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Pandemic Thinking: How to Keep Your Head in the (Long) Game

By RJon Robins

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The COVID-19 pandemic is crippling and toppling many U.S. small businesses. Often called “the backbone of the economy,” small businesses that are managing to survive face an uncertain future.

 As states start to reopen, consumer spending is in steep decline while unemployment skyrockets and many people remain hesitant to venture out. Some entrepreneurs find their businesses in trouble because they had the wrong mindset toward customers all along. 

 Small-business owners everywhere are infected by pandemic thinking. But they were infected with this thinking before the pandemic. It’s only now the strategic weakness of short-term, fear-based, transactional thinking in all different kinds of businesses is becoming more obvious. Pandemic thinkers ask the wrong question, “What can you do for me today?” Rather than, “How can we work together to build a long-term mutually-profitable relationship?”

Business owners who built long-term relationships with customers and clients can weather this storm. Those who didn’t think this way before can adopt elements of this kind of thinking and they will start seeing the benefits almost right away.

 Here are three tips for small-business owners on how to develop long-term relationships that benefit both customers and businesses:

• When first meeting, look ahead at the relationship 10 years from now. The scale of a person’s thinking has a lot to do with whether they win the game. Look for all opportunities to be of service, even in some small way, to earn the right to call the person a client. Every deal doesn’t have to be a grand slam. Just get on base. Just get into the game. That way you can discover opportunities to be of greater service and have a client for life.

• Show you care. A lot of people don’t know how to show that they care. Ask yourself when is the last time you called to check on a former client to find out what’s happened in their life or business since the last time you did business together? What are their plans for the future? What can you take off their plate and help them with today even if what they need is just someone to help them think things through? Good relationships built over time are especially evident during the pandemic. Ironically, though, a pandemic is a perfect time to begin a marketing campaign like this and besides, you probably have a lot of free time on your hands anyway.

• Have a long-term business plan. A business being run without a 12-month, forward-looking budget is like a car being driven with a windshield covered in mud, and on an unfamiliar road with no particular place to go. A business that is being run without weekly cash-flow projections is like a person stumbling around in the dark in an unfamiliar house. To take an active, consistent interest in your clients and develop programs encouraging them to keep coming back, it helps to have a long-term written plan for your own business.

Businesses generate revenue by solving problems for their clients and customers. And right now there’s an abundance of problems, which is another way to say there’s an abundance of opportunities. Whether you already have or decide to begin developing great long-term relationships with clients, it’s an investment that will pay long-term dividends.                                  

RJon Robins is founder and CEO of “How To Manage A Small Law Firm” (www.howtomanageasmalllawfirm.com), which provides management services for the solo and small law firm market. 

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