Top 5 Ideas on How to Drive Your Business During the COVID-19 Restrictions & Crisis

My top tips and ideas for Businesses in preparation for additional Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and the current economic crisis that is now upon us.

At the moment everyone is encouraged to work from home wherever possible. To stay at home as much as possible, limit contact with other people and if you are in an ‘at-risk’ group to stay inside completely.

Add to the restrictions that are affecting many types of business and we are in a looming economic downturn. The effects of this will be far greater than the Banking collapses of 2008. This means we need to keep our businesses working and functioning better and more efficient now than ever.

We need to be available to maximise any lead or potential sales opportunity that comes our way. We need to offer the best service and response possible. Rather than being complacent we should be super-efficient and fighting for our businesses. For every company that is losing business there are others in other sectors that need help and support due to massive demand on resources, think Supermarkets, Toilet Roll and sanitary product manufacturing, the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, food manufacturing to name a few. All these industries and businesses need help and support to keep up with demand, so you need to realign your strategy, not misalign it.

  1. Gather, motivate and empower your team

  2. Realign your strategy and target markets

  3. Secure your supply chain

  4. Prepare and enable your teams for Home Working

  5. Focus on what you can do and not what you can’t

Gather, Motivate and Empower your Team

At times like this as leaders it is tempting to meet and make decisions in private or in small groups of only senior managers. Whilst in times of crisis this is needed it should not be limited to this and the only option.

It is important that issues affecting the business are communicated to the team and that instead of just cascading down information that they can contribute and therefore better support actions that need to be undertaken.

Having a team workshop to go through the various issues faced and tackle them one by one with a view of how to

  1. mitigate the impact
  2. combat the impact and
  3. Seek alternatives to fill in any gaps created

You may be surprised at the ideas and commitments that come out of such an open and inclusive process.

Realign your strategy and target markets

It is most likely that some, all or big sectors of your customers are having specific difficulties trading at the moment. This will then affect the whole supply chain of that customer of which you are a part. The first action is to identify which customer and sectors are hit by the impact of the lockdown or reduction in trade. Such as general retail, manufacturing of non-essential goods, travel services. Once identified then you can assess the impact that it will have on your business and sales pipeline.

Then look at what customer groups, industries or sectors that you operate in that are still buoyant or have high demand for their goods or services. Think NHS, Pharmaceutical companies, Food manufacturing, Distribution companies. Once identified put in a plan to market and sell to these customers and make the most of those opportunities where you can.

Thirdly – innovate. Look at new markets, segments or customers that you can adapt and support. There are bound to be things that you have not yet explored that could help make up any shortfall between the first two groups. Getting your teams involved will help bring new ideas and encourage the fact that no idea is a bad idea and encourage all to contribute.

Secure your Supply Chain

Having your supply chain in order is a priority. If you sell goods, then you need supplies and stocks in order to fulfil any orders that you generate from the previous activities. There would be no point in selling what you can’t get.

Communicate with your suppliers and ensure that there is continuity of service in place and contingencies for most potential eventualities. There should be no need to hoard or stockpile products if the supply chain is still intact.

Where there is high demand for items or products then you also need to secure the right transport network and handling equipment. When demand is high and orders are being pushed out then simple items like pallets, pallet boxes, crates, containers and packaging items can easily run short so don’t forget to ensure you have enough stock of those essential consumables.

Perhaps consider a switch to using consumable items that are more hygienic and can be cleaned and sanitised more easily. Changing from wood and cardboard to plastic containers and pallets can allow for better hygiene and easier cleaning during handling and transportation.

Once you are content that your supply chain is in a good shape then communicate it to your customers – they need to know, and they may need assurance that you can support their needs.

Prepare and Enable Teams for Home Working

As a business are you prepared and able to support home working? I’m not a HR professional so I’m not going to go into the legalities and requirements for home working but the current Government advice in many countries to for individuals to work from home. However, this needs to be supported and enabled by the employers.

Working from home, with the available technology is easier than ever before. A phone and an internet connected computer is all that is needed for most office-based roles. With some adaptation and a little creativity your team can form a virtual office and be just as effective as in the actual office.

So, a quick checklist of things that an employee or a team will need to effectively work from home, collaborate and keep the wheels moving on your business.

  • Access to a phone – can be a land line but in most cases, people have mobile phones, that way each person is contactable on a one to one basis
  • Use of a Computer with Broadband access – if you have a company laptop that you can take home with you and use then that’s great but if not then you should be able to use any home computer or laptop
  • Access to work email – if you don’t have a company laptop or its not feasible for the company to supply everyone with one this can be enabled on a mobile phone or a home computer/laptop
  • Access to Productivity/Office Applications – if you use MS Office 365 in your business then all your applications can be accessed online in a browser. You can also use Google Docs which is an office suite that works very much like Microsoft Office plus it is online and free to use
  • Access to files – this can be via a remote server access. You can also access MS One Drives from anywhere and Google Drives – these can all be used to store and save essential files for work remotely. One other option if you are using a personal/home computer is to use an external drive or a USB flash drive to store documents and work on them.
  • Communication Software – there are several free or paid for tools can be used to message, chat, share documents and even have virtual meetings and video meetings with your team. Microsoft teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom are all options that can be used to maintain ‘normal’ meetings and structure in the organisation. You can even use WhatsApp or Facebook.
  • Storage for essential items – to work from home your employees may need to move some items and files from work to home and then back again. There will be a need for a more portable office. Therefore, you could support this by supplying to your team some lidded plastic storage containers such as lidded Euro Containers or Tote Boxes. Being plastic, it means they are robust for transportation and easily cleaned/sanitised when transferring between the home and work environment and vice versa.

Focus on what you can do and control and not what you can’t

Its easy to focus on what is not possible. To focus on the negative. To focus on things outside of your control. However, this won’t help you move forward and keep your business running.

We don’t know what will happen next week, we don’t know what restrictions will be imposed by the Government. We don’t know if we will catch the virus and end up ill. Worrying and fretting about those kinds of uncontrollable possibilities can distract us from our job in hand.

There is something to be said about being cautious, not taking unnecessary risks, following basic recommendations and hygiene protocols. It is another to let fear creep into your life and stop functioning. This will pass and we will return to normal – focus on what is in hand, what you can do to support your customers and business so that you make the most of this tough time and don’t give in to defeatist attitudes and negativity.

Write down a list of what you can do – and a list of what you can’t do. Throw away the “can’t do” list and stick with the “can do” one. That way you will always be moving forward.

 

Above all, stay safe, stay positive, get some exercise wherever possible and follow the Government advice.

 

Don Marshall, Head of eCommerce & Marketing

Exporta

Web: www.exportaglobal.co.uk

Tel: 0800 294 4394

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