Get ready to do business after lockdown.
The COVID-19 crisis forced many businesses to close, pivot or dramatically reduce capacity, so until very recently, most of the conversation has revolved around short-term concerns.
Government support has allowed many anxious company owners to breathe a sigh of relief – staff incomes have been protected by furlough schemes, and grants and loans have allowed the majority of organisations to keep their bills paid.
However we shouldn’t become complacent about our businesses simply because the wolves are away from the door. Take a well deserved rest by all means, but it would be a mistake to sit back for too long and think of your business as being “on pause”.
With announcements across the UK regions of various easings of the restrictions, we think now is the prime time to map out your post-lockdown operations.
Time to look ahead
As specialists in business recovery, we believe that now is the time for businesses – small businesses especially – to start gearing up for a post-COVID 19 world.
The end of complete lockdown will be great news when it comes – but it still won’t be ‘business as usual’. The buzz-phrase of the moment is “the new normal” – but what might that new normal look like for your business?
Firstly, it’s likely that some form of social distancing will need to stay in place for a significant period of time, even once all businesses are allowed to open their doors again. This will affect different businesses in different ways depending on:
- How many staff you have
- The type of size of premises you operate from
- How much face-to-face contact with customers/clients is necessary
The uncertainty is overwhelming for many of us, but there is a lot you can do to prepare for at least some of the various possibilities.
Reboot your company
When a business comes to us in distress, one of the best tools we have is our Independent Business Review. Using our many years of experience, we:
- Look at strengths and weaknesses inside the business
- Analyse the challenges and opportunities outside the company
- Map out scenarios and solutions
Many businesses who thought they were on the way out have instead been able to reboot their business – even in the face of massive financial challenges.
So, rather than looking at this crisis as a disaster, we invite you to put a positive spin on things – imagine that you had a blank piece of paper and were asked to draw what your company would look like if you could start again!
We believe that now would be a fantastic opportunity to make some wholesale changes to your business – here is a general checklist to give you ideas on evaluating your organisation for the post-lockdown world.
If you’d like us to create something tailored to your specific business or industry, just get in touch on the number at the end of the article.
Just as you would do with a staff member back from a sabbatical or maternity leave, furloughed staff members or staff that have worked from home for a prolonged period are going to require a plan for reintroduction to the workplace.
This could be an ideal opportunity to up-skill or re-train some of your workforce. This could be handy if you decide to change what you offer and how you deliver it.
A full workplace risk assessment will be needed and this is something we’ll cover in a future article, but for now, this checklist is a good place to start making plans.
Here and now:
- What do you need to put in place to maintain social distancing and hygiene in the workplace?
- Staggered working hours/shifts and break times?
- Changes to workplace layout
- Communicating the rules clearly – signage, training, etc.
- Will staff require (additional) PPE?
- HR procedures for breaking the rules?
- Will a phased return to work be needed in order to maintain social distancing?
- Can home-working and workplace-based colleagues liaise effectively?
- How will you prepare furloughed staff to pick up their workload again?
- How will you transition home-working staff back to the workplace?
- Will a Data Protection audit be needed?
- Can you offer mental health support to your staff?
- Review employee contracts on redundancy notice/reduction in salaries/lay off
- Are there short-staffed areas of the business? Many people will be looking for work.
- Upskilling or retraining staff
- Have you held off on training because you couldn’t get cover for staff?
- Could you use this time to upskill furloughed staff with remote training?
- Re-training could allow you to move staff out of overstaffed areas.
- Could you reduce costs and office space by continuing with home working?
There are three key areas to consider: products and services, customers, and your supply chain.
Both your supply chain and your customers could change their outlook following this period of uncertainty. You may have to make changes to your products and services in order to trade in this changed world.
However, with the majority of your competitors in the same boat and starting at the same position as you, rethink how you could shape your company to come out of the traps quicker than most.
Here and now:
Products and services
- Do you need to change or pivot your products or services in order to keep trading?
- Does social distancing and hygiene practice impact how you can sell or deliver?
- What adaptations are needed to retail and shopfront settings?
- Can you absorb the extra costs or need to adjust pricing?
Customers and Suppliers
- With less disposable income and increased caution – both socially and financially – how will you reassure and re-engage with customers?
- How will you clearly communicate and enforce social distancing and hygiene rules in face-to-face interactions with customers and suppliers?
- How will your key suppliers be impacted and what’s the knock-on effect for you?
- Still trading?
- Lead times affected?
- Price increases?
Products and services
- Is there capacity to add products or services?
- Do you provide too much choice; is this an opportunity to streamline your offering?
- Are there changes to your current services/products you have always wanted to try?
- Could you come up with a product or service for a world emerging from lockdown?
- Are there new opportunities for your business (without indulging in disaster capitalism)?
- Look at your pricing structure, does it still work? Calculate price elasticity – sometimes less can be more!
Customers and Suppliers
- Don’t rely on one major supplier or customer, now is the time to shop around and to promote yourself.
- Research the cost of seeking new customers or suppliers – marketing and advertising costs plus
- Calculate return on investment and set clear, timed profit goals so you know when a new opportunity isn’t working.
- Do you need as much stock?
Take the opportunity to create or review both a short term and long term cash flow forecast.
Here and now:
- Can your borrowing be increased, reduced or lengthened to suit you better?
- Renegotiate key terms of your contracts i.e. rent payments, invoice payment terms.
- Explore HMRC repayment planning and time to pay arrangements.
- Paying a bookkeeper to create monthly management accounts could enable more profitable business decisions.
- Paying a credit controller could bring in more cash than they cost, overall.
Know your marketplace
There are many templates that you can follow to complete this analysis such as SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) etc which can be downloaded free.
These will enable you to methodically think about your company, your competitors and most importantly your customers.
- What do your competitors do that is better than you (be brutally honest!)?
- Are there things your customers request that you don’t currently provide?
- Do you actively seek feedback from customers? How could you make it easier for them, or incentivise them to give you high quality feedback?
- What are the Unique Selling Points (USPs) of your company and do you exploit them?
We hope that this has given you plenty of food for thought in preparing yourself, your business and your staff for a post-COVID 19 world.
The situation changes daily, but we hope this has reassured you that there are still practical things you can do today to not only be ready, but to reboot your business and come out of this strange time even stronger.
If you want to talk through any of your ideas or get some support in going through this checklist, give us a call on 0800 0465 029 or email email@example.com