Responding to Covid-19. Practical Help for Business Leaders

April 5, 2020 Posted by Sarah

Covid-19

A new business landscape

It’s the end of March 2020, and we can honestly say this has been the strangest month we’ve ever encountered. And, it’s all down to COVID-19, the cruel, undiscriminating, deadly Coronavirus that’s moving its way through many, if not all, countries in the world.

COVID-19 is a situation we didn’t ask for, and at this very moment in time, we have no idea when it will come to an end. It’s an unknown entity, and in our roles as business owners, parents, friends and community advocates, we have to do what we can and to make the best out this tricky time.

Turning our attention to business specifically, we have seen the Government order the close of many companies across the UK as part of a national effort to stop the virus spreading. We are yet to know if these measures have worked. Only time will tell if the imperial science on which social distancing is based has created the desired impact.

What we do know is that some businesses (not all) have suffered dramatic losses of orders, visitor numbers and fundraising opportunities leading to constricted income streams. Some businesses on the other hand have had to ramp up production and change their product offerings to cope with increased supply and demand.

Sadly, business owners and directors who are struggling will be worrying about the well-being of staff and customers, shrinking opportunities to sell products and services along with immediate concerns about the short and long term future viability of their organisations. Add homeschooling responsibilities to the mix, and suddenly it feels like you’re in a pressure cooker on maximum heat.

While we can’t rid of the virus out of your life, we can offer you some practical tips on how you can adapt to your new business landscape.

Press pause

Business audits and scenario planning

It’s been a few weeks since the government’s unprecedented announcement. Now the dust has settled, its time to strive for clarity in terms of how you can move forward. One of the best ways to find this is to complete a business audit to establish where you are right now, at this very moment in time. The disruption over business closures and lockdown protocol unfolded very quickly, and business operations as we knew it changed rapidly. Big decisions had to be made in record time. And that’s why it is essential to take stock of where you are before you can even think of implementing new tactics. 

The most important information you need to gather and asses surrounds your numbers and financial health. Specifically, do you know how much cash you need to make to cover all of your expenses? Can you reduce any unnecessary spending? How long can your business keep going on the funds you have available to you? And, have you carefully studied all of the government schemes and industry-related emergency funding that may apply to you? 

Once you know where you are, you can scenario plan to create plausible future outcomes for your business. You can make calculated assumptions based on different realities to identify what might happen if you chose a particular path over another. The value in doing this will allow you to gain a much deeper understanding of the opportunities, possibilities, risks and threats attached to each scenario. This is a much wiser way of tackling the situation over using guesswork and a ‘finger in the air’ approach. Clarity is the magic word here as you look to take small steps rather than big leaps that may not serve you well in the long term. 

How to scenario plan

A practical look
Review, Research, Scenario Plan, Act - A Practical Guide to Cover 19 from Brand Jam

Key actions

Where agility wins

The core benefit of taking time to pause is to limit reactive decision making that is difficult to implement in the real world, especially if you have no crisis planning or your organisation is complex in terms of its size and structure.

Looking for the end point, auditing what you know to then scenario plan will minimise panicked decision making that may weaken your organisations ability to return to the marketplace in a position of strength. We advocate that all business leaders should look to take the following key actions as they navigate through the uncertainty COVID-19 has given us. So, in no particular order…

  • Know your numbers. Quickly recognise and understand how much cash you need to keep going and why keeping that expense is important.
  • Address immediate concerns in measured ways. If this is the first time you are dealing with an organisational crisis, draft in the help of those who have experience and a level head. People who panick or only see doom and gloom are not always the most helpful. Look for realists who will help you see it as it is. 
  • Adopt the right attitude. Success is determined by 90% of what you do compared to the 10% dervived from the influence of outside actions.
  • Be flexible and agile. Monitor leading indicators to obtain an understanding of how the pandemic is unfolding. Incorprate, new, updated insights into your scenario planning to see if your action plan needs revising.
  • Try not succumb to bias when trying to predict future outccomes. Have at least three scenarios worked out – optimistic, middle of the road and worst case.
  • Make sure you communicate your plans with those who need to implement your plan. Be clear about their role, be honest and make sure your communication channels are open for regular feedback.
  • Be mindful that the future many not be the same as it was before this coronavirus struck. Think about what your ‘new’ normal might be and use industry data, customer sentiments and trends to guide your response to tactical planning.

Summary

Our final thoughts

Use scenario planning to keep this situation real. The business landscape has changed dramatically, and we need to be able to respond effectively. Try and support your workforce – you will need them when things return to normal. There’s never a worse feeling than letting your best people go only to find a competitor has snapped them up.

Continuously monitor the pandemic and adjust each scenario so you can adapt to new trends in the economy and your marketplace. Use our lockdown time wisely to work on your buiness. There has never been a better time to be ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ it. Do the tasks you’ve been meaning to do but never got round to because the day-to-day runnig of your operation kept you tied up.

Think about how you can make your marketing better as you look to put initiatives in place for when this is over. Look to regularly update your buyer personas as there will be a strong possibility that your customers won’t be exactly the same as they were before they went into lockdown. They may not revert back to behaviours and attitudes they held before as new habits and ways of living will have been formed. Use you social media channels to keep a track of how they feel as these new sentiments will need to be reflected in revised customer touchpoints across the whole of the purchasing journey.

Wise words from Abraham Maslow

“I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act”.

Thanks for reading.Take care and keep in touch

The whole team at Brand Jam is committed to providing content that’s packed full of practical help and advice. If you took any inspiration from this article, we would be really happy if you would share your thoughts in the comment box below. We are here to help you so if you are unsure what to do next, say hello@brandjam.uk for chat about the impact Covid-19 is having on your business.

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