What the COVID Lockdown has taught me business wise.
1. Keep business expenses lean!
I am extremely grateful for keeping my expenses as low as possible. I do my own marketing, bookings, administration, cleaning etc. It comes at a cost. The collective tasks plus facilitating baby spa sessions results in me not having many chunks left in a day. I do try maintain a balance, as family is important to me, I do not work after hours if I don't have to.
I often feel quite anxious and I do run around like a headless chicken with daily operations. I however acknowledge that this can be rectified if I can find a fully integrated system or app that assists with invoicing, CRM & appointment management all in one (still need to find this though, the search has been on for quite a while now) - but efficiency isn't the lesson here. My salary only covers my debit orders & it doesn’t leave much room for play from a personal point of view. But if it wasn’t for this, Baby Bubble would have closed its doors right about now. I realize my functioning needs to be streamlined, there isn't necessarily a requirement for more staff members but a more efficient system. But for now, thank goodness for keeping it “lean” as it might very well have saved the company!
Keeping costs low is something I learnt very quickly when I first approached a Venture Capitalist with the Baby Bubble concept. He gutted my forecasted income statement. It was probably the most important advice I have ever gotten about a start-up and it is something I would HIGHLY recommend any new business owner to do. A self-made millionaire quoted 'Beans now, Steak later'. I unfortunately can't recall his name, but it's great advice!!
2. Client Relationships Are Key!
This is something which comes naturally as we inherently care for all our mommies & their babies. We like to serve. Looking back, if it wasn’t for this, we would have definitely closed our doors before the lockdown even started. We still had moms supporting us till the day of lockdown, which was extremely flattering & fulfilling. Our authenticity, kindness & nature definitely saw us through March 2020.
3. Be Ahead of the Game
When COVID entered the country I already had various scenarios panned out. It's a numbers game. If the numbers don't align we will close and this business would be a failure. I drew-up various spreadsheets as to how we could ensure we make it through a lockdown.
I slept over each of the scenarios, & discussed it with my colleague, husband & friends. Each time there was a nation address I had planned & weighed up all possible options, & could immediately react knowing it was the best solution for both our clientele & business viability.
4. Our hygiene SOPs were good
Before COVID we had already used 70% alcohol solution to both sanitize hands & spray surfaces. We already insisted each person entering the hydro room must sanitize their hands. Hand sanitizer & surface spray was readily available for use. Door handles, pod perimeters & surfaces were regularly disinfected. I feel very confident in what we had in place already. It offered us further reassurance that we already had high standards with regards to hygiene & has made me realize this is something we can seriously highlight more in marketing efforts.
5. A crisis is not the time to become selfish
I got extremely upset with people price hiking basic commodities such as hand sanitizer. It is not the time for businesses to take advantage. All we should be interested in is survival & helping others to do the same. It’s almost as if people’s true colours bubbled to the surface. They either become generous, or they become extremely selfish & hoard everything for themselves.
I had to carefully consider how we would retain our current membership base, but at the same time maintain business viability. It would have been a lot easier (and less stressful) to enforce our moms to keep paying as per Ts & Cs even if we are under forced lockdown. But, how many people would give their 30-days notice, which they can rightfully do? And how could we charge for something which we can’t offer..? Some would happily stay out of the goodness of their hearts, but some would also not be ok with it (or not able to as their own businesses are under strain) & serve notice.
We found a common ground, & I am hoping it sees us through the pandemic & buys us some time. Despite Baby Bubble not running, despite keeping costs low, the operating costs are still high, but I still see areas where we can give & do our part in aiding those in need. I recognize that every client that has ever walked through the door was due to Gods grace. I thus believe that every cent turned is his too & should rightfully also be used to aid those in need.
6. It’s ok for emotions to rollercoaster up & down, but it’s not ok to react on them
During times of crisis I believe it is completely normal to have moments where you are in tears & overcome with fear, & moments where you feel like WonderWoman & invincible. However, during these emotional waves, it’s not the time to react, as you won’t be thinking clearly. I have learnt to lean on my support system - they can often get you back on the rational train of thought.
Only react when your mind is calm & emotion has subsided. Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly & it has to be within an hour or two, but if possible it can also be a day or 2 later. And that is ok. You absolutely need to be proactive, & promptly react to changes in business climate, but this also needs to be done when one is absolutely objective & sound of mind.
7. Maintain transparency with employees & look after them
Baby Bubble is a small business and this is something I had applied from the beginning. I am busy reading a book by Ben Horowitz. A venture capitalist and technology entrepreneur. This is something that came up in his journey in a billion dollar company turn around. It offered me reassurance that on our teeny-tiny scale, I was doing the right thing.
We think that as a leader one needs to pretend that everything is sunshine and roses on the back-end as we are supposed to be the 'strong ones' and 'set an example'. However, the problem with this is that we loose trust from our employees as they are involved on ground level and are able to pick-up discrepancies if what we are saying is not aligning with daily functioning. Loss of trust is a dangerous thing, their rapport and respect for you will drop, which will have a direct impact on their loyalty towards the company (and you), and a passion can just become 'a job'... And if it is just 'a job' you cannot expect that your staff will go the extra mile, and they will gladly opt for another opportunity if it had to arise.
Through the COVID pandemic, my staff member knows exactly till when we are going to be ok. And if it takes longer than that, we will put heads together to find a solution to keep the doors open. My staff member currently works on a base, plus commission, but even with no income, her full commission is still being paid. Despite the desperate times that we are in, in Richard Brandson's words "Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.".
8. God is in control
God has a purpose and a reason for everything. Clay (us) does not have the knowledge nor jurisdiction of the Potter (God). God has provided us with talents which has prepared us for this and to see it through. We definitely need to make use of these talents. He will however not bring anything our way which we are not able to handle. Our Heavenly Father knows our hearts, he knows our intentions. It is a rocky time, there is a lot of uncertainty, but I have complete faith that this small business will survive once this pandemic has seen it's course.
Photo Credit: La'Ane Photography