Lockdown has been (and remains) a tough time for business. For business owners, it is hard to predict when things will return to normal. Even as the lockdown measures ease, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about when customers will come back and if the marketplace will still support your business. Many businesses are wondering if they’ll be able to recover. The anxiety driven by so much personal and professional uncertainty is still very real.
Having to shut your business at short notice, or switch to an entirely digital, remote-working model, was for some a stressful experience. Businesses already functioning well with cloud software have found the transition to working remotely reasonably smooth. Some that were partially operating in the cloud were able to complete the leap with some dedicated IT support.
As always in challenging times though there are things we have taken out of lockdown. The amazing thing about human resilience and ingenuity is how quickly businesses DID evolve to cope with this situation. Whether it enabled us to explore new ideas or dive into some fresh thinking regarding work, life or a business venture. So, what lessons did we all learn from this enforced period of business shutdown, quarantine and remote working?
More time with family – with the daily commute no longer needed, and the ability to work remotely from our own homes, everyone had far more time to spend with their family, their partner or (via video calls) their wider circle of friends and family. Although enforced time together may have added a few strains, this extra time with our nearest and dearest is something we are grateful for – and should aim to continue.
More exercise and fitness time – finding the time to fit in a gym session or run was always tricky. The quieter pace meant that many could follow the latest workout video, go for a run, or get back on our bikes. We know exercise is good for both our physical AND our mental wellbeing - so it's important to keep this in your daily schedule going forward.
Appreciating your resources - Business owners / managers have generally become more appreciative of how their teams and business contacts have adapted. This flexibility might be critical as we continue to adapt to a succession of new ‘normals’. Some businesses will be scrambling just to reopen. Others may see a need to restructure or to extend those elements that worked well for them during the crisis.
Future planning – working ON the business, rather than IN the business is an aspiration of any ambitious owner, but the time to do this is usually scarce. In lockdown, we’ve had far more time available to think through our core goals, what our next move should be and what our ‘post-coronavirus strategy’ should be.
Using data to understand your customers – Intuition is vital for business owners but if there’s data in your business that you haven't had the time to review, you may be missing opportunities. For some, lockdown provided some time for analysis such as, learning to use Google Analytics to understand how your customers find you, what your popular pages are, and which products are selling.
Getting in control of your financial model – huge drops in revenue have meant cashflow worries. We've been assisting clients to re-evaluate their finances. Looking at costs, debts and potential revenue streams allows you to see how you can reduce cash outflows and boost those all-important cash inflows. Reporting on these numbers will continue to support your business decisions.
As we can see there are some unexpected positives, so as the economy starts to revive, we should look at the positives and use them wherever possible going forward
What could your business look like from here?
As we have seen many businesses moved online, even as a stand-alone business, you’re already part of a network of suppliers, customers, business advisors and regulators who will increasingly be operating online. So, can you streamline your business processes for smoother, secure online interaction with them?
For example, is your paperwork still largely that? Paper? Do you lose time to manual coding, data entry and filing? Has your annual accounts cycle started each year with dropping into us with the proverbial shoebox full of statements, invoices and receipts? Moving them to electronic format might save time and money.
Products such as Receipt Bank and Hubdoc can help. They extract the key information and present it in a manageable format for downloading or processing with a connected accounting software.
Places to start:
- If your suppliers send you hard copy invoices and receipts, ask them to email them
- Add a cheap scanner to your office setup
- Take photos of receipts on your phone or digital camera and save the files.
Click and collect?
Not all businesses are suited to online trading, but many have surprised themselves with how they could adapt to this model. Even businesses which traditionally only work face-to-face have seen opportunities to shift essential products to click and collect or delivery models.
After so many years as a business owner trying to get your head out of the clouds, maybe this is the perfect time to put it back there. As with all business decisions, consider the risks and talk to us about how it will work for you. We are here to help you assess the easiest but also the most secure options for your business.
None of us know exactly what the ‘new normal’ of business trading will look like. But if you want to be ready for a different kind of business reality, we can help. We’ll work with you to update your goals, strategy and financial model – so you’re ready for the future.