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How to adapt your business to survive the pandemic

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by Startacus Admin

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Rebecca Oatley, Founder and Managing Director, Cherish PR shares her thoughts on adapting your business in the current climate...

rebecca oatleyI attended a webinar recently from world-leading research firm, Kantar on the impact of Covid-19 on businesses. The results were fascinating and the short term economic picture wasn’t good. 75% of businesses confirmed that offline sales had plummeted, and supply chain, staff and business resourcing were all hit badly. Business had been cut back to its core, damage limitation in place to protect cash until there are noticeable shoots of recovery. It almost seemed like hibernation.

However, it is anything but that. As a small business owner, I see this period as an opportunity to sharpen my business ready for when the economy emerges from the virus with some small but significant tweaks

Let’s start with cash

We’re all protecting our cash reserves but in truth, small businesses don’t have a lot of cash to hang on to; three months’ trading at most. Cash is hard earned and the retirement fund for many business owners. It depletes immediately without a good cashflow in place.

We had to rethink our cashflow a few years back. We had been burned by a few more risky startups. Often small businesses are so grateful for new customers, they don’t agree good credit terms, especially now. So if you haven’t already, think about your credit terms now. It’s okay to ask for an upfront payment of at least 25%. Pre-payment before each stage should be standard.

Offer small discounts in exchange for better payment terms, put limits on third party expenses that you will cover, negotiate similar payment terms with your suppliers. And, of course, , chase for payment before starting on any major projects. Having such a small amount of credit to call in as we entered this crisis has meant that we could make plans rather than worrying about trying to catch-up.

Communication should be at the forefront of any small business plans

Sharpen or even change your communications. The brands that have done really well with customers in recent weeks are those who have taken their responsibility seriously. Companies such as Tesco and Sainbury’s have joined the effort to support the most vulnerable. Brands like Virgin Mobile have actively communicated the stay at home message. How can you increase your communication sensitively and personally? I have used the extra time I have without the interruptions of the working environment to listen and communicate personally with our clients. People buy from people. It will mean a lot in the long term.

Always innovate

It is incredible to see the innovation that is coming out of this crisis. Listening to the challenges that clients and customers face, provide the insight to think creatively, adapt your sales pitch and evolve your product offering. My agency, Cherish PR recently launched free crisis communications advice for startups and small businesses during the epidemic. We are offering hourly rates to clients who are unable to commit to retainers. We’re not alone. Check out Farillio’s #3hrPledge on Twitter. There are lots of experts pledging time to help others for free.

Go Digital

The Kantar research also pointed to the huge longer term shift to digital that this crisis will bring. Social distancing is likely to become a continuing feature until a vaccine is found. Interacting with the outside world digitally is unlikely to change. We’re actively thinking about our “digital supply chain”, or the software and services that can improve the digital experience for our customers. We have already seen initiatives like local high streets becoming virtual, and the local butcher and sweet shop beginning selling online to cope with the current situation. If you haven’t already, thinking about the digital evolution of your business now will give you more security over the coming months and years.

Embrace the new normal

pexels 2681319Support your workforce as staff adapt to the new normal of working remotely. We quickly realised that there is unspoken office etiquette that needs to be replicated digitally, and the structure of a working day may change but there needs to be routine.

We have daily check-ins at 9:30am which rallies the team, starts the day and gets everyone on the same page. It’s been an interesting three weeks of check-ins. We have noticed and applauded achievements more than ever before. We have used the time for Q&As and briefed honestly about the position of the business. We have shared our opinions on the news and what may affect the business. We have talked about how we feel. We have noticed what so often goes unnoticed in a physical office.

Lead the way

Finally, as a leadership team, we have been really visible, conversing with clients, suppliers, partners and staff. Keeping the virtual door open, making sure that we’re visible on calls and web conferences. Being present, being human, being open and honest just like a good leadership team should be.

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Published on: 20th April 2020

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