Coronavirus: 11 Simple Steps to Survive and Thrive in Business
Yes – it’s out there! We are entering an economic pandemic – a global downturn in economies, of an unknown extent. The governments of the world have responded lowering rates, offering payment holidays, reducing (some) taxes, extending terms and now it’s time for us business owners to do our part.
Now it’s time to get proactive and introduce measures that will give your business the best opportunity to weather this storm. The 11 Steps below are for you and your business to start right now:
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Clear, frequent communication is essential in any crisis management situation. Even when the detail is not clear – in the absence of any formal information, rumour and negative conjecture will fill the void.
So who do you need to communicate with? All your key stakeholder groups! Starting with your team – employees, freelancers, sub-contractors. Share with them your plans, what you’re hearing from your sources, and the formal government advice. Keep your updates regular, with opportunity for questions to be heard and answered. Communicate with your customers – letting them know your situation – that its business as usual or some changes they need to know about? Maybe you’ve some advice, alternative or new products and services that will help them in this particular situation?
Use the best channels for each audience – face-to-face or video for your employees, maybe phone or email for customers, social media for your new prospects?
- Be Positive !
In every change situation, there is always an opportunity!
By definition, a change means that whilst some customer needs to diminish, other new needs emerge. Our job in business is to identify and fulfil those needs with suitable products and services. Your job, as a business leader, is to spot those changes in needs and bring appropriate solutions to the market. As we all know, ‘the early bird catches the worm’ – so understand the impact the current pandemic is having on your particular market – customers, suppliers, competition, and be first to adapt and respond.
Be the most positive person in your team – emotions are infectious, and your team need your confidence, positivity and sense of possibility. Especially as they’ll in turn pass this on to your customers.
- Know the Cycles
There is a continual economic Cycle, typically running in a 7-10 year pattern: the green shoots of Spring as economies rebound; the Summer bonanza of growth; the downturn into Autumn; and the depths of recession in Winter.
We can already see the Coronavirus has led the global economies to trip into Autumn – supply chain issues from stalled production in China, loss of Chinese customer spending globally and now closer to home, the cancellations of events, travel, and leisure activities. Yet to come is the impact of a reduced workforce from self-isolation, sickness, caring for the sick and covering childcare, if schools are closed.
We are now seeing the Cycles of Coronavirus, with China well through the peak of new cases, and Italy now free of new cases in the regions first locked down. So far we can see that a market moves through the illness cycle in 30-90 days; less clear is how quick the economies will spring back. But spring back they will, and we need to be ready for this!
- Understand Change
The change curve is well documented – shock, anger, denial, acceptance, and finally moving on. My sense is that as a nation, we are still emotionally on the way down – somewhere between Anger about what has or hasn’t been done to prevent this, and Denial about the health and economic impacts. As business leaders, we need to get ourselves ahead of this change curve – accept the situation and move forward with the new reality – or at least the reality for the next few weeks and months. We need to be leading the change – the change to working remotely, leveraging technology, adapting to new staffing levels, supplying new/adapted products or services.
Being resistant to change is a natural human condition which needs to be overcome through increasing your Dissatisfaction with the current situation and getting clarity of Vision for the future, with some clear First steps to take.
- Cut Back
Those gardeners amongst you will know that the Autumn is always busy with cutting back the shrubs and trees to keep the core of the plant healthy during the dormant winter months. Likewise in our economic cycle, it’s essential to cut back your costs to withstand the challenges that the economic Winter may throw at you. Don’t wait, don’t delay – it won’t make it any easier… Stop discretionary spending, delay spending where possible, renegotiate and lower your costs intelligently. But don’t cut away the business life source – always keep your sales and marketing so you’re equipped and ready for Spring. Cash is King at this stage of the cycle.
- Extend your credit
Whilst the banks are still lending, get your credit sorted now! Extend your overdraft facility and your credit card limit, and find the lowest rates (newly reduced!). Keep these available to help you through any lean times ahead.
- Adjust your staffing
Be proactive about the required changes to your staffing. When demand falls, you need less people hours, and delaying that decision hurts the business more for every week you procrastinate…
Being proactive means you can explore different ways of reducing your staffing costs – voluntarily extended holidays, reduced hours, pay cuts can all be ways to avoid the need to make redundancies. Alternative products and services may provide alternative roles for your people. If your downturn is demand is significant, and layoffs are required, then do it once, and do it well. Above all, be honest with yourself and your team, and seek professional HR advice to support you.
- Plan for Working From Home
This is a critical strategy being used extensively across all impacted countries to allow economic activity to continue whilst allowing self-isolation for workers and children. Are you equipped and ready to implement this? Is the technology and equipment available? Are your team confident in using them? How will you maintain communications – with your team, customers and suppliers? How will you manage business activities that can’t be done at home? There should already be a plan in place, and of not, this is a top priority.
- Online or Delivery
With increasing numbers of people quarantined, sick or self-isolating at home, your distribution channels may need to adjust. Rather than customers coming to you, your products and services need to get delivered to them. What’s your new model for this? What staffing changes are needed? Payment processes? Packaging requirements? And critically, how will your customers get to know about these new services to help them?
- Marketing and Selling
At all costs, keep your sales and marketing flowing – this is the lifeblood to your business! Your offering may change, the marketing message need adapting and the sale channel become more online, but keep doing it!
Know your numbers and closely monitor the performance of your marketing strategies. With the level of change being experienced in customers situations at this time, the strategies that used to work well may now be obsolete and unprofitable. Shop around for the best deals and rates for your marketing activities.
- Repeat business
Keep your existing customer base close to you – they are your best and most loyal customers, and most likely to buy more and different products from you. Keep communicating with them, creating packages that work for them in this new environment. Keep talking to them, and learn from them – they’ll be able to give you great insight to their evolving needs. Communication is vital to maintain their confidence and loyalty.
- Common sense and Compassion
Your ‘Brucie Bonus’ top tip… Use your common sense, and put people first. Follow the government guidelines on hand washing, cleaning etc, and minimise unnecessary exposure. As always, over deliver on customer service. And finally, don’t be so distracted on Coronavirus risk mitigations that you lose sight of other potential risks such as cyber security – they’ll be opportunistic.
The impact of the Coronavirus is escalating daily, and the need to get your business prepared hasn’t been stronger. Time is ticking. If you’d like some support in working through these 11 Steps, then give us a call on 01494 211671.
We are running practical workshops to support you with expert advice, challenge and support to create the plan for your business to survive and thrive over the next turbulent months. There is the option of attending online via Zoom, or face-to-face at our High Wycombe offices. If you would like to join, then click here