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Business During the Coronavirus: Learning from the Past, Living in the Present, and Preparing for the Future

Revisiting “The Collapse You Survived” for today’s challenges.

coronavirus work from home

As I remain in isolation with my family, fielding requests from friends and partners for advice during these unusual times, I find myself looking back to move forward.

First and foremost on my mind is my grandmother Julia Berry — God bless her! Raised during the Depression, she put all us boys to work at 12 and made us buy our own cars at 16 (for cash). At 18, she made us move out and support ourselves.  By the time I turned 21, I had a good job for five years, a high school education, and many night school classes at the local community college. She also co-signed the loan for my first house for $118,000, which I paid it off by the time I was 30.

My life — as well as the lives of my son, cousin, uncle, and brothers — have been a blessing because of those lessons, but, for so many it’s way harder to face the financial uncertainty we face now.

Her values are echoed in this article, and, although it may be too late to help in this crisis, it is a good way to live once we get our feet back under us.

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Here and Now
I find when things get tough, my resolve and focus come from taking a step back, gathering the facts, getting advisors, and making a plan. Panic and overreacting are a waste of time and effort. But as cool and calm as I think I am, I’ve been caught up in my head with the same stress we all have. I need to do a little Dale Carnegie and stop worrying and start living.

Jeremy Burkhardt
Jeremy Burkhardt

Here are the things I need to focus on improving with my friends, family, and partners:

  • Communication — Must be tight, exact, and on-point
  • Clash of Personalities — I have a huge ego, am extremely driven…and am usually the dick
  • Clashing Values — I’ve experienced this a few times, and know how to survive. As the business owner, compassion is needed.
  • Competition — Capitalism rules the world, but now is the time for us to focus inward
  • Warring Egos — Ego is the enemy
  • Leadership — We are the employer and manufacturer, we will be bigger someday than we are today, and we will get there together
  • Honesty — I find that doing and saying what my Depression-era grandmother would is working out okay
  • Stress — It’s all in your head; make changes, adapt, make a plan, and attack

Now is the time to do what’s right for you and your family. The government, as unfair as this bailout seems to be, will be here for you, and a lot of debt forgiveness is going to happen. We will get through this, and when we do, you need to be prepared…

Back in August 2010, as we were coming out of the recession of 2008, I wrote an article for Residential Systems called “The Collapse You Survived” about getting back to business. I was re-reading the story, and what I said then will be just as relevant when we can get back to work after this pandemic passes.

Here is that story, slightly edited to reflect today’s concerns.

The Collapse You Survived 2020
If you are like most people, then you are working twice as hard for half the money, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. If you are reading this, I am going to make the gross assumption that you are still in business and have weathered one of the toughest economic times in our country’s history (and it’s not over yet).

It’s All About Profits. The best way to stay in business is by selling superior products for higher margin and providing a better value to the consumer. Anyone can make and provide either cheap or overpriced products and adequate service. You must constantly differentiate yourself with better products, better quality of installation, and better after-the-sale support. All of these things come at a higher price.

Know Your Value Proposition. You should always provide better sound and video quality, systems that are easier to operate, cleaner installations, a relationship based on integrity, and an overall better value. You decide what the value differentiators are and highlight them as you present your proposal to the client, including your install process, your forward commitment, and a serious service contract.

Remember that you set the level of profit that you want to hit. You choose the staff and what they get paid. You decide on your building, your demo facility, and your vehicles. You determine all expenses. If things cost too much, make cuts now.

If you have to be your own best salesman to survive, then do it. Make the hard choices so that you can continue be a great service provider to your clients and a great provider for your family. Remember that your client’s trust and your desire to please them should always come first, both consciously and subconsciously.

Powered by You. If you’re a good salesman, then you should do what you say that you’re going to do, and your service and finished product should be better than what the customer expected. In this economy you must find new clients anywhere that money exists, from car showrooms to country clubs.

You can’t depend on anyone to help you. You have to constantly get referrals from every client and market yourself in the community. Don’t get trapped behind your desk, because business occurs outside and not in your office. Go find the clients and use print materials, promotions, and technology to hook them.

You already have survived a very tough time. Now go prove that you are worthy of that survival. Being slow and conservative isn’t for you or for now. Now is the time to rise up and go create the market and circumstances that you desire.

There must be urgency in your vocabulary and your actions. If you have to bust out all the old files from past clients and call everyone and offer a personal visit to check out their system and make recommendations, do it. Do whatever it takes to make business happen.

Head high, stay strong.

Jeremy will be delivering the morning keynote for AVNation’s Residential LFH Virtual Event on Tuesday, April 7 at 8:00 AM. Click here for more information and to register.