So, what will the new normal look like?
Social distancing is likely to be with us for some time, while staggered shifts, home working, spaced queuing at shops, travel restrictions, and an accelerated adoption of digital technology, will become the new norm.
And what does a business owner need to consider, when faced with all this?
Over the coming weeks, most business owners will be carefully rebuilding their operations to be as close as possible to what they were before lockdown, all the while staying in line with government advice and guidance.
This key guidance is as follows:
a) Work from home, if possible: You should help your staff to continue working from home, if that is an option.
b) Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with your team: Manage your own liabilities by following the right Health and Safety checks, and share what you’ve done with your team to reassure them.
c) Maintain a 2 metre distance between people, wherever possible: Look to re-design workspaces, so you can maintain 2 metres of social distancing where you can. If necessary, change seating layouts.
d) Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage the risk of transmission: Consider creating team ‘bubbles’, put barriers in shared spaces, and have people face away from each other.
e) Reinforce cleaning routines: Clean more frequently, while paying close attention to high-contact objects, like door handles and keyboards. Provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at all entry and exit points.
However, the more enlightened entrepreneurs will be taking a different approach, by looking at what has changed in the world, and analysing their business to see how they can make these changes work to their advantage!
In essence, the ones who will come out of this crisis the best, will be the ones who have thought about what they need to do differently in the post-COVID world, and who have a plan to communicate this clearly to both their staff and their customers. Business Doctors across the UK have been working with SME owners, helping them to put their relaunch plans together by taking them through the following additional steps:
Take the opportunity to reflect on what the last few months have meant to you personally, as your frame of reference may have shifted.
a) Your personal aspirations: Consider how much time you want to spend in your business, how much renumeration you need, and when you plan to exit.
b) Your core purpose: Remind yourself of your reason for being, and why people buy from you.
c) Your core values: Define what binds you together as a team, and what connects you with your customers.
d) Your vision: What do you hope to achieve in the business over the next few weeks, months, and years?
Now more than ever, we need to rediscover our ‘purpose’ and convince our team of it, so they have something to aim for, and be part of.
Having re-established our direction of travel, we now need to craft a plan to get there, while identifying what obstacles might be found on the journey. Take some time to evaluate how COVID-19 has impacted the environment in which your business operates, assess which changes are likely to be permanent and which will be temporary, and consider how things are likely to continue changing over the long term.
Ask yourself these important questions: what might these changes mean for my business? How might we need to adapt? And what opportunities might arise if we change what we’re doing?
Also, consider the following potential disruptions to your operation:
a) Political Factors: The extent to which government policy may impact on your business or sector, e.g. through changes to taxation, or access to certain trade markets
b) Economic Factors:
The performance of the economy, and how it might impact on the profitability of your business. E.g. Through recessions, higher levels of unemployment, reduced disposable income, changes to the supply chain, and an increase in the cost price of your product
c) Social Factors: The shifting social environment, and developments in your staff’s needs and wants. E.g. Increased fear and anxiety, attitude and lifestyle changes, plus a greater level of remote working
d) Environmental Factors:
The impact of ecological concerns, such as protecting the environment and fostering greater wellbeing in the workplace
e) Technological Factors: The technological changes, innovations, and developments, which could affect your working patterns and your industry, in either a positive or negative manner.
E.g. The rise of Zoom, remote working, and E-commerce
Refresh your business model and approach; why not take a detailed look at what areas make you the most money? Which of your products and services are proving popular? Where are the most lucrative opportunities going to be in the near future? And what do you need to action in the short, medium, and long term?
In particular, consider the following:
a) Efficiency: Look at where your business is spending money, and consider which expenses are avoidable. Think about excess marketing costs, rent, the size of your company, and any other expenses that may be reducible, without affecting the quality of your business. Efficiency is crucial to being successful and emerging from lockdown stronger. Many businesses have realised they’ve been operating with excesses, and this is the perfect opportunity to start running more efficiently.
b) Adapt: Current market trends are going to be difficult to understand and predict, but this could work to your advantage, if you stay agile and respond quickly. By understanding the current landscape of your market, you can reoptimise your business to stay ahead of the game. Perhaps your business can provide its product or services more remotely than you thought? Or maybe you need to position your brand differently? Could you develop more digital services to complement your existing products and services?
c) Competition: What are they doing and what can you learn from them? Some businesses are suffering more than others right now, so study the ones that seem to be best making it through this crisis, and learn what they’re doing differently. Look at both your direct and indirect competition to form the clearest understanding of how others are operating, and which strategies seem to be the most effective. While some strategies may not apply across industries, take what you can from them and adjust the approach to fit your own needs. If you understand how your competitors are positioning themselves during and after this crisis, then you could have an advantage when businesses begin returning to normal operations.
d) Think about the medium-term: Is something changing in the way your customers are thinking? While the short-term will continue to be dominated by the pandemic, it is important to think about what will happen in the medium-term as well. Are your customers going to change how they think or act, even after the pandemic passes? Maybe some of them will end up preferring to use services or buy products remotely, even after every lockdown restriction is lifted. You must consider whether the traditional ways of doing things are going to continue making sense after the world returns to some kind of normality. Start by connecting with your customers – speak to them a lot. Reassure them, inquire about their experience of lockdown and its aftermath, and ask what their plans are going forwards.
e) Look at your suppliers: How has COVID-19 impacted them? Are they able to resume normal operations? The crisis might have raised concerns about the resilience of your current suppliers, or brought into focus the dependency you have on one supplier in particular. Use this as an opportunity to reduce and dilute those dependencies, to build greater resilience into your business.
5. And Most Importantly:
Keep an open mind and stay positive! The world is a scary place right now. But most things will eventually return to normal, and those things which do permanently change, will all be things that you can adapt to.
It is now time to re-energise your business around your new strategies and action plans. Engage your team with your new goals, and craft clear Key Performance Indicators for:
c) Staff Responsibilities
d) Finance and Cash Flow
e) Supply Chain Logistics,
Operations, and IT
f) Contingency Plans
Being a business owner can be a lonely ride.
Although everything mentioned in this article has probably gone through your mind at some point, it’s often hard to take a step back from the day-to-day running of a business and develop a detailed strategy for the future.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help; there are some good people out there with a wealth of experience, who could be invaluable in helping you build an actionable plan to thrive. It’s not always about receiving advice, as you’ll know your own business already, it’s instead about being a sounding board – helping you to structure your thoughts and ideas into realistic plans, while making sure you’ve considered all the consequences of your actions.