The 5 P’s of the Pandemic
With the ongoing pandemic many businesses are struggling to survive, with a record number of companies going into administration in 2020 and this terrible trend continuing in 2021.
The pandemic and everything related to it caught many business owners by surprise and, even worse, caused some businesses to fold. Yelp reported that permanent business closures have reached 97,966, representing 60% of closed businesses that won’t be reopening. Imagine investing so much into an entity, and because of some virus, things start to slow down, till they eventually go under.
It’s the new year, and nobody knows what it holds. But as a business owner, you must plan and fortify your business against such problems.
However, working together we can come out the other side of this pandemic with a successful and profitable growing business.
Lots of the ideas and practices in this post, cross two or more of the 5 P’s, so can positively impact your business in many ways.
It can be difficult especially when cash is scarce, and you are struggling financially. But remember to take care of yourself in a way that works for you- for instance, eat well, try to get some exercise in and spend time with the ones you love. Taking care of yourself will help you to keep calm, which in turn will also mean a healthier mindset to come up with innovative ideas to move forward.
If faced with some difficult decisions, take time to mentally calm and balance yourself. In what is a very dynamic and rapidly changing situation, taking a step back to reassess is always a good idea. Asking for opinions from trusted friends, family and mentors will help you get a perspective.
Things will get better, and you aren’t in this alone. HELP IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE IF YOU ASK.
Protection isn’t just about what you have but also what you will do.
Every day, innovations are created which simplify the buying process for your customers. If your business isn’t doing anything new and making life easier for your customers, you may risk losing your customers to people who will.
Apple supremo, Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
Be a leader for your business and take actions, otherwise you may not have a business to lead.
You must plan your finances because every business needs money to facilitate certain areas of business. Budgeting is like a roadmap for your business; you put your business at risk when you don’t have a budget. As a business owner, many things can harm your assets, which can cause you to lose money. It won’t be nice losing your business assets in a legal case. Many entrepreneurs overlook this part, but it is crucial to secure your assets even if things don’t go your way after a legal case.
Nobody starts a business and considers the possibilities of losing everything. But take steps to protect both your intellectual property and your physical assets. Both security wise and legally.
The greatest concern for most business owners, at least initially, is how am I going to pay my bills this week, next week, and how long will this last. Whilst there are no clear answers to these questions there are some important steps you can take on the financial front as soon as possible:
Create a cash-flow budget listing with fixed versus variable costs. Fixed costs will generally keep the doors open and must be paid. Create a list of priorities about which ones are most important and try to set money aside based on the timing of when they are due.
Analyse cuts to unnecessary costs that aren’t producing revenue or securing key business functions.
Check with your accountant and solicitors about ways to protect yourself and your business from any adverse effects.
Sell unused or unwanted assets. This can include stock items, machinery, vehicles etc to free up cash in the short term.
Layoffs, terminations, or furloughs of employees. Remember, your employees can be one of your greatest assets, and if you cut too deep, you may not get them back.
Every small business usually has the same key expenses, which can be managed to some degree. These include:
· Employee salaries – Maximise efficiency, reduce staffing where possible, use technology to reduce staff costs.
· Rent/Mortgage – Speak to your provider/landlord about the situation, you may be able to take a break or spread the costs or defer for a while whilst you sort yourself out. Remember it is their interest at the moment to keep you in business and providing an income for them. You could consider downsizing or moving to a cheaper premises or area.
· Utility bills – Go green, many environmentally friendly measures can help reduce your bills and many grants are available to help reduce the cost of implementing these measures. Shop around to make sure you have the best deals.
· Taxes – this is the most important. Make sure that you put aside the money for the taxes you will have to pay. If you get into trouble, make contact and work out an affordable plan straight away to avoid fines or penalties.
You should also look at your personal finances and speak to people you may support to have a realistic discussion on how to control your personal spending for the next few months. What costs are necessary, what can be put on hold? If you have a partner supporting you as you grow your business as the breadwinner, have an open and honest discussion with them about your immediate and long-term plans for the business.
Planning isn’t all doom and gloom though. You need to sit down and make a positive plan for the future.
How adaptable are you?
Even in the best of times, small and medium-sized firms can struggle to expand. For such companies, spurts of high growth occur rarely and unpredictably, and they are difficult to manage and sustain. So in these challenging times, when demand and sales have dipped, small businesses face an even steeper climb. During this pandemic even the large companies have struggled and failed with the lockdown only highlighting and speeding up the decline of many household names, that have failed to adapt and change in the last few years.
A crumbling economy doesn’t necessarily mean smaller firms have to get buried in the rubble. In fact, even the smallest companies can grow in a financial downturn, if they employ a multipronged approach that focuses on their strengths, highlights their uniqueness, and makes them stand out from the crowd.
This may include a completely new direction for your business and a new approach to marketing as you open new sales avenues and find new customer demographics.
No one planned for 2020, nobody even saw it coming. But it came, and everyone had to adapt their business in some way. Whether it was going from a brick and mortar business to online, to implementing social distancing procedures, to finding new customers as everyone stopped going out.
The normality of work we were all used to halted. Everyone had to adapt to home working, zoom meetings, online education, and social distancing.
2021 is uncertain, but you must be prepared to adapt to anything. Whether it’s in your service/product delivery, marketing, or engaging with your customers.
If you or your team have more time available, use this time to improve your processes and efficiencies, improve products and services or make the changes you’ve been meaning to do over the past few years or months. We know we all have them in our business, and we’ve been too busy to get to them. Well, use this time now. Come out of the storm stronger and have a better product or service.
Ask yourself and your team these questions and act upon the answers:
· How do you expect your customers to behave moving forward?
· How can you accommodate who will likely be a new type of customer?
· Can you digitize any of your products or services, and start offering them online?
· Can you implement technology, offering new ways to connect with your customers?
Many small businesses are having employees work remotely for the first time. Make sure you set the expectations for those working remotely. Many business owners already operate on nights and weekends remotely, but your employees probably don’t.
Make sure your processes and procedures are written down for your employees to refer to and make your you provide training and support in this area.
Be clear with your employees regarding your specific policies within the business and safety protocol regarding the virus. It’s probably wise to follow as closely as possible the guidelines, social distancing, clean work areas, environments, and good hygiene.
Wherever possible, try your best to keep your staff– they rely on you, and if you have managed a good team, they should be supporting you.
They can help out in other areas of the business when their department is down- for instance, anyone not working could help out the marketing team with productions of videos or pictures, posting on social media and sharing posts.
Get the team together and volunteer in some way that you can promote online to keep up your presence in the mind of your customers.
You could train your existing staff on additional skills, which could make them more productive and efficient.
There are many free courses and learning and training resources online that can meet most of your needs and also your budget during this time.
Everyone likes to feel heard. So, it’s your job as the business owner to create an environment that allows everyone to share their opinions and ideas about certain things. This can happen at weekly meetings. Implementing this can significantly increase their productivity, which in turn helps your business.
It’s not always about cutting costs with payroll. It’s important for business owners to show leadership. Don’t complain, remain positive and approachable. But remember to be honest with your staff about the situation. This situation isn’t going to change for a while. Pay attention to it though and adapt.
Plans will change, but here are a few specific ideas or steps to consider with your team:
It's people who make every business successful so have a special focus on your key people.
Don’t get stuck in decisions you made last week. Be willing to adapt and have new plans. You are going to have to live with these changes once the crisis is over.
Communicate any changes to your policies. Make sure you include your employees input in your decisions and this will make them feel included and valued.
Remember the average cost to hire a new employee is £1,500 so it is always a good idea to focus on retention and development of your team.
Unfortunately, hard decisions will need to be made. This is why it is important to keep your employees informed and updated as much as possible.
Assess what functions can be done remotely, for most businesses, not everything can be remote. A small team may need to be on-location for certain functions (production, mail, packages, shipping, etc.).
Remember to build on what works as some staff will not want to return to the old way of working even when this pandemic is over. Start building a new culture and work environment for the long term.
We are all learning a lot about how we could have better prepared for this disaster. Use this time as a wakeup call and learn from this experience.
Marketing is very crucial for any business. Businesses that survived through 2020 were the ones that remained in their customers’ minds.
The lockdowns will continue for a while in 2021, that may cause your business not to operate normally. Which will impact your revenues.
However, ask yourself how often you see an advert for the biggest brands in the world like Coca Cola, McDonalds, Nike etc.
Marketing is how you understand your customers’ needs, educate them, attract new ones, and get them to keep doing business with you. All marketing strategies may not lead to outright sales, but sales will happen eventually if you’re consistent enough.
You need to promote your brand (Yes, your business is a brand, whether you think of it as such or not.) and get your brands message and ethics across to your customers.
Your social media platforms should be your best friends in the coming years. Studies show that nearly 50% of the world now use social media daily.
Part of staying on your customers’ minds is being around where they can see you, and social media marketing is a marketing strategy that gives you that leverage.
This doesn’t even need to cost a fortune. You don’t need to use paid ads, you can just post multiple times daily across the platforms.
Try to make your posts less like sales adverts and more like sharing your business life and passion. Here are a few ideas of things you can post:
· Your quote of the day, whether inspiring, thought provoking, funny or just an interesting fact.
· Funny incidents from the office (if caught on camera)
· Great customer reviews, testimonials.
· Your team in action, whether its your telephone sales team, your packers, delivery drivers, chefs, or even your assistant bringing you a coffee to keep you going.
· Ask fans to help you make a business decision - customers relish feeling a sense of ownership and input into your business.
· Ask a question - Doesn't get simpler than this! Ask fans a question to get them engaging with your content. Make it relevant to your brand, and easy to answer - a response that needs only one or two words works best.
· Share your successes - Trumpeting your successes - like awards - has two benefits. It shows existing fans that they are investing in something positive and inspirational, and it is proof of your quality to potential customers.
· Showcase your history - Whether the history of your brand is long and stories or only short. Fans love to hear about tales and anecdotes from your past, it helps them to feel a connection with your brand.
· Ask fans to get creative with your product - Challenge fans to come up with alternative uses for your products and share the best on your social feeds.
· Share user-generated content - Nothing pleases a fan more than to see one of their pictures on one of the social feeds of their favourite brand.
· Share an "on this day" post - If you've got the history in your own business for it, or if your industry has a colourful past worth sharing, then an "on this day" post can provide a wealth of fun and interesting opportunities.
· Give away something for free - Everybody likes something for free, and depending what the offer is, can generate you a lot of engagement. Whether it's free samples ("Quick! They're limited!), a free guide, or something else - particularly if it used to cost in the past - try it and see how your fans react.
· Show your brand giving back - You may not always show it overtly, but people like to see the ways that your company gives back to its community or other causes. Showing that your brand reflects the ideals of your fans is compelling.
· Capitalise on fleeting trends - The Ice Bucket Challenge was perhaps the most popular viral, charitable cause that social media has ever seen. So, as long as your intentions are good and true, jump on the trends.
· Incorporate your hashtags - Most brands now have one or several brand-related hashtags, don’t forget to include them.
· Celebrate Holidays – Whether these are the big ones like Christmas, Easter or Halloween, or more obscure like National Chocolate covered Cherry Day!
· "Remember when...?" type posts are hugely popular on social media, so if your company has even a little bit of heritage to share. Encourage your fans to celebrate with you and share their memories of your product or service.
· You might feel a bit uneasy promoting products direct on your social pages, but framing them in regular posts - like a product of the week - is a way of doing it that isn't so unexpected, or forced. Use it as an opportunity to showcase products and sell the benefits.
· Don’t forget to chuck in a few Check us out at….. and promote your other social profiles.
· Announce contest winners (with their permission) it adds authenticity to your contests.
· Share public announcements.
· Share seasonal items - The change of the seasons can offer up great inspiration for social media posts.
· Have fans share selfies – Get fans to snap selfies (with, buying or using one of your products) for you to share on your social media profiles.
· Tease upcoming products – you have a new product, for example, so now's the chance to drip-feed further information to keep fans interested in the lead up to its full launch.
· Jump on topical events – use pop culture to engage with your fans and simply ask your fans about it directly, especially if there's a tie-in with your brand.
· Throw a virtual birthday party - Got an important event in your company's calendar coming up? Encourage fans to visit you on the day for lots for fun and surprises.
· Out and About? - Show fans your view for the day, whether on a new site or the view from your car window share and encourage them to do the same.
COVID-19 has intensified the need to adopt such behaviour. We’ve seen incredible examples of delivering valuable innovation at pace. Now, as we move on from adapting to operate in a crisis to taking a long-term view. Businesses need to retain the ability to adapt quickly and efficiently to continue to bring value and great service to their customers.
Businesses now more than ever need to change how they deliver value, prioritise work, engage with their staff and customers, promote their morals and passions of their brands and develop sales avenues.