These are strange times.
Everything, including the world of business, has been thrown up into the air. As they land, things have changed – or have they?
Yes, we are being asked to work from home if at all possible and always ‘socially separate’ but the vast majority are healthy, and the measures in place are designed to keep us that way, hopefully avoiding unbearable pressure on the NHS, keeping resources available for those who are in need.
Running a business has challenges all the time, COVID-19 is just another one that happens to be affecting most people all at once. If I have learnt one thing from over 30 years in business it is that challenges encourage adaption and adaption can deliver real benefit.
So how can you adapt to see the real benefit for your business when the dust settles? Here are my thoughts….
1. Don’t panic
Suddenly being told you can’t go out to business and finding clients cancelling or postponing the projects you rely on is a real shock. It is easy to be like a startled rabbit in headlights and just freeze. Perhaps this is a natural reaction but take a deep breath and count to 10. Business is a long term proposition and any successful business should plan for knock-backs. The unexpected can happen at any time. It is good to have a ‘rainy-day’ fund. The rainy day is here but there is no need to panic. Better to plan.
The essence of business is cashflow. So perhaps the first step is to address cashflow concerns. The government has already stated that they want to protect businesses from the impact of Covid-19 and have announced extensive measures to provide direct financial support through a mixture of Grants and Loans. Details are still sketchy but probably the best source of information is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
This page is being updated pretty regularly.
For the self-employed it has just been announced (in the past few minutes!) that support will be broadly in line with that already announced for emplioyees on PAYE. Implemetation will inevitably more complex.
Beyond direct government support, you may also be able to make arrangements with customers and suppliers to ease you own financial path. Banks, lenders, mortgage companies etc. are all offering support.
Naturally, some businesses are more vulnerable than others but as the adage goes: Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Don’t panic. Don’t be the rabbit in the headlights. Take control and make a plan (where have I said that before!). Your plan can be your salvation.
2. Work on your business
It is often quoted by SME owners that they are too busy working in their business to work on their business – not any more!
The optimists can see the current situation as a real opportunity. Your business fundamentals haven’t changed. If you had a good business on 1st March, you can still have a good business when the crisis abates. OK nobody knows the full timescales but taking a 3-6month view seems reasonable in the light of the available evidence.
Once you have your plan to ride out the storm, you can look ahead and work to make your business a better business, ready and stronger for when the economy reopens.
3. Tap into your expertise/experience
We all try to run our business in the best way possible but inevitably you sometimes have great ideas but never find the time to implement them. Now you can!
Also so you may see ways that others operate and think ‘That’s a good idea, I could learn something from this‘. They may be customers, suppliers, competitors, or others. There can often be ways you see others operate that could work in your business and make your business better.
Now you have the time to tap in to this knowledge/expertise and do something about it! Have confidence that your successful business in February is still sound – and now you have time to make it better. The work that isn’t being done now will need to be done later so make sure you are ready for it – and ahead of the pack.
4. Stay engaged with your customers and markets
When things get difficult, inevitably, business owners tend to focus on their own needs but, as I have talked about above, it is great if you can get your head around accepting the short-term situation and return to thinking longer term. Don’t forget the infinite game that we are still playing. Many people may be focused on their own needs but it is still good to talk.
Stay engaged with your contacts. There are lots of ways to do this and technology offers some great opportunities. We look at some in this post.
Remember though that engagement doesn’t mean selling. Many businesses blur the lime between marketing and selling, seeing any communication as sales promotion. I don’t belive that now is the time for the hard sell. It is about us all trying to work together to get through. Better to focus on help and support. Make sure people know where you are if they need you.
Try to be helpful. Many business owners are understandably anxious. A bit of altruism in challenging times can pay real dividends in the long term. We all know we are in business. Our business is our livelihood and we don’t suddenly have to do everything for nothing. It is about mutual support and balance.
5. The way ahead
Things have changed – there is no going back.
The current pandemic was previously only in books and Hollywood – now it is real and affecting everyone.
We should be thankful that it isn’t worse than it is. SARS and Ebola are significantly more deadly even if they proved easier to contain.
We are being forced to think differently. Some things will be harder/slower/more challenging but others will be easier/faster/better. By first addressing the immediate adversities and clarifying your strategy for the coming months (essentially a cash-flow plan) you can then start to look ahead to prepare to your business, ready to make the most of the opportunities when the world re opens to what will be the new normal.
As with any significant change. Some will benefit and some will struggle. A bit of objective thought and planning can help make sure there is a silver lining to this strange, locked-down world for you and your business.
As always, I am happy to talk.
Stay safe and stay positive.