Silver Linings Playbook: What Opportunities May Lie Ahead for Businesses In the Wake of COVID-19
In my original commentary on the threat of COVID-19, I ended with a quote about letting crises refine an organization rather than define it. We as business owners have found ourselves in a whole new environment – working remote, an abrupt halt to business travel, and changing focus from managing growth to managing costs, to name a few. At the beginning of all this, our leadership team had a saying: once this crisis passes, we never again want to hear, “we haven’t had time for that.” We saw this as an opportunity to get caught up on a backlog of projects and to make process improvements that would help our company navigate the crisis in the short term while building equity in our business long term. Below, I share some of our decisions.
Adopt new technologies
For years, we have discussed the benefits of using a workflow software such as “Microsoft Teams,” but we hadn’t gotten around to implementing it. By the end of the first week of remote work, we had Teams up and running, and we have found it an extremely effective way to communicate and organize initiatives in each department. It keeps my inbox uncluttered and ensures that all relevant parties are up to speed on each initiative. The video chat also makes it easier to collaborate from afar – even though some well-meaning 2-year-olds occasionally make an appearance! We have also leveraged GroupMe chats to stay connected with team members who do not have company email, and we have continued with our monthly all-firm meetings virtually.
Automate and Streamline
With typical processes interrupted both for our staff and our clients, we have looked for ways to streamline and automate critical processes related to our cash flow. From automating invoice payment to digitizing deposits, we have improved our accounts receivable process. We have also streamlined our client onboarding process to reduce friction for new clients. The paperwork process used to be cumbersome and create roadblocks for clients. Employees, in turn, would spend hours of their time chasing down missing paperwork. By digitizing the process, we now receive important information for setting up an account within minutes rather than weeks. Clients appreciate the easy-to-use interface, and we are able to begin service quicker.
Discover clients’ new problems – and solve them
The uncertainty of our current environment has disrupted our sales pipeline as many prospects put capital spending on hold. However, innovation is a core value, and we’re always looking for ways to improve. As a result, we are looking for the new problems our clients face in this environment and asking ourselves, “how are we uniquely positioned to solve this problem?” We have several examples:
- Sourcing PPE – After hearing about one healthcare client’s emergent need for PPE for their staff, we were able to leverage our network to help them procure hundreds of thousands of protective masks within days. We didn’t supply them, but I was able to leverage my contacts to forge that connection and ultimately solve the problem.
- Healthcare Logistics Services – we’ve begun helping healthcare providers within a ~ 100-mile radius of Thomasville, Georgia, including the communities of Albany, Valdosta, Moultrie, Tifton, Bainbridge, and Tallahassee. We are providing medical supply storage, inventory management, and transportation to hospitals and primary care physicians as needs arise. HLS is designed to relieve hospital staff of logistical and administrative burdens and solve the problem of limited space for storing critical supplies.
- Scan on Demand digital delivery – Many businesses have delayed transitioning from hardcopy to digital records. Now that they are working from home, the inefficiencies of their current storage system are coming to a head, as staff have to go onsite to find and interact with others for access to records. We have helped professional offices navigate the current crisis by managing their hardcopy records and scanning files to remote workers as they are needed.
- No Touch Shred Service – We have made changes to our service procedures to reduce contact between our staff and our clients. We provide a 96-gallon bin to clients to serve their own internal collection bins, then meet our driver at their door to have the material shredded. This eliminates any unnecessary entrants into the office, thereby lessening exposure of clients’ office staff and our drivers.
Look for inorganic growth opportunities
This time will be challenging for everyone, and the unfortunate reality is that many businesses will not make it through the crisis. Businesses with a healthy balance sheet and access to credit will find it a ripe time to grow by acquisition. In 2019, SRS made its first with another shred company, ShredEZ out of Adel, GA. While we are interested in continuing to grow by merging with other companies in our core service lines of document management and shredding, we are also interested in leveraging our values and management team to grow into other service industries. Criteria for businesses with whom we want to partner include the following:
- Reoccurring revenue model
- Growing industry/need for the solution
- Businesses with less than $5M in revenue.
We believe we will be able to take a business to the next level by leveraging our values, management team, technology and service expertise, and financial resources.
What silver linings do you see in this economic environment? Do you feel your business will be poised to take advantage when the time is right?