Minimum Business Maintenance in Trying Times

Securing solid business outcomes in time-starved environments.

Anyone out there love irony as much as I do? See, if you’re a subscriber, you received not one but two issues this month. And, of course, you read From the Editor in March to find out how to come meet me, and the entire Signs of the Times team, at the ISA Sign Expo, just before it was rescheduled to August 22-25. Of course, we will be there in force at the rescheduled show.

As we manage uncertainty around COVID-19, we still have a job to do. Before the virus struck, we compiled the Black Book, our annual resource guide, I also put together this list of business basics. Below are opportunities – musts, really – for time-starved businesspeople to secure maximal outcomes as efficiently as possible.

Meet weekly with direct reports. OK, this one’s more than minimal effort, but the potential payoff is huge. (Retention, anyone?) Discuss company priorities as well as their day-to-day; what’s going well, where do they need support?

Conduct annual systems and vendors reviews. Are you receiving preferred pricing? Are products, software and systems working well? Have contractual obligations been met? What can vendors still promise, in today’s landscape?

Update your website. Once a year, make sure that staff lists are accurate, “contact us” forms are functional, social media links reflect accounts being regularly updated, and that your portfolio has at least a few new photos. Include information on how you are addressing COVID-19; curious customers easily become anxious customers in the absence of updated information.

Set goals. Strategic planning is ideal (see "Strategic Planning for Survival"). At minimum, conduct a yearly sales meeting to review what worked – and what didn’t. Identify key opportunities and set a time frame for going after them. Align your budget and calendars with these priorities. When things are hectic, zoom in on your planning a bit more; give yourself more room to update plans, and goals with shorter time frames.

Continuing education. Devote a couple hours a week, or, at minimum, one to two work days per year to leaving your office to meet other signmakers, learn about the industry or serve as an industry advocate. Hint: There are webinars galore about COVID-19 right now. Or check our ongoing news coverage and business resources related to the virus.

Survey your team. Once a year, have an informal roundtable or happy hour, or set up a Survey Monkey survey (the site has a free version with suggested questions) to learn what your employees care about, from benefits to social events, then review your personnel policies. Would you want yourself as an employer? What are their top concerns right now?

Interview key customers. Identify your top three to five accounts. Each quarter, schedule one 15-30 minute phone call with no sales pitch. Ask what’s important to them, how they’re adapting to life amidst COVID-19, and more. Offer your expertise as appropriate and listen more than you talk. In these trying times, offer what you can generously. Consider some free support – the more businesses that survive the coming economic downturn, the better. 

This Black Book again presents listings from top industry manufacturers and suppliers. This year, we’ve partnered with ISA to complement our coverage with an updated and expanded list of resources, as well as an in-depth look at sign industry hurdles and potential solutions. 

We look forward to seeing you online, in print and out in the world once the pandemic abates, and we’ll be here, virtually, to keep you abreast of all the changes.