The impact of the coronavirus on businesses has been and will continue to be massive. Many businesses will have already had to cut costs, lay off staff, and may have unfortunately closed altogether.
There are also many businesses who are still fighting as hard as they can to make sure they still exist once things begin to get back to normal and that they don’t follow the same path. This article aims to give advice to owners of some of these businesses and suggest ways they can protect their themeselves throughout this period.
One of first things the vast majority of businesses are trying to do it save money. There will be lots of companies who have lost contracts during this time meaning they need to bring down their expenditure as best they can. While of course paying salaries is part of those outgoings, cutting costs doesn’t just mean getting rid of employees, there are plenty of other areas to explore as well. Renegotiating what you pay for materials, resources etc is a logical place to start particularly if you are selling less of your product.
Government schemes and loans. Once you have gone through and made the cost savings you can, whilst retaining enough staff to be strong operationally, you may still find yourself short. It is important then to know what other options are out there and what support may be available. The UK government have put in place a range of financial support to help businesses at this time.The full list can be found here.
If you are going to place people on furlough or make redundancies, make sure you are doing everything correctly. Get support from experts who understand what you need to have in place and your obligations as an employer.
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Operate seamlessly from home
One of the most important aspects of your business surviving the next few months is being able to offer the same or a similar service to your customers despite the restrictions that have been put in place. This can take many forms but if you sell a product you need to do your best to ensure your ability to manufacture and your delivery time are as close to normal as possible. Likewise, if you offer a service you need to make sure your ability to deliver that service remains the same.
How you do this will of course vary from business to business but there are some fundamentals that will apply for the majority of businesses that are operating from home. Having the right technology in place is key, for your staff so they can work as efficiently as they do in the office and for your customers so their experience in unaltered. It may be you have an IT team that can and have set all of this up for you, but it is important to see if there are ways this can be improved. Even if it is as simple as helping employees have the best internet possible or finding a new virtual meeting software to better improve staff communication.
Good communication between team members when working from home is crucial, without it, deadlines can be missed, work can be repeated or ideas can be missed. Many of us probably take for granted how many times a week someone comes to our desk or we go to talk to someone else about work related tasks, rather than sending an email. This direct form of communication in the office saves lots of time and allows complex ideas to be better demonstrated through speech, actions, rather than just words on an email. Working from home people have lost the ability to bypass the email or phone route and speak to someone directly. It is crucial then that you are communicating very frequently with key members of your team to ensure your understanding and workflow remains on track.
Our home and daily lives are full of distractions. Cooking, cleaning, washing, watching tv, looking after children, feeding a pet, walking the dog, answering the front door, the list goes on and on. When working from home it can be tempting to do these activities throughout your working day, creating a disjointed feeling and reducing the amount you get done.
Ultimately it is about discipline. If you do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of letting these things distract you, you may find you can get more work done than normal. At least with distractions at home, you can have some control over allowing them to disrupt your working day. In the office, however, we all encounter distractions daily, people walking into your office, someone calling your phone, longer than necessary meetings, people talking in the office, again the list could go on.
If you need to get things done around the house, wake up earlier, do them in the evening or utilise your lunch break and your lack of a commute. If you are strict with yourself you can optimise the lack of office distractions rather than falling into the habit of everyday jobs around the home reducing productivity.
Don't neglect new business opportunities
Although you may be losing business from your current customers, that doesn’t mean there won’t be new business opportunities out there. Of course, in the current climate it is likely to be harder to land new customers but there are always companies that need support or customers for certain products.
One way you could explore business opportunities is by speaking to your current customers and seeing if there any other ways you can help them, perhaps they need extra help in certain areas throughout this period. This method of upselling to your current customers is one of the first avenues you should consider exploring, even if it doesn’t result in more business now. It might be the case that once things start to get back to normal one of your customers takes you up on the offer of extra support.
Marketing is always an important element to getting new business and during the coronavirus outbreak this is no different. Having an effective strategy that allows you to target businesses or individuals in need of what you offer is key. It might be that your usual marketing techniques need to be adapted to maximise the lifestyle many of us are living at the moment. Marketing through advertising boards, sending items to people at their workplace or other methods may be redundant and better replaced with leaflets, social media and television ads.
If you can remain flexible and adapt to the situation your business has a chance to succeed in any climate, even the one we find ourselves in at the moment.
Learn to adapt
Many of us don’t like change and this is also true when it comes to business and the way we operate. However, with a lot of our traditional habits, such as shopping, going out to eat and drink, and the financial uncertainty a lot of people find themselves in, many businesses are not making sales as they usually would. So how can they adapt?
One example that springs to mind is Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, as a company they make engines for Formula One cars, and other race cars. With there being no motorsport taking place at the moment they have nothing to do as a business. Instead, they decided to turn their attention to how they can best support the response to the coronavirus and designed a ventilator they could create to support the NHS. This saw them win a contract with the government and they are now creating 1000 ventilators a day from their base in Northampton. Mercedes are of course a big company, but they still had to find a way to adapt.
Even if you can’t yourself produce a product or sell a service to directly support the fight against COVID-19 perhaps you can support all the businesses that are. It might take some thinking outside the box, but there are always opportunities out there.
Be prepared for when this is over
One of the best ways you can protect your business long term is to use this time to prepare for when the current restrictions are lifted so you can hit the ground running. Ultimately, one of the ways you can do this is to make sure you have a marketing strategy in place that will put you in position that was potentially better than before the coronavirus outbreak started. One of the ways to do this is to use the next few months to build your audience so that you are talking to a greater number of people when things start up again.
"How can I build an audience for my business?"
Likewise, now is as good a time as ever to reflect on where the business is at the moment, what can be improved going forward and how you plan to get there over the next few years.
That’s all from us. We hope there have been some useful points in this article which have got you thinking about how to best optimise this time and how you can protect your business over the next few months.
Most importantly we hope you and your loved ones remain safe and your business can get through the period ready to push on and grow.