AAPC Tele-Town Hall: How to Sustain Business Operations During COVID-19
Presented by AAPC, The Sexton Group and PollMakers
On Tuesday, March 31st, AAPC members heard from Trey Richardson, Liz Chadderdon, and Becki Donatelli as they shared resources and tips for how to sustain business operations amid COVID-19.
Trey Richardson, Managing Partner, SAGAC Public Affairs talked about things consultants can do to protect their business, and the resources that are available to us.
Some key points:
- Conserve your cash and accelerate your billing. Be proactive about communicating with your clients on how they can pay, send reminders (well in advance) that include your ACH payment instructions, mailing instructions, who to contact with questions and so on. Sending past due notices is also very important.
- Do a risk assessment and budget cut review for your client base and develop both moderate and conservative scenarios. Have a plan for 10%, 30% and 50% revenue reductions along with what triggers those. Consider what your immediate cuts can be (travel, non-essential employees) to help decrease your bottom-line costs. Increase your top line revenues through production/short-term projects which tend to pay up front and bring money in the door (i.e. video production, polling, etc…).
- Think through staff cuts very carefully. Consider letting underperformers go first and operating 30% understaffed because consulting staff are worth 3,000 hours vs. 2,000. It’s likely that you will need staff in July, August and September as the General Election approaches. Take this into consideration before letting top performing staff go. Letting top performers go now takes time and treasure away from revenue generating activities later in the year, plus the cost of onboarding new employees in a few months time may not bring you real savings. You should also have a plan for senior principle salary cuts before across-the-board reductions, i.e. owners taking cuts first, followed by officers, senior managers and senior directors.
- Reduce your internal costs. Move your HR and benefit administration plans to an external Professional Employer Organization (PEO). Cut non-essential suppliers/vendors. Negotiate reduced lease rates on your properties and work with your banks on loan modifications or loan deferments.
Liz Chadderdon, Founder/Partner Chadderdon Lestingi Creative Strategies, discussed tips on how to master working from home. The secret? Compartmentalization.
- Create a separate workspace. Set aside one room that is dedicated to your office and treat it that way. When you’re done with your day, don’t go back to this space until you have to go back to work.
- Get up every day and take a shower. You don’t have to do your makeup or dress in your Sunday best, but don’t wear your pajamas. It’s important for your mental fortitude to approach each day as you would if you were leaving the house to go to the office.
- Don’t watch TV. If you can have it on as background noise so you don’t feel alone as filler, then great. But if it’s something that’s going to captivate your attention, your focus will be waned and your productivity will suffer.
- Don’t do anything at home that you wouldn’t do at the office. In other words, don’t do laundry and don’t clean the house during your workday. Keep your household maintenance separate from your office life.
Becki Donatelli, President, Campaign Solutions, offered avenues of positivity to explore during challenging times.
- Seize the opportunity for new business. Particularly for consultants who specialize in digital, the good news is you can and will likely experience an uptick in business if you haven’t already.
- Think about what you can do online that you haven’t done before. Guess what: that’s pretty much everything. The amazing part about moving all day-to-day operations online is how efficient it is. Think about the time you spent commuting, rushing to an in-person meeting or hurrying to make a flight before that you’re now able to spend online getting work done.
- Appreciate the time you have now to actually sit and think. If you were already planning a business expansion before this crisis unfolded, you should still consider how to make this happen. Now is a great time to borrow money. Also, think about how you can reconstruct your company and your operations. In this virtual environment, relying on texting and emailing to communicate with your clients and staff is not enough. Think about opportunities to schedule multiple calls each day and push yourself to have virtual face to face meetings. It’s good for business and it’s likely going to be the way of the world even after this crisis has passed.
- Exercise your good conscious in support of your community. Think about what good we can do in the world now. As business owners, people want to know that we have a conscious. We are in a business that is value driven with organizations who take on initiatives for important causes. It’s time to reinforce the good part about what we do for a living and emphasize good deeds you’re able to do for your community (but make sure it’s authentic). Support a local deli you love, organize supply drops, help fellow consultants, etc…
GENERAL TIPS FROM EVERYONE
- Demonstrate a value to your marketplace. Think about scheduling virtual happy hours, contests, show & tells and more to keep your company relevant and engaged with your client base.
- Invest in remote hardware and software for your staff if they are not already equipped with this. Invest in IT security for your business as well.
- Some virtual resources the presenters recommend are Zoom, DOMO and Slack.
- Culture matters. Be a leader and empower your staff to step up and think creatively. Pay attention to your staff who thrive in this environment, they may prove to be future leaders at your company.
- Think outside the box. What are some ways you can apply your tools in today’s environment that can provide a solution to the challenge of losing the face-to-face medium with voters? One example Jaimey Sexton, The Sexton Group, shared was how he is using the Tele-Town Hall platform to substitute for public comment. This way things like zoning meetings, budget meetings and more can still be held and allow for the public to weigh in.