customers aren’t paying old bills, let alone putting out new $$ since they don’t know how long this is going on. It looks like we are getting back to work in May or June, but the time lag between getting started and actually having things flowing is less defined. And then there is the concern of a 2nd episode within months.
Multiple strategies and constant flexibility is going into every plan I’ve considered. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, “Yeah, but if ______ happens how does THAT change my plan?”
Let’s focus on just a few things right now.
- How can you collect money owed to you before COVID-19 started? If you can collect some of that you have a little operating money for the near future.
- How can you generate some quick income to get you through the next month or two?
- How can you position yourself to be "top of the list" for meeting prospective clients' needs 2-6 months out?
Collecting money owed to you.
Obviously you can’t play hardball right now or people will just shut down against your efforts. They are stressed and also have an excuse currently — they are in a tough place too — living in fear of not having enough for themselves, as opposed to feeling the responsibility to fulfill their obligations. So, as uncomfortable as it may be for you, your BEST option is to pick up the phone and call them! Possibly FaceTime, Zoom or Hangout type calls — but not scheduled. Everyone is different, but here's a basic formula to help your calls be productive and improve your chances of being successful:
- Have your facts right. Have a good listing of their invoices/charges — all of them and the dates incurred — as well as a total in front of you.
- Know their past payment history — are they commonly slow or late? Do they pay quicker by Credit Card or PayPal than by check?
- Make yourself some simple notes — A layout of the call, some personal things about them, their kids, their hobbies, their likes and dislikes.
- Pick your BEST time of day — when you are your best — and start calling with your notes in front of you.
- Be sure to actually CARE about how they are doing.
- ASK THEM how life is going working from home.
- Have they had anyone they know get COVID-19 — how did that go?
- Expect that they might ask you how it is going for you. Be ready with a short response or personal story to chuckle at.
- Let them know you are calling because you are running tight on money to pay your employees and basics like rent, so you need to find out when they are paying their outstanding invoices and let them know the dates.
- If they have no real answer, ask them to please consider what they can do and you’ll call them in a couple days to get an answer from them, so you know how to pay your bills (be willing to take partial payment and let them know THAT WOULD HELP you a bunch).
- Thank them for their time and consideration of how THEY CAN HELP you deal with this whole STAY-AT-HOME thing that we are in together. Let them know you are excited about being able to get back to work and help them with their needs.
- Be sure to actually CARE about how they are doing.
- If they give you a date they will be making payment put that on your calendar and follow up if it doesn’t arrive. If it does, LET THEM KNOW how much you appreciate it.
- If they don’t give you any date, and you have to call them back, have an abbreviated call — follow up on the personal situation — and then ask if they were able to see themselves clear to HELP you out by paying off some of those old invoices. Be ready to take or offer partial payment terms — anything is better than nothing!
Download a free "Getting Paid" call worksheet here to help you organize your information and thoughts for your calls.
Generating some quick income to get you through the next month or two.
- What do your clients need most right now?
- What will they need as they try to move into the SAFER-AT-HOME time?
- What will they need as they transition into the next step?
- What can you do to meet any of those needs?
THINK OUTSIDE the norms. Get creative — talk with your spouse, partner, employees ... HECK, even ASK YOUR CLIENTS!
Here are a couple of examples to help get those creative juices flowing:
- A paint your own pottery studio realized Mother’s day is coming up and put together kits of plaques or a mug in a pretty bag that you can order. They send your choice of 4 colors of glazing and brushes with it. Then, when you have it ready to be fired, you can either mail it back in the box or if biz is back up you can bring it in.
- A home contractor who does renos and additions set up an inexpensive DIY prep kit online, that allows you to sketch up your home or reno (or send them the info needed and they will sketch it up), and then using their gallery and other online resources like Pinterest — pick out your style and things you would like to include in your reno or addition and they will provide you with a budget price. Then if you want a full set of plans, they can provide that for a nominal fee that gets credited when you decide to move forward in the next 2 years.
- A dental office provides dental health videos and put their electric toothbrushes, water-piks and other cleaning supplies online for purchase and shipping to you. They now offer curbside pickup as well. They are thinking about discounting normal checkups if you purchase these things from them and schedule your checkup over the summer.
Don’t be afraid to offer something that you’re not sure you want to continue for long — this is actually a good time to get really outside your norm and try something to see if there is any market for it. Maybe even have some fun with it. Do you have a 3-d printer? Can you print up face shields? Signs needed for social distancing? Even something fun for reminders for employees?
Positioning yourself to be "top of the list" for meeting prospective client’s needs 2-6 months out
First you have to understand what your PROSPECTIVE clients might need. Go online and check out what your prospective clients are saying if you don’t know — or TALK to some of them and find out what they are concerned with.
Then, try to figure out how you can solve that problem. Again ... get out of your norm.
Here are some examples:
- Dentist — people are concerned they won’t have the money to pay because they don’t have dental insurance or might not if they lose their job. Is there a way to create a payment plan or provide inexpensive insurance coverage or a package that gives their whole family a pre-paid plan for their preventative care? OR maybe give them a special credit card with minimal interest to pay their costs on if they set up the appointments now.
- Kids out of school and parents needing to go back to work but day cares and summer camps not fully operational or safe — could you find a way to help your clients meet the needs of flexibility needed for them? Safe Kid space in your office maybe even with supervision (like a high-schooler) when clients need to come in for appointments? Homework help/online help services (by high-schoolers or college kids or even teachers) in your offices at a scheduled time like mornings to allow your employees and maybe your client’s employees to have time to hit project sites without their kids? Yes, there are challenges involved with that, but a joint effort with your clients could result in some great relationships and loyalty to you!
- Rebound of Covid concerns — clients don’t want to move forward with things if they think they may get stalled by a replay of STAY-AT-HOME lockdown. Is there a way to get a partial payment up front for your services, with monthly payments and a COVID clause that allows them to pause the project if needed, without loss of their funds? Work out the details with suppliers, subs, insurance and others so you have a full package that allows you ALL to be able to work hard this summer and have the flexibility to deal with a rebound if it happens, without getting stuck in penalties — both for you and your clients.
Bottom line, as you try to get ready for getting back to business — do what you do best! Anticipate problems, identify them, research them ahead of time and find options to solve them. Your idea of the best solution may not be your client's, so be willing to ask them which option would be of the most help to them, then go with it if you can. Remember, helping them will help you and build their respect for you, seeing how you are willing to get out of your comfort zone for them.