To say 2020 has been a trying time for businesses big and small is somewhat of an understatement.
It is hard to imagine anyone was truly ready for what we have all had to face - everyday life has been turned on its head.
And now with lockdown beginning to ease, it is all change again and the need to respond to changing markets and customer requirements is at the front of all our minds.
So, are you ready for the next step back to some kind of normal?
What has been the real impact to your business?
Before you can rebuild it’s important to have a clear idea about what the past few months have really meant for your small business. Compare figures to last year, identify areas where you may have saved on expenditure or experienced additional cost and consider whether you will need financial support of some sort in order to rebuild. Forbes looks in more detail at the six steps you need to take to rebuild your small business after COVID-19.
Is financial support available?
If you are yet to check, now really is the time to find out whether you can access any of the Government’s financial support schemes for businesses and the self employed.
Prepping for the come back
It goes without saying that keeping employees and customers safe is of paramount importance, and the efforts needed to make this possible will vary greatly business to business.
The Federation of Small Businesses has come up with a really useful COVID-19 health and safety checklist to help small businesses prepare to reopen.The full PDF can be downloaded here.
Recognising that the needs of different workplaces vary greatly, the Government has published a range of guides to getting back to work for different sectors. It sets out five steps that every business should take before reopening:
1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment which should then be shared with your team and on your website.
2. Step things up a gear when it comes to hand washing and cleaning.
3. If your employees can work from home you should do all you can to help make this possible.
4. Put measures in place to allow 2m social distancing where possible.
5. Where it’s not possible for people to be 2m apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk. For example consider whether an activity needs to continue for your business to operate or using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.
Once you are confident you can meet these requirements, it’s time to make sure your customers know you are reopening. Of course if you have been on top of your marketing, you will never have truly been away, but even the most loyal customer may need encouragement to return to their former purchasing habits once lockdown eases.
Consider special offers to encourage them back - with finances stretched over the coming months, holding on to loyal customers will become ever more important.
Your marketing and social media plans for the year will also need to be revisited in order to respond to the current situation.
Working with social distancing
Anyone who has been shopping over the past few weeks will already know how hard it can be to socially distance, even in a large area. Smaller shops may find it more difficult to give customers and staff the space they need, while offices may need to be completely reconfigured to meet Government guidelines.
As well as basics such as displaying signs to remind people of the need to socially distance, the Government also advises measures such as using a one-way system through the workplace and switching to seeing visitors by appointment only.
Over the past weeks video conference apps such as Zoom, Hangouts and Google Meet have come into their own. Now, even as lockdown eases, it will be worth considering moving meetings online rather than face to face to avoid potential headache of making social distancing work.
How will buying habits have changed?
Although many are truly feeling the strain, small businesses are traditionally much more agile and able to respond to changing customer needs.
We have all heard stories of cafes and restaurants which have started home deliveries, businesses which have completely changed their product line to meet altered customer demand and enterprising new start ups who have seen a brand new opportunity arise out of this crisis.
It is this ability to adapt fast which will be a major benefit to small businesses in the uncertain times ahead.
In a research report about how COVID-19 will change customer behaviour, accenture.com explains: “Why, what and how consumers buy is changing due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Consumer priorities have become centered on the most basic needs, sending demand for hygiene, cleaning and staples products soaring, while non-essential categories slump. The factors that influence brand decisions are also changing as a “buy local” trend accelerates. Digital commerce has also seen a boost as new consumers migrate online for grocery shopping – a rise that is likely to be sustained post-outbreak.”
With an increasing switch to online interaction, now is the time to look again at your web and social media presence.
What have I learnt from Covid?
Don’t let these past weeks go to waste. Although we all hope never to go through something like this again, the experience of responding to such sudden change can help you lean important lessons for the future of your business.
Did you have to try different ways to reach customers? Has your online presence become more important? Did you have to use innovative solutions to enable your business to continue during lockdown and will any of these remain as part of your business model as we find our new normal?
Here to help
If you need help to boost your online presence or plan your businesses next steps, Small Business Geek is here.
We offer a range of business services from design and web development to marketing and business planning, and well as administrative support and training. Get in touch.