coping with the crisis (Pt. 2)

Practical advice for small business owners during the
COVID-19 pandemic

By Tanvir Hassan

One of the things which makes us so strong as a nation is our ability to “keep calm and carry on” and this has never been truer than it is today. Faced with a crisis unlike anything we have seen before, we entered a period of lockdown which spelled unpredictable consequences for businesses, but we did the right thing and closed our doors, switched on our kettles and set makeshift offices up in our homes. Now that we appear to be coming out the other side, businesses will slowly start to reopen and things should go back to normal, right?

Well, not quite. Of course it will feel incredible to start resuming trading and generating revenue, servicing our clientele and reuniting with our beloved workforces after months of seeing pixellated versions of them on our laptop screens, in their pyjamas. And it will be great to restore a more conventional routine to our working lives; one that doesn’t involve angsty toddlers making appearances in our Zoom meetings. But the fact of the matter is, things simply can’t bethe same. I call it the post Covid-19 landscape, and it promises to be unlike anything else we have ever encountered. I mean, we have never attempted to shut down the global economy, never-mind reopen it, and whilst we may wish to consider ourselves to be ‘recovering’ from the pandemic, we’re still the most infected nation in Europe and we’re still seeing daily surges in cases in different localities. To add the to mess, there is constant talk of a dreaded ‘second wave’, and scientists seem to think it’s not a question of ‘if’ but rather, ‘when’.

So yes, whilst we have the need to return to work, we also must be incredibly mindful of how the world is evolving and what this means for our businesses. There are lives at risk, after all, so we must make our decisions very carefully and protect ourselves at all times from any further fallouts as a consequence of this pandemic or indeed any other.

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We have compiled some advice to get you thinking and help you through the present challenges and to set you up for the future:

1.  Adapt and survive!

Tree with orange leaves grows on a stone slope of a cliff. The concept of overcoming difficulties and survival under difficult conditions.

The most noticeable change will be a social one. You’ve seen it already, when you were in the local supermarket and the old lady in front of you scarpered away because she noticed you within her two-metre zone. People are more fearful of infection than ever before and the businesses which recognise this and show they are actively taking steps to be more safe, will be the ones which prosper moving forwards.

You will have no doubt heard of some inspirational examples of businesses who have innovated and found clever ways to stay trading throughout the pandemic. You might even be an owner of such a business yourself. Measures can range from the simple and obvious through to the wild and creative; from glass screens and hand-sanitising stations, to online ordering and contactless payment, to virtual classrooms and live-streamed concerts. Adaptation could be achieved by making small tweaks to your existing processes or could mean a complete overhaul of how you do business.

As always, the key lies with the customer. Break down your customer journey from beginning to end and identify what it would mean to ensure your proposition keeps your customers and your workforce protected at each and every stage. You need to be thorough with this because if any stage of your journey, or any of your communications contradict your coronavirus policy, it will be immediately noticeable and jarring to your customer experience.

We have helped many of our clients to survive the pandemic by helping them to undergo a digital transformation. From creating online shopping experiences, to complete remodels of your digital strategy, we have all the tools required to help your business stay profitable.

2. Identify flexible ways of working

You’ve probably already identified some great ways to stay productive from the comfort of your own home. We’ve heard from dozens of people that one benefit from the present situation has been that they have been able to demonstrate to their employers (who might not have been open to the idea previously) that they are able to be just as productive when working from home. They have managed to save time on their daily commute, avoid wasting time going out for lunch and even grown closer to their families throughout the lockdown.

Moving forward, you may start asking your staff to come back to their place of work, or you may find ways to combine this with smart ways of working from home. You can equip them with everything they need to work from home, and keep it productive with these great collaboration tools:

Slack – A great piece of software for the ongoing workplace conversation. Share files and information, privately or in groups. Slack has a great way of organising conversations by channel, making it easy to find bits of information that may have otherwise been forgotten.

Microsoft Teams – Teams is Microsoft’s answer to collaboration, enabling the work conversation and file sharing (much like Slack) but taking things one step further with integration with their Office 365 software. You can make video calls, integrate with your emails and even send files!

Google Docs – Powerful and feature-packed office software, available for free! You can edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations together with your team and share files on the free Google Drive. Google also offers Hangouts, which is a great bit of software for video calling.

Trello– Trello is a free Kanban-style list making application, allowing you to present individual tasks, or customers (or indeed anything else) into its own card, add notes, tag your colleagues and ultimately move them around from any variation of “to-do” to a “processing” to a “done”.

Zoom – Video conferencing has been revolutionised by Zoom, who allow you to host events by sending a link to multiple email addresses. The free plan will allow a 40 minute call, which should be just enough time to deliver a solid meeting and you can even share what’s on your screen!

We’ve been using all the software we have listed above ourselves so we can verify that they’re all as good as gold, and they all have free versions for you to get stuck into right away. There are many more great applications available (Discord springs to mind) and there’s a piece of software for absolutely anything you might need to achieve as a business, so I would definitely recommend having a look around and seeing what you can find.

3. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail!

The crisis has allowed much time for introspection and given us a great opportunity to take a good, hard look at how we’re operating our businesses to identify how we can be more efficient and streamlined. Taking this one step further, it is important to assess exactly why our businesses have suffered because of the pandemic and take steps to ensure that we aren’t so badly affected by such a crisis in the future.

For many, it’s as simple as cashflow. For businesses which run month-to-month, like the entrepreneurial equivalent of a person who lives pay-check to pay-check, the priority should perhaps be on building up some liquid cash savings. Particularly if you have had to borrow money to keep yourself afloat, it is important to have mechanisms in place to prioritise the generation of capital and reduction of non-essential expenditure. 

Coronavirus may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence but the truth is that an emergency can disrupt your business at any time. We really recommend working on a crisis contingency plan so your business is more insulated from shock the next time you are faced with a crisis of this scale.

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