We are now three weeks into the new world that is lockdown. A lockdown that will likely continue at least for the next 3 to 4 weeks. I, therefore, thought it a good time to look at how businesses are adapting to this “New Normal”.
Whilst some businesses can continue pretty much as normal, for those that can’t, there seem to be two ways to approach the situation:
- Keep your head down, cut costs and see you on the other side
- Adapt your business model to the “New Normal”
But as this situation develops and the time in lockdown extends, it will take increasingly deep pockets to adopt the”see you on the other side” approach. Increasingly business will need to adapt, in the short term at least. With this in mind, I thought it would be worth looking at some ways we have seen this happening.
Focus on the online model
Many retailers have been forced to close their bricks and mortar operations. And those who have not, have had to change the way they operate. In many of these cases, online ordering for click and collect or delivery is the new order of the day. Whilst in food and beverage this has been central in the news, there is actually nothing to stop any retail business shifting its operations online. Especially if, as is likely for a bricks and mortar retail operation, they are servicing a local market.
Locally, I have seen a number of businesses do this. In some cases their new operations becoming a lifeline to the local community. But I am not suggesting this is an easy route. To succeed, it will need some different thinking to address new business issues that it throws up. Ramping up and managing delivery capacity. Switching process from serving over the counter to a pick pack and ship model. Taking and managing online payments – to name a few. It does however, allow businesses to maintain at least some revenue streams and in the long term. It can also enhance the businesses profile and standing within its market, delivering potential benefits into the future as well.
Another sector where I have seen this happening is restaurants. Here, the lockdown has most definitely cut off normal on-site revenue streams. But by switching to a delivery model, businesses can again create new revenues to help them through.
Whilst this will present similar challenges to the retail offering discussed above, many of the core competencies that make a successful restaurant under normal circumstances (Access to great produce, skilled cheffing (I think that’s a word!) and food prep) are still very relevant. So assuming the demand is still there, and in many cases it is, safely generating revenue should still be possible.
I have seen a number of local restaurants follow this route over the last couple of weeks and Judging by how difficult it is to get a delivery slot, the demand is there. Whilst serving this demand may be less profitable than normal, it can deliver valuable revenue in the short term. It will also raise the businesses profile and offer marketing opportunities once things start to go back to normal.
Other sectors we have seen moving online are the likes of Consultancy, Training, Therapy and Events. Whilst delivering these online may not be a direct substitution for face to face, developing a remote offering can help maintain your presence in the market, and your relationship with clients. Furthermore, as the current situation extends, these on-line models too will become increasingly vital tools in maintaining and developing businesses.
We have seen a number of organisations successfully open up on-line capabilities, and the “Virtual gig” has become a mainstay for musicians worldwide.
Shift from Wholesale to Retail
Another shift I have seen is in businesses that were set up to service the retail leisure markets like pubs and resteraunts. A great example of this is one of our local breweries, who saw their normal order book dry up overnight as these businesses were forced to close.
However, they quickly discovered that the demand for their product was still there! People who would normally head to the pub for a beer were now wanting a supply at home. By shifting their business from supplying 50l barrels to pubs and restaurants, to supplying smaller quantities (Bottles & 5/10/20l barrels) direct to consumers, they have been able to maintain a revenue stream and again enhance their standing in the local area.
Like the retail examples above this shift will create its own issues, but it will also allow the business to enjoy retail rather than wholesale prices, thus mitigating some of the potential drop in capacity and increased costs, through higher margins.
What about the longer term?
I am sure that all of these businesses will be happy to come through the other side of this situation and return to their normal way of operating. But in many cases I suspect that the new skills and processes that they have developed during the lockdown will enhance their businesses once things start to return to normal.
Furthermore, as the lockdown extends, it will allow businesses to continue to operate without needing solely to rely on limited cash reserves.
Someone asked me this week “Are you surviving or thriving in the lockdown?“. Whilst it may be a big ask to expect most businesses to thrive, by adapting to the new environment, rather than simply keeping your head down, will allow a business to do more than survive. And some may even thrive!