We are in an unprecedented time, and many people are in fear-induced paralysis. This guide will help small business owners take action, and create and distribute a 90-day plan.
Having a plan will help inspire you towards immediate action and we hope that this action will motivate the stakeholders in your business to make the sacrifices needed to rise and grow from this once-in-a-lifetime event.
If you’d like help with this, we are hosting a free private Facebook group of small business owners here. We’ve shared some additional examples of 90-day plans and are helping other business owners with their’s.
Intro and About the Authors
We are Acquira, an investment and training company that helps entrepreneurs acquire an existing business – and then trains them to systematize and improve those businesses.
Our expertise is developing systematic frameworks for newly acquired businesses to assess the situation, optimize operations, and grow the business.
We’re not just a training company and also own and operate over a dozen businesses, all with remote teams.
We find ourselves in a completely unprecedented scenario, and we see a lot of businesses that are hurting right now.
We asked ourselves “how can we be most useful?”, and decided to take our experience in developing systematic frameworks for newly acquired businesses and turn it into a free framework that any business can follow.
Goal of this Guide
- Our main goal is that you (as a business owner) can walk away with a solid 90-day plan on how to improve your business.
- Having a plan will help inspire you towards immediate action, as we’ve noticed that the first instinct for many in these times (including ourselves) is to freeze and binge on news (or Netflix).
- We hope that this action will motivate the stakeholders in your business to make the sacrifices needed to rise and grow from this once-in-a-lifetime event.
- The concepts in this guide are intentionally general purpose – to be used by nearly any type of business. Acquira typically invests in home services and digital services businesses – and we have much more data on those types of businesses. Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] with any feedback, questions or specific thoughts.
- Note: This is a living document. We will update it constantly based on new information and feedback. We will leave a note and date for each update, as well as a change-log.
Assessing the Situation
This guide is going to assume you’re relatively well educated in the pandemic, and it’s health and economic consequences. If you aren’t, we recommend reading these two medium articles, as well as a summary of the original Imperial College paper that put much of the world on alert:
- Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now
- Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance
- Summary of the original Imperial College Paper
Firstly, if you’re in an area that isn’t yet in lockdown, expect lockdown. We are not involved in epidemiology or policy, this is just spoken from a place of common-sense.
Prepare for the worst plausible scenario. This is what the numbers in lockdown look like, and based on your sector you should project your revenues to see similar adjustments.
Governmental Financial Support
As you suspect, businesses have been decimated by the government-mandated shutdowns happening across the world.
To get perspective on the actual numbers, this excellent presentation shows how restaurants, services businesses, and other core businesses have been impacted over the past few weeks.
Many US business owners have applied for financial support from the government during these times.
In the US, the majority of this support has come from a $2 trillion dollar stimulus approved by the government in March 2020. $377 billion of these funds are allocated to small businesses and are administrated by the SBA in the form of SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and the CARES Act (or Paycheck Protection Program).
Below are a few of the best external sources we have found to learn about these programs and which will be a fit for you:
- A comparison of the available SBA programs and who is eligible
- Calculating what amount you may be eligible for under the CARES act
- A list of the most active SBA lenders
- A list of various state relief programs outside of SBA
We have reviewed these programs extensively for our own portfolio and encourage every small business owner to apply to the program that best suits them.
A few key tips to keep in mind when evaluating these programs:
- Apply as soon as possible. Funds are limited and are available on a first come first serve basis. We suggest prioritizing these loan applications above any non-mission critical activity in your business
- If the amounts you qualify for are similar under the EIDL and CARES act are similar, consider opting for the CARES act which has a portion of the loans as forgivable (aka free money)
- Apply with banks where you already have a business loan outstanding (credit card, line of credit, auto loan, etc). If you don’t have a business loan with any financial financial institution, apply to a lender where you have a business bank account.
- As an alternative, consider applying to specialty lenders that are approved by the SBA to administer these loans (as they may have a smaller queue than your own bank).
- Based on initial discussions amongst actual applicants, it seems that these loans are being delayed, and funds offered are often less than expected by business owners. For an active (and unfiltered) discussion of the actual results business owners are seeing from these program, visit the reddit small business community.
Overall, as you build your 90-day plan, keep in mind that you may not receive the amount of funding you are expecting (possibly 75-80% less than expected) – and the receipt of funds may not come for another 60-90 days.
Banks as well as the SBA are not equipped for the volume of loan requests entering into the system – and are already becoming overwhelmed.
Note: If you are not based in the US, many other countries have similar programs for small business owners. We highly suggest that you prioritize figuring out exactly what types of funds (loans, grants, tax breaks) you may qualify for – and then move on to the rest of the guide.
Your 90-Day Plan
The goal of this guide is to help you to create a 90 day plan – broken down by what to do each day. It will cover your finances, product offering, marketing strategy, communication schedule with your team, and changes to your workflow by going remote.
The plan is split into 3 simple worksheets that act as calendars – here’s what the calendar is going to look like:
Here are the 3 worksheets for the next 90 days for you to print:
And here’s a completed version for one of our businesses (an HVAC business with ~30 employees):
Overview of this Guide
Each chapter gives you instruction based on Acquira’s core business principles and research around the current environment. We try to only share strategies that we actually implement in our own businesses, which is why we talk at length about what we have done or are doing. When we share good external advice, we will cite the source and disclose if we aren’t currently practicing it.
Each chapter also provides a framework to follow to help you identify what needs to be done, and add it to your 90 Day Plan.
- Print the 90 day plan chart (right now!)
- Commit to reading this guide and filling it out!
- Share this with others who you think would benefit from it:
Chapter 1: Assessing Finances
While you should always have a thorough understanding of your finances and cash flow, it is important now more than ever to have them under control during these uncertain times.
In this section, we will go over how to assess your current financial situation as well as recommend solutions to many common problems.
About the Author
Hi I’m Jeremy, I live in a cool little college town in north central Florida. After attending the Academy of Finance at my high school, I jumped right into an accounting curriculum and got my masters in Accounting from the University of Florida in 2009. After completing several internships I went to work in the tax department for a top 30 accounting firm for a couple of years. There I was able to work on several different businesses and learned a lot about systems and implementation.
From there I went to work in management as President of a multi-unit restaurant group. I oversaw several expansions and helped double the revenue in just 5 years. In this role I strengthened my ability to create systems that improved operational efficiencies and run a team of 40+ staff.
Most recently, I started building my own online business that led to an introduction to Hayden Miyamoto. After a while, Hayden recruited me to one of his internships located in Valle de Bravo, Mexico. There I learned even more about systems and operations from the Wired Investors team and was invited to be one of the first employees at Acquira.
I was born and raised in Gainesville, Florida and married my high school sweetheart. We currently have two children which bring us our greatest joy in life. Read more about me here.
Assessing Short Term Pitfalls
Chances are that you have already seen some changes in your business and if not, they are on the way.
Some industries, like the hospitality industry, have seen their sales plummet almost overnight while other industries have yet to see a difference – or possibly even an uptick in sales. However, it is better to get ahead of any future changes even if you have not yet seen any negative impact on your business.
In the below section, we will provide an overview of the steps you can take to understand your financial position – and improve it to the best of your ability.
Let’s start by creating a financial forecast. We do this so we can understand immediately how our actions impact the cash on hand – and what things should be prioritized.
Creating A Quick Financial Forecast
The first thing we did at Acquira when our businesses started becoming impacted by the pandemic was working with our portfolio companies to create a financial forecast of our short-term cash flow.
Whether your company uses accrual basis or cash-basis accounting, we encourage you to run this forecast on a cash basis. This is because what is important at this stage is to manage your cash on hand – more so than managing your profitability.
If you have more than 3 months of cash on hand (including access to credit), we suggest building the forecast on a monthly basis.
If you have less than 3 months of cash, we suggest building the forecast on a daily basis.
If you use accounting software and update your books frequently (at least once a month), you can start by exporting the last 3 months of financial data from your accounting system into microsoft excel. In addition, you should download your bank transactions for the last 3 months (ideally in spreadsheet format).
If you don’t use accounting software, or your bookkeeper runs financials less frequently than monthly, you can rely on your bank statements for financial data.
Once you have access to your historical numbers, create a spreadsheet to use for your forecast.
Here’s an example of a completed financial forecast. Feel free to make a copy of this sheet and use it for your own.
Once you have your spreadsheet, label the last 3 months as months 1, 2, and 3 (if you don’t have accounting statements, you can recreate these using your bank statements).
We suggest focusing on material revenues and expenses for this forecast (so as not to get caught up in small details). If a cost is less than 2% of revenue (postage stamps, etc.) or a revenue item is very small (plastic bags at a grocery store) you can ignore them for this exercise.
While every company keeps their books in their own way, for this exercise, we suggest segmenting your expenses into fixed costs and variable costs.
Next, Estimate Fixed Costs
Fixed costs are those that don’t change based on how much you sell. Fixed costs include:
- Fixed Payroll (excluding overtime/commissions/bonuses)
- Insurance Costs
- Licensing Fees
- Subscription software
- Other fixed costs (fixed interest expenses)
List the relevant fixed costs from the list above (as well as any additional fixed items specific to your business) and determine which day the payments are made. Enter the fixed payment amount into your spreadsheet on the appropriate day each month (or more frequently if expenses are billed more frequently).
Estimating Sales (Revenue)
Next, you should forecast your sales for the next 90 days.
This may be the hardest part of the exercise as many states and local cities are issuing shelter-in-place orders and no one really knows how long this will last.
A few ways you can consider forecasting your daily sales include:
Forecasting by day of week
- Some businesses are highly dependent on the day of the week. Look at the last 3 months, if during the 12 weeks during that period, your sales followed a predictable pattern by day of week, you can list out that trend (i.e. 5% of weekly sales on Sunday, 15% on monday, and 20% per day on Tuesday – Saturday)
- Then in this scenario, predict your total revenue for the week, and allocate those sales by day using the percentages above
Forecasting by % growth
- Alternately, you may have steady business by day of week, but your sales could grow (or shrink) based on time.
- In this scenario, you can grow (or shrink) your sales estimate by a percentage each day/week
No matter how you forecast, it is better to be conservative here so you should estimate sales on the low end of what you are thinking.
Other key tips on sales forecasts:
- Don’t forget about any orders that you may already have on the books but maybe you just haven’t fulfilled yet
- Account for potential economy or pandemic-related sales cancellations if they exist in your business
- If your revenue occurs on payment terms (i.e. you generate accounts receivable), only use cash revenue in the revenue row. Account for any paid receivables in the “Additional funding sources” section of the spreadsheet (making sure to be extra conservative on payment terms – as other businesses are likely struggling as well).
After forecasting sales, we can estimate variable costs which are those that change each month based on your sales or other factors (hours worked by employee, miles driven, etc).
Variable costs include:
- Direct materials/inventory
- Variable wages (wages for hourly workers, tips, bonuses, commissions)
- Credit card fees
- Gas mileage for vehicles
Generally, we want to forecast variable costs based on our sales estimates above.
After you have filled in your estimated sales you can begin filling out your variable costs, which are usually expressed as a percentage of sales.
You can use the historical percentage of the statements that you just printed or if you think it might change based on the current situation, you should use that number.
Make sure you only include costs on the day you incur the expense (i.e. pay the sales commission, pay for the inventory, etc.)
From here you should total up all of the different sales items as well as the expenses so you can calculate the net cash flow.
Underneath your cash flow, you should also list out any debt payments that won’t be reflected on the profit and loss statement so you can calculate your true cash flow needs. Again use your bank statements (or contracts) to determine actual dates that expenses are due.
Feel free to forecast out longer than 3 months if you feel it is necessary, however, this should give you a quick glance at what to expect in the coming days and when you might run out of cash.
What to do Next
Now let’s shift gears into actionable decisions we can make to extend your runway and cash you have on hand. Our overall goal is to ensure we have 90-days of cash on hand – which gives us time to ride out the current environment and implement other changes in our business.
Some of these financial decisions are obvious, others are difficult – but they should all be done if you have concerns about your cash flow – with a goal of getting to 90-days of cash on hand.
The quickest thing you can do to preserve cash is to cut your expenses. First rank them in order from highest to lowest and focus on the highest first. You should analyze your previously created cash flow analysis and determine any unnecessary expenses that you could cut out right away.
This includes expenses that are nice to have but are not necessary such as (water/coffee subscriptions, etc)
This could also include tasks that you outsource such as marketing, payroll or other items that you might be able to do yourself.
Unnecessary technology is another item you might be able to cut. There are many free versions of software out there that are just as capable of paid versions.
Late fees from banks or credit cards. Make sure you keep up with due dates and paying bills on time to avoid these unnecessary expenses.
Advertising is another expense you should analyze thoroughly. Many consumers have lost their jobs or have seen a reduction in their income, so they may not be spending as freely as they once were. You may be better off saving your ad budget for when your customers are making back to making purchasing decisions.
Another tactic might be to shift any annual expenses to monthly, in order to avoid big cash outflows. Review upcoming renewals ASAP.
Your overarching goal here is to make your cash on hand last AT LEAST 90 days (preferably much more). Considering the average small business has 27 days float, this will take some quick and effective decision-making. Again, we find it important to mention here, that you should not go overboard here. Focus on things that actually move the needle. Switching from two-ply to single-ply toilet paper probably won’t impact anything – except your team’s general demeanor.
Notes on Cutting Staff
Unfortunately, you may also need to let go of some team members who are no longer needed or not performing. This is always tough decision but losing your business in order to pay staff for a few extra weeks rarely does yourself or your employees any favors. Employees would often benefit from having certainty about their role sooner – so they can find their next position. And the deeper and more decisively you do make any decisions on reductions – the more time you afford the business to succeed.
Checking Insurance Coverage
Most liability insurance does not cover interruption or service from this type of pandemic. However, you may be the exception. It is worth reviewing your insurance policy if it provides any coverage for pandemic-like situations.
Salary Reductions or Furlough
Another way to reduce your cash flow is to ask employees to take a temporary pay or hours cut. If your business has reduced revenue in the current environment, you can offer employees the option of being laid off or taking a reduced salary. As long as you are paying them more than what they would earn during unemployment, many will appreciate the gesture – vs the alternative of being laid off or the business shutting down.
A rule of thumb with salary reductions is that senior team members and managers are generally expected to bear the bulk of salary reductions.
Furlough is another alternative = whereby workers can be temporarily laid off (allowing them access to government unemployment benefits) – while allowing them to return to work when conditions improve.
Stretching your accounts payable (or paying vendors later) is a strategy as old as business itself. That’s because it works.
Work with your key vendors to see if they are willing to accept delayed payments. Many will accommodate 30-60 day payments – especially if you are an important customer, have several other options for vendors in your niche, or have not had payment issues in the past.
Delayed payments are not a silver bullet however. They can come with interest expenses, negative notations on business credit reports, and damaged relationships. Additionally, only delay payments that you do have confidence will be paid later.
Also be aware that many vendors have their own cash flow constraints and may not be able to accommodate delays. In situations where delays are not possible, you may also ask vendors to pay via credit card vs bank draft (which can buy you another 30 days without interest).
Miscommunicating with vendors about payment timing is a quick way to damage your company’s reputation.
Deciding to Close The Doors
Suspending operations should also be an option that you might consider. With local governments ordering lockdowns, they are essentially shutting down large portions of the economy.
You should run the calculations on whether you will save money by shutting your doors for a period of time (if your revenue from staying open is less than the extra costs incurred from staying open, you should consider temporarily shutting down).
This may reduce your overall cash burn – and extend your runway longer – enabling you to ride out the pandemic.
Do note however that some government stimulus programs are only valid for companies that keep staff on payroll during the current environment.
Keeping Good Corporate Hygiene
One thing to keep in mind during this environment is to maintain healthy corporate hygiene when it comes to your financials and human resources, especially if you are considering applying for financing or a sale in the near future.
Messy books can make it more difficult to obtain financing and in general is just a bad practice.
Be sure to keep personal expenses out of the company and if you do have to loan the company money, document it properly. Try not to pay bills from personal accounts (instead make a documented loan to the business) and don’t take cash out of the business (make a documented loan or distribution out of the business).
Document each transaction so that your bookkeeper can perform bank reconciliations on a regular basis. When the cash coming in and out of your business does not tie out to your bank account, it can become very difficult to qualify for a loan or to sell your business.
Make sure you save important paperwork, either paper copies or preferably digital copies so that you can go back and review them when you need to.
Also, file your 2019 taxes as soon as possible, (especially if 2019 was stronger than 2018). Many lenders will look at the most recent tax return to determine borrowability.
Working With Creditors / Vendors / Landlords
As mentioned, our goal here is extending our cash runway to 90 days. The above cost cuts may not be enough – especially if you have experienced a major drop in revenue.
In this section, we will discuss working with your creditors, your vendors and your landlord. Keep in mind many of these stakeholders may be in the same situation as you are, so whenever you can afford to pay a bill, you probably should.
Force Majeure / Acts of God In Contracts And Agreements
A force majeure clause is present in many commercial contracts but they are not often handled well. A force majeure event excuses a party from fulfilling its obligation under certain circumstances that are out of their control. The coronavirus is certainly out of everyone’s control and is limiting many businesses’ ability to pay bills.
The first thing you should do is review all major contracts you have (lease, vendor agreements, loan agreements, etc)
Whether your contracts have this or not, it is in your best interest to communicate early and often with the other party to a contract.
This can be done in writing (with a simple statement that due to the current pandemic, you are unable to meet your financial obligations under your contract and are enacting the force majeure clause in your contract).
If you don’t feel comfortable communicating directly with a contracted party, consider asking a lawyer how to best approach a force majeure clause in a contract. Throughout any difficult negotiations it is important to keep in mind that the other party is (usually) not the enemy. They should be treated as someone you intend to maintain a long-term relationship with as times improve.
Negotiating Your Lease, Loan Payments or Other Contracts
Again, don’t take a combative approach with contracted parties and try not to threaten. Your landlord is a long-term stakeholder in your business, treat them as such.
Try to understand what a landlord values so you can negotiate a win-win outcome. You are a valuable resource. The cost of replacing you is very significant. Know where you stand in terms of replacement value, and demonstrate you will be a going concern.
They want to maintain you as a tenant, have you pay your bills on time, and ensure the property is maintained while you are there.
They are also likely inundated with tenants that cannot pay their bills. In order to make it easy for them to help you, we suggest having a very clear ask. In particular, you may look into whether the following alternatives are most appropriate for your situation:
- Blend and extend (offer an early lease renewal in exchange for more favorable rent terms)
- Deferred rent (request that missed payments are deferred until the end of the lease – or averaged into future months)
- Short-term rental relief – i.e. getting 3 months no rent for adding an extra year extension on the backend of their lease.
This is an approach that can generate a win-win for both you and your landlord. You get short-term relief and the landlord gets longer-term stability with you as a tenant.
What are your options if the landlord says “screw you”?
Hopefully, this will not be the case since it is highly doubtful that many other businesses would be knocking on your landlord’s door to rent out your space during these times.
Under normal circumstances subleasing may have been an option but this might prove difficult for the situation that we are in.
If you choose not to pay an obligation based on any clause that might be in your contract, just know that many landlords or creditors still have the right to provide you with a notice of default.
Again you should seek legal counsel if you’re not able to work out an agreement.
If these options don’t work, or the property is seized by the lender, check to see if you have an SNDA (Non-disturbance and Attornment clause) in your lease.
This clause establishes a relationship between you as a tenant and the lender for the property that your landlord owns. The non-disturbance in another clause that gives you the right to continue to operate with the lender as your new landlord if your current landlord defaults on the mortgage. These are usually negotiated before the lease is signed but if you have one now is a good time to review it.
Other avenues you should evaluate during the lease negotiating process include:
- Understanding what go dark provisions are (are you already in default?)
- Understanding what the landlords responsibilities and obligations are and if they have failed to meet any obligations recently (does this provide you with any negotiating ammunition)
- Evaluate any restoration clauses and costs in the agreement (how much will it cost you to move out of the property)
- Evaluate any holdover costs associated with not moving out after an inability to pay relevant obligations
Finance Checklist (DO THIS)
- Apply for governmental financial support
- Download your 3 most recent monthly accounting and bank statements
- Create a 90 day cash flow forecast
- Identify opportunities to reduce costs and short-term cash needs
- Locate your lease, contracts or loan documents and read them to identify opportunities to negotiate
- Consult with professionals and don’t act impulsively
- Keep your financials and projections up to date and in order
- Consider filing your 2019 taxes (especially if 2019 was a strong year)
- Stay in close communication with all stakeholders. Don’t ghost them!
DON’T DO THIS
- DON’T assume you can avoid paying landlords or creditors. These agreements can be negotiated – but they won’t go away
- DON’T panic but DO prepare for the future. Communicate with your team and customers. Create and execute your game plan.
- DON’T keep spending money on unnecessary expenses. This is the time to evaluate all cash inflows and outflows of your business.
Adding Finances to your 90-day Plan
The above is quite a bit of work, it will likely take you all day. That being said, it’s very important that you take action. We suggest that having read the above section you pick at least 3 items that you think are important, and add them to your 90-day plan, under the finance sections. Label them as A) B) and C) and mark a deadline by adding an A, B, and C on the appropriate day of April.
Here’s an example of this filled out:
If you’d like help with this, we are hosting a free private Facebook group of small business owners here. We’ve shared some additional examples of 90-day plans and are helping other business owners with their’s.
Chapter 2: Product and Marketing Pivots
Challenging times are when you can take the opportunity to really stand out from your competition. You can either stand out as the company that was compassionate and supported its community during tough times or you can stand out as the company that mistreated its employees and engaged in aggressive marketing and sales strategies.
Generally speaking, marketing is less effective during times of great economic shock. Accordingly, this is your chance to dial down your direct sales efforts and instead focus on being there for your team members, customers and community. People will remember the kind gestures during tough times and overwhelmingly tend to reward that behavior long-term.In this chapter we’ll cover how to do marketing right in this environment – demonstrated through examples of companies that benefited from the right communication and others that were hurt in their attempt to capitalize on people’s weaknesses during these tough times.
In addition, we’ll help you take stock of your collective assets so you can determine if any product pivots would be beneficial to your customers and your business.
About the Author
Vlad here. Originally from Romania, but now live in Toronto with my beautiful wife and 2 super active twin boys (soon to be turning 2 years old).
I started in the digital marketing space just over 10 years ago and have helped several small to mid-sizes businesses along with a handful of Fortune 500 companies scale their organic traffic in the first 2 years of my career. I quickly realized that I was pretty good at what I was doing and decided to challenge myself and took a role at Expedia.ca being responsible for their SEO channel. After increasing their transactions by 126% in 2 years I decided that it was time to start my own agency and have been doing that for the last 6 years.
Being very intrigued by Acquira’s mandate, I was super excited to join the amazing team and help out with growing the businesses we’re involved with. I am super stoked to be part of the team and to share some of the knowledge I acquired and kept to myself for the last 10 years. Read more about me here.
Lead Your Customers
Forget about the sale, focus on creating value
I’m sure your inbox has already blown up with companies you haven’t heard from in months (or even years) offering COVID sales. pre-sales or coupons. And I’m sure you can agree that it’s annoying, desperate, and unthoughtful. Don’t make this same mistake.
Your customers are going through a tough time too and you have an incredible opportunity to selflessly serve them and provide value. This can build tremendous good will, and when the world returns to normal, you will be able to more effectively communicate with your customers and drive sales a more authentic way and redeem some of that good will.
Here is an example of an email that was sent out by a small business, a candle eCommerce store, that received great praise in its community from its customers.
It’s important to note how there was 0 attempt to sell a product and no links to their website in this email communication. As you can imagine, this was very refreshing for their customers to get during a time when everyone else was trying to sell them something. The customers felt cared for and (perhaps unexpectedly) responded by flooding their website with orders. Right after that email, The Candle Lab received 10X more orders than usual.
Your 90 day plan should include communications to your customers and you should spend some time deciding what unique value your company can provide to selflessly help people in a time of need.
You should also be transparent and open about how this situation might affect your product/service and what that looks like. Make sure your customer support is strong at a time like this. The last thing you want is to take a gesture of goodwill and have it manifest into confusion and lack of clarity via poor support or follow-on communication.
Handling Refund Requests
You may find yourself in a situation where many customers will want refunds or credits. If this will threaten to put you out of business, you should be transparent about the circumstances and communicate that if everyone gets what they want, you’ll be forced to close for good. Be sure to be empathetic to their situation and seek to understand before being understood.
If you have the ability, ask if there is some way you can meet halfway. Look for a win-win. You may not be in a position to do this, but if you are, it will be appreciated and remembered.
An Example of What NOT to Do
As an example of what NOT to do in a situation such as this one, is try to sell customers a product or service they won’t benefit from. An example of this is coming from a loan comparison website, which we won’t name here. This company sent out an email advertising loans to help out with the COVID-19 difficulties. No issue with letting customers know that there are loans available in a time of need, except that the loans offered had an APR of 40%+, which they didn’t make very clear to customers.
Understandably so, customers found this to be too aggressive during such a sensitive period and it backfired on them. Below is an example of the bad press they got on reddit.com (1,500 people had up voted this post just a day after it was posted on reddit.com)
Giving is Caring
Adjusting the way that you’re communicating with your customers and getting involved in the community is definitely a great start and something that they will appreciate. However, going the extra mile and giving away something for free can make an even bigger impact. The key is to keep your customers engaged and to ladder up your communication to them until the market recovers and you’ll be able to resume your normal marketing to them again when the timing is right.
Here is a great example from the CEO of Namecheap. He does a great job of explaining how the pandemic might affect customer service, but then he also offers relief on payments if customers need it. Lastly, he also provides value by informing them about potential security hacks during a time like this. You’d better believe Namecheap customers will remember and appreciate an email like this. Namecheap will benefit down the road from more loyal customers and referrals when the market picks up again.
Exactly what you offer your customers/potential customers will depend entirely on what you are able to offer and what you think would be of value for them. Here is a template that you can use to guide your thought process when determining what to offer:
|Giveaway Ideas||Urgent Need?||Is it Valuable?||Resources Required?||Shareability Factor||Is it Tasteful?|
We suggest including as many team members in the brainstorming process as possible. This can help drive an increased level of engagement your team – and divert attention from the news to how to best contribute to the community.
Once the team comes up with a set of ideas, you can score the ideas based on the following criteria – on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the best). Here is a short explanation of each variable that needs to be scored
- Urgent Need – Is this giveaway an essential / useful item for your customers right now?
- Is it Valuable – Does this giveaway add value to the customers?
- Resources Required – How difficult would it be for your company to create/offer the giveaway?
- Shareability Factor – Will this giveaway result in making the customer feel taken care of/valued enough for them to share it with their family, friends, or on their social media?
- Is it Tasteful? – Can this giveaway be perceived as too salesy and may turn people off?
Once you identify the best giveaway, aim to release it quickly and with no strings attached (as the goal here is to be helpful and generate goodwill).
Should You Expand Your Offering?
During a time like this, your marketing initiatives and your customer communication may not be the only things you will want to consider changing. You may also consider changing up your product offering to one that is more relevant during this time.
Choosing a new product offering should be decided upon through a combination of:
- A keen observation of the current state of the market – as well as the needs and wants of your customers
- An honest assessment of your company’s assets, strengths and weaknesses
- An analysis of both short-term needs and long-term business goals (ideally any new product you launch has long-term value to your customers)
We created two different frameworks you can follow to best make this decision; a simple version and a more detailed version. Both start with instruction around thinking of things as an outcome and then finding at least 3 different alternatives to get to that outcome. You would then add these outcomes to the framework.
|Outcome||Solution 1||Solution 2||Solution 3|
Once you complete the table, you take those outcomes and place them in the matrix below. Going through this thought process every time before making a pivot, or any business decision for that matter, will allow you to identify 2nd order impacts and understand the consequences of your actions.
The simple framework is a 2×2 matrix. We initially learned about it from Todd Herman and found it extremely useful for our own decision-making.
The first step is for you to fill out the table below with as many desired outcomes as possible and with different potential solutions for those outcomes. Here, aim to consider exactly what your customers may need in this market as an outcome – and try to list solutions you can provide to those needs. Aim to focus on needs that are actual must haves and not nice-to-haves. A great analogy here is to find solutions that are painkillers (that stop an immediate headache) more so than vitamins that may help prevent a future problem. In tough times, customers are generally more focused on the painkillers.
Example of a filled out matrix:
The more complex framework is typically used for project planning and is usually documented in a project management tool. We typically use Coda to plan any new projects, but you can use any other tool you prefer.
Click here to open our decision making template and click “Copy doc” button in the top right corner to create an interactive copy that you can edit:
There you can switch to the “Complex Project Planner” tab and use “Add New Outcome” green button to add a few outcomes with 3 alternative solutions that you can further brainstorm.
Once you’ve added a few solutions, you can take those potential projects and place them in the brainstorm planner by clicking the green “Start New Brainstorm” button:
When planning for projects to work on during the current situation, the most important question to ask yourself and keep in mind during your planning process would be “Is this something you’d do even without the pandemic?”. If you find a solution that brings you to your desired outcome, look at the downside and potential negative impacts, and check the box of something you’d do regardless, you should probably do it.
Here you can find an already filled out example.
- Assess how your product/service may be affected and inform your customers of any disruptions well in advance
- Create your 90 day communication plan to your customers
- Determine how your company can uniquely selflessly serve your customers and execute on that vision
- Determine what you can give your customers to ensure they will appreciate and remember you when things return back to normal
- Create a 2X2 Matrix to determine when and whether or not you should launch a new product offering
- Use our framework for project planning the launch of a new product
Adding Product/Marketing Pivots to your 90-day Plan
We suggest that having read the above section you pick at least 3 items that you think are important, and add them to your 90-day plan, under the product/marketing section. An example would be sending a friendly message to your customers, creating a free guide addressing a need they have, and at the very least brain-storming a pivot that starts with an outcome, has 3 alternative roads to that outcome, and has an understanding of the potential consequences of going down those roads.
You can label them as A) B) and C) and mark a deadline by adding an A, B, and C on the appropriate day of April.
Here’s an example of this filled out:
If you’d like help with this, join this free private Facebook group of small business owners. We’ve shared some additional examples of 90-day plans, and are sharing examples of good and bad marketing.
Chapter 3: Leading Your Team
At the helm of any great company or team is a great leader. The inverse is also true. Organizations live and die based on their leadership.
Since our business model at Acquira is helping entrepreneurs acquire and lead companies, we think a lot about systematically teaching leadership.
This pandemic has thrown our world into uncertain times, and it’s during times like these that stakeholders (employees, vendors, customers) look to leaders for guidance and stability. This chapter on leadership (and really this whole guide) is our way of helping. We don’t have it all figured out, we are always learning and growing. But what we do have figured out, we want to share freely. Below we cover systematic frameworks that you can use to effectively lead and communicate with your stakeholders (particularly your employees) during these uncommon times.
About the Author
Hi I’m Kylon,
I live in the mountains of WA State with my wife of almost 10 years, Teliah (my best friend and business partner), our 10-month-old baby girl, Stevie, and our Lab/Pit/German Shepherd mix dog, Sif.
I’ve founded and led multiple businesses in multiple industries including construction, food service, fitness, real estate, and online education. I’ve sold 3 of them so far.
In 2012 after getting out of the Navy I co-founded a painting and general contracting company which expanded nationally across 6 states. Leveraging that experience, I built two brick & mortar retail businesses as well. After selling the contracting company, I launched a successful real estate fund focused on buying, rehabbing, and selling distressed homes.
I eventually decided I wanted to try my hand at building online businesses, so I built a suite of online courses to help small business owners systematize their business. I also started a business and education podcast which was featured in BuzzFeed (as the #15 most recommended podcast) and Huffington Post, among other publications.
I connected with this team in 2016. I was so impressed with everyone’s caliber and the potential we had to create a positive impact on the world that I sold my two brick & mortar businesses, put everything else on the backburner and joined the founding team of Acquira full time.
I have learned a lot in the last several years of building businesses. I’ve succeeded, and I’ve also failed. The one thing I love to do most is lead. It’s taken me years to start to uncover what being a leader truly means, and I feel that I’m still far from mastering it. But what I do know has been written in this chapter. I sincerely hope it sheds some light on how you can be a leader for your team during these unprecedented times. Read more about me here.
What does it mean to be a good leader?
To Acquira, leadership is rallying people around a vision so exciting and compelling that it becomes theirs, then empowering them to turn that vision into reality. In addition, it is doing this in such a way that their quality of life increases in the process.
We believe that the responsibility of a leader is not to be in charge, but to take care of the people IN your charge.
Great leadership often requires personal sacrifice – when everything goes right, you give all the credit away, and when everything goes wrong, you take all the responsibility.
Great leadership is servant leadership – this is why at Acquira, our core values are communicated with the acronym S.E.R.V.E.
Exercise: Briefly write about what leadership means for you in your company. Think about this as you read the rest of this chapter.
Be The Leader Your Team Needs
Your stakeholders are your employees, investors, vendors, customers, and anyone else who relies on your business.
During times of uncertainty they need a calming influence, someone they can look to for guidance.
For this section of the guide, we will primarily focus on serving your employees (Chapter 2 on product and marketing talks about serving your customers).
For many leaders, the current situation may seem hopeless or unwinnable. You may be tempted to ignore, escape, or freeze in place (we know we definitely feel that way at times). You also may feel the urge to be destructively pessimistic or unrealistically optimistic about the future.
In these times, it is important to keep a level head, roll up your sleeves, and take action – one step at a time.
Your primary goal during tough times should be to reduce uncertainty so that people don’t panic or become fearful. You should then decide on a course of action and empower people to execute on it. If you follow this guide thoroughly, it will help you do both of these things.
At Acquira, our leadership team scheduled a pre-emptive call with the entire team in early March - before Covid-19 became a global pandemic. The leadership team presented their (well-researched) opinions of how the world would look over the next year, as well as changes were expected for our industry. We assured team members that their jobs were safe, and then shifted gears to what we could do to help our customers and ensure our own organization was financially sound.
Even if the news you are giving to employees isn’t good (layoffs, reduced salaries) it is important to provide quick and direct notice to employees so they’re able to make the best decisions for their families in this environment.
Lead Your Employees
At the most basic level, a business is just people. If you always keep your people’s best interest in mind, you’ll rarely go wrong.
Calm, encourage and motivate your employees
Your primary goal is to be a calming and motivating presence for your employees at a time when everyone is prone to uncertainty. Communicate the following to your team, and do it often. This would ideally be done via emails, recorded videos, and on calls.
Let them know they are still part of the team
Assure them that during these uncertain times, you’ve made it your paramount goal to ensure the team stays together. Let them know that they are highly valued and that there wouldn’t be a company without them. Your product/service is necessary, but THEY are what truly makes the company great.
If you do need to make tough decisions (layoffs, furlough) communicate clearly with the remaining team about why the changes were needed and how the organization is stronger going forward.
Lead from a position of knowledge
People will look to you to become the “expert” in this situation. You need to let them know that you’ve done the research so they don’t have to. It’s your job to stay informed on the events that impact your business to the best of your ability. This knowledge will inspire further confidence – and loyalty.
If you don’t know where to start, find two people that you believe are the most knowledgeable on the subject and ask them for the 2 best things to read/pay attention to each day to stay up to date.
Then, develop your own thesis about the impacts this pandemic will have on your business and solicit feedback from smart people about this thesis.
Open the lines of communication
Let people know that they can and should reach out to you at any time. Make them feel seen and heard. Tell them you care about their well-being and that you will do everything in your power to ensure their health and safety. Hold virtual office hours, where team members can schedule a one-on-one video chat with you to discuss anything on their mind. Video is important, as it will be hard for people to hide their true feelings when they are face to face with you (or as face to face as they can be in a world of social distancing).
Connect on a regular basis as a team outside of work. When your employees are working from home, they can start to feel isolated, and conference calls aren’t usually enough to keep spirits up.
At Acquira, we have a weekly casual event that everyone on the team joins, usually on a Wednesday night. Sometimes we play online games together, and sometimes we just do a mass video chat while everyone enjoys their drink of choice. Occasionally we will also do group workout sessions in the mornings, with one person leading a workout via video chat. These activities keep our culture healthy as a remote team and ensure everyone continues to develop strong relationships outside of work.
Encourage and motivate
What differentiates companies that thrive in adverse situations is a focus on being proactive. Encourage your employees to bring ideas to the table on how the business can be retooled to thrive in the current environment. Front-line employees often have much more visibility into customer needs vs the leadership team. Consider sharing key parts of this guide with employees – to show them that you are also taking action during this time.
Take these touchpoints and communicate them in your own way to your team. The sooner you do this the better!
Manage layoffs/salary reductions respectfully
If your business is in one of the large categories affected, you will almost definitely have to lay people off. The sooner you do this, the better your chances of the business surviving. Keep in mind that if the business doesn’t survive, everyone will be laid off, without a chance of getting rehired.
If you need to reduce your cash burn from headcount, your two options are to either lay people off, and/or reduce compensation. (Note: reducing pay is only an option if that reduction doesn’t violate any local labor laws).
If you need to let people go, you can use this framework for how to manage layoffs respectfully.
Another option at your disposal is to reduce your salaries (often for your leadership team).
At Acquira, the leadership team decided that we needed to reduce payroll by 30% due to the uncertain economic climate. Everyone in the company has opted to take a 20-40% reduction in salary in order to ensure that the company has enough time to recover and that no one had to be down-sized. This may or may not work for your company - but what will always work is to communicate that the company is a family and that decisions to cut salaries/headcount are not taken lightly.
Showing extra care to downsized staff
Many team-members may be in a difficult financial position after being laid off. We feel it is a leader’s responsibility to serve them however you can during this transition (within reason).
Consider preparing care packages or information packets describing options for alternate careers, financial assistance (insurance, unemployment benefits, etc). These things can serve to remind people that despite unfortunate circumstances, they are still a part of the team and their past contributions are valued.
Take the time to research and monitor various financial relief programs so they don’t have to. Here is a list of resources that will get you started:
- Where to find financial help during the coronavirus pandemic
- A list of banks offering to help customers going through financial hardships
- COVID-19 financial support list
Extra Credit: Take your employee’s health and personal development seriously
A major transition like working from home can have a major impact on your team’s health. From sleep, to diet/exercise, to mental health, we highly encourage you to provide guidance to your team on how to best adjust to the changes in their lives (as you may to a child, parent or friend).Consider implementing a self-development program for employees to follow.
Practicing good hygiene and avoiding infection is a must (a sick workforce can devastate both a company and community).
Simple habits such as washing your hands, not touching your face, and social distancing are worth reminding your team about.
Don’t assume all employees are up to date on the information they need to stay safe. Create a company policy on hygiene/safe work practices and share it with all team members (and their families).
Exercise is also incredibly important – especially during stressful times. It will boost your immune system, and make you happier. While under quarantine most people will not have access to a home gym, and you shouldn’t use this as an excuse not to workout. Share this resource with your team. It outlines hundreds of no-equipment workouts for all fitness levels. Make it fun and start a competition to work out for a certain number of days or hit a certain number of reps.
Consider having a virtual fitness break or a contest/game around staying in shape.
Encourage your team to use “the power of while”. Listen to podcasts while you do your workouts. Order a treadmill desk and walk while you work. Do squats while on conference calls.
One of our cofounders walks 8-10 miles per day using his treadmill desk. Another team member does squats or pushups while on conference calls, and listens to podcasts anytime he works out or prepares a meal.
A change (such as a shelter in place order) can be a time of progression or regression. We highly encourage companies to foster a culture of personal growth during times like these.
Consider leading your team in putting personal development practices into place.
Get in the habit of journaling. Not “dear diary” journaling, but creating journaling templates that will help you track, measure, and learn about the things in your life that are most important. These are things like gratefulness, personal goals and affirmations, new things you learn, your emotional state, the state of important relationships in your life etc. Here is a video of a systematic framework for this.
Feel free to send this video to your team and suggest that they give it a try. Make sure to follow up on their progress.
Encourage your team to be voracious learners and challenge them to exit this period of time with something they didn’t have before – a new skill or knowledge base. Suggest that they take online courses or develop a new (productive) hobby. We would personally recommend two Coursera courses: Learning How To Learn, and The Science of Well Being (from Yale). Acquira also has an ever-expanding library where our team aggregates our favorite books, podcasts, videos, and courses. Feel free to share this resource directly with your team.
Lastly, look after yourself
This is important. As a servant leader, you will self-sacrifice more than anyone else. This also means you need to make taking care of yourself a priority. You don’t want to be so drained that you don’t have anything left to give, because then your ability to lead will rapidly decline alongside your health.
Definitely aim to lead by example in both health and personal development.
- DO Communicate openly. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart said “Communicate everything to your associates (he called everyone an associate); the more they know the more they care. Once they care, there is no stopping them.” During tough times, your people will feel vulnerable, overwhelmed, and worried. Open the lines of communication, and use them often (leave an open calendly, record specific videos for specific employees and ask them to leave a video back, people can’t hide how they are on video). Be transparent and empathetic in your communication, and trust people with good news as well as not-so-good news. Let people know that you not only care about the value they bring to your organization, but that you also care about their personal lives. Above all, listen, and listen often.
- DO use fact-based language. Avoid vague and emotional wording. I.e. say “sales have declined 65%” instead of “sales have been decimated”, or “we are getting absolutely destroyed”.
- DO praise often. When you praise your people, you encourage them and inspire loyalty. During tough times it’s easy to forget about giving your people recognition and appreciation and instead you may be tempted to put all your energy into making sure they do the work to keep the company afloat. But praise cannot be taken for granted. It creates vital positive energy when it’s needed most. Praise people on a regular basis, be specific and try to do it in front of others.
- DO encourage humor. People are much more likely to succeed at something if they have fun doing it. Keeping a good sense of humor alleviates stress and brings everyone closer together. Humor breeds creativity. People are more willing to take chances and be more creative if they don’t have to worry about making mistakes and can instead laugh at challenges. In my opinion, one of the best things to come out of these tough times has been the memes. Consider starting a meme channel where your team can share their favorite memes with each other.
- DO have a plan. Even if you’re not 100% convinced it will work, it’s better to be proactive than reactive.
- DON’T panic in front of your stakeholders. Don’t be pessimistic or use defeatist language like “we’re screwed”, “I don’t know if we can make it through this” etc. If you have to panic, do it privately or to friends/family outside of the organization. Otherwise, suck it up, buttercup. Remember, your stakeholders are your employees, investors, vendors, customers, and anyone else who relies on your business.
- DON’T isolate yourself. Be proactive in overly communicating. Remember to be specific and transparent. This will breed trust and combat uncertainty.
- DON’T turn to escapist activities. Excessive drinking, social media, video games, or TV are bad for your mental health and dull your abilities.
- DON’T take action without considering it carefully first. You don’t want to make bad/thoughtless decisions out of fear, stress, or worry.
- Identify the ways in which you will become the “expert” in this situation and stay informed. Find two people that you believe are the most knowledgeable on the subject and ask them for the 2 best things to read/pay attention to each day
- Create a video and email to send to your team that alleviates uncertainty and motivates them
- Create an open calendar (using a tool like Calendly) for your team to schedule one-on-one video chats with you and encourage them to reach out
- Set up a weekly casual event with your team to hang out via video chat. You can play online games (poker, CSGO, Worms, Awesomenauts) or just chat about non-work related subjects with your drink of choice
- Find resources and develop a plan for your employee’s physical health and self-development and send it to them. Include helpful ideas like “the power of while” and “habit stacking”
- Look after yourself – if you are drained you will not be able to serve your stakeholders
- Assess if layoffs or pay reductions are necessary and manage those respectfully
- Create your 90 day communication plan to your employees and execute
90 Day Plan
The following is an example of a full 90-day communication plan for your employees with some templates you can pull from. This assumes that most communication will be by email, but you should also communicate these things via video and on calls whenever you can. Feel free to re-arrange, copy, or add your own as you see fit, but the key here is to HAVE A PLAN so you don’t ignore your people or overwhelm them. Add these communications to your 90 day communication plan, and space them out however you would like, keeping in mind that you should communicate throughout the entire 90 days, but that it should be more frequent at the start.
90 Day Communication Plan Example
Send notification and information about working remotely. Share the remote work chapter of this guide. You can also get inspiration from the second email in this set of templates.
Send resources for general well-being. Share the physical and mental health sections of this guide and also do your own research to add anything else you think is important. You can get inspiration from the third email template here.
Encourage your people to proactively pursue personal development and exit this with something they didn’t have before (a new skill, new learning, a new health habit, etc.). Give suggestions based on the personal development section of this chapter. Motivate and challenge people by sharing the ways you are focused on personal growth during this time.
Send a personal message to each of your employees asking about their well-being and how you can help.
Give a transparent update of your company’s situation and the world’s situation based on your research. Encourage and motivate. Reiterate some of the things you’ve communicated in previous weeks. Ask how people are doing and how you can continue to serve them.
Send your team wisdom from Dan Sullivan for tough times. Dan Sullivan is a famous entrepreneurship coach. He wrote this during 9/11, and it’s a good reminder of what is really important during unprecedented times.
Send a personal message to each of your employees asking about their well-being and how you can help.
Give another transparent update of your company’s situation and the world’s situation based on your research. Encourage and motivate. Reiterate some of the things you’ve communicated in previous weeks. Ask how people are doing and how you can continue to serve them.
Send a personal message to each of your employees asking about their well-being and how you can help.
Give another transparent update of your company’s situation and the world’s situation based on your research. Encourage and motivate. Ask how people are doing and how you can continue to serve them.
Adding Communication/Culture to your 90-Day Plan
We suggest that having read the above communication roadmap, you outline at least one piece of communication per week that you send your entire time. Add the title of the piece and the medium (conference call, email, hand-written letter, or pre-recorded video on vidyard) to your 90-day plan under the communication/culture section.
You can label them as A) B) and C) and mark a deadline by adding an A, B, and C on the appropriate day of April, May and June.
Here’s an example of this filled out:
If you’d like help from us and other business owners, join this free private Facebook group. We’ve shared some additional examples of 90-day plans, and are sharing examples of good and bad leadership.
Chapter 4: Resources
There is so much great information out there, this guide would not be complete without a section pointing to comprehensive external resources. This section is broken up into 2 different resource types:
- Resources for going remote
- Resources for isolation & mental health
We will be updating this frequently.
Resources for going remote
Hi I’m Quinn, Director of Sourcing for Acquira. I worked for some of the largest corporations in Canada and was very accustomed to the corporate work structure. I used to take the train in 2 hours each way from my home city into Toronto where I would tuck away in a cubicle for 8 hours and then take the return train ride home. When I finally decided to try something different and found Acquira it was a big switch for me to learn a work from home structure. Years later I have found that working from home can not only be more productive but your way of life can be heavily improved if you work at it. Read more about me here.
I have created a very straight forward guide below to help transition you from an office structure to home while still staying properly connected with your team. There are many other guides out there that are very comprehensive and to not reinvent the wheel here we have linked to those here as well. Everybody’s work style is different so I have documented out what works for my team and I but feel free to adapt in a style that works for you.
Alternative resources for working from home:
- 7 biggest remote work challenges
- How to collaborate across time zones
- 16 apps to help working from home
For a very comprehensive read into working from home we recommend this guide created by Zapier:
If you have any questions or suggestions please join our Facebook Group and let us know your thoughts!
Resources for isolation & mental health
Hi I’m Amir, and live in Los Angeles with my lovely wife and cooler-than-me daughter. I spent several years as an early-stage investor and advisor to many start-ups and early-stage companies and have found that at their core great companies have one thing in common… great leadership.
Through my work as a managing partner at Shircoo, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles, I provided advisory and consulting services to companies seeking to become listed in the public markets either through a DPO or an IPO. Like many in our team here, I first met Hayden through his internship program and developed a close friendship ever since. Together we have worked on several internet-based projects including Wired Investors where I also met Deven. Read more about me here.
I have compiled 7 Resources to help you with protecting your mental health, reducing anxiety, and managing your stress while quarantined and working from home:
CDC official page on managing stress and copy with the mental health issues during the pandemic.
The director of Family Stress Clinic and behavioral science in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine tips on how to protect your mental health during quarantine.
Pointers from Anxiety & Depression Association of America that could help you survive spiraling negative thoughts about this uncertain time during the pandemic.
A good article on the effects of isolation and the steps you can take to cope and help mitigate some of the negative mental health effects of quarantine.
100 Fun things you can do while stuck inside at home (besides getting things done!)
Another 100 fun things to do while at home during the coronavirus quarantine!
I will also be answering any questions you have related to this topic within the Facebook group.
Our goal with this guide is to inspire you to develop a plan and to use that plan to take decisive action.
The companies that adapt the most quickly to this new environment will be the ones that have the highest likelihood to thrive and succeed when the world reverts to (a new) normal.
We focused this guide on the three most impactful things you can do in any crisis:
- Understanding and managing your resources (finances)
- Understanding your customers and adapting your product offerings
- Inspiring confidence in your team
It is the easiest thing in the world to freeze, ignore difficult decisions and stop communicating with your stakeholders (employees, customers, vendors). Instead, we urge you to take the initial steps to accurately assess your resources and use an objective set of frameworks (like the ones above) to best plot your new course.
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.Lao Tzu
Thanks so much for reading this guide. If you want to get in touch with us (or a likeminded community of business owners), be sure to join our free Facebook community.