In times of unexpected crisis, our leadership must be at its highest elevation. The manner in which we decide to handle the current circumstances will significantly influence how or where we end up once this crisis is over. Nothing is forever —whether this crisis lasts only for a couple more weeks or several more months, it will eventually come to an end.
With so much uncertainty, we must take a moment away from our day-to-day shop responsibilities to figure out what is going on, make a plan and provide our team with both perspective and clarity.
So, how does one prepare to get through this unexpected crisis? How do you protect your repair shop and all the families that rely on it to provide? These are the times where we, as leaders, must stand up tall and provide a rock solid foundation. True leadership capacity of a person is tested during these times of crisis. Keep your wits and stay calm. We must protect our business and our staff.
Here are the steps that I have taken to not only survive this crisis but to hopefully position ourselves to outperform the current conditions.
1. Create an Emergency Plan
Take a moment to figure out what’s going on. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Imagine the worst case scenario and plan accordingly.
Make a 30/60/90 Day Disaster P&L at 50 percent revenue. If your shop normally does $200,000 each month, cut your expected income and expenses in half, and create a P&L statement to make money if you can, or at least break even, at half of your normal revenue.
Speak with your mortgage bank or landlord about repayment options. Most banks are offering up to 3 months payment deferments. I have also heard of landlords giving up free rent. Also speak with all of your vendors for longer payment terms or deferment as well. The most amount of cash you can manage to hold on to during this time, the better off you will be.
2. Communicate Your Plan
After finalizing your strategic plan, you must communicate it properly throughout your organization. Keep your entire staff regularly informed. If you need to make drastic changes to keep your operations going, be clear and concise when communicating your plan. Explain to your staff what to expect and what needs to be done to keep the operations going and everyone employed. Do not procrastinate because our employees will always remember how we handled this situation. In our case, we first held a large group meeting to inform everyone that necessary cost adjustments needed to be made. We provided everyone with assurance that their jobs were secure and that the pay cuts were temporary to allow us a whole to get through this. We then sat down with everyone individually to communicate their individual pay plans and how the pay cut would affect them.
3. Implement a Marketing Plan
It is imperative that during any needed cost-cutting, we do not cut back on advertising. This would be a critical mistake and can cost you big in the long run. If you stop advertising, many things can happen. First and foremost, your savvier competition will not stop advertising, and you will put yourself at risk of losing customers.
Instead, continue your regular marketing (you may want to at least revisit your marketing messages to ensure they remain relevant during the crisis) and, in addition, find creative ways to proactively bring cars in. A lot of people are forced to work or stay at home. This can actually be a really good time for our customers to service their vehicles. Generally, customers may delay servicing their vehicles either due to a lack of scheduled time or convenience. Right now, those obstacles may not exist. Your customers may not necessarily be as dependent on their vehicle as they normally are. Find ways to capitalize on this. How about free pick-up and delivery service? Special promotions? Cross-branding promotions with other local businesses?
With some extra discipline, solid leadership, and resourcefulness, we will not only survive this crisis, but we will come out stronger on the other side.