On Friday I contacted each of my clients. “Hi, it’s Juanita. We need to talk about the Coronavirus.”
The reactions varied. Some laughed. Some were confused, surely it made absolutely no difference to the way they conducted their business, right? Some remained optimistic.
I don’t usually pay too much attention when there’s a national flurry of panic. I’m not the person who stock piles food, for example, or panics when the government issues a hose pipe ban. But watching the way this virus has spread and the affect it has had on family and clients made me sit up.
The final straw came when former Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt, told national press that the UK should prepare for two months worth of potential school closures should pandemic status be declared.
My first thought was for my 11 year old son who is about to transition into secondary school. Not the greatest time for this to happen but should he be off for 8 weeks I’m grateful to be self employed. But then my thoughts turned to my clients. At least two work in the education sector and another just had a potential booking cancelled because of fears around the virus.
I realised that no one – including myself admittedly – was prepared. Issues around data, yes. Technical failures, yes. Facebook or Instagram going down, yup. But an unseen, highly contagious flu that has affected 62 countries in over six weeks? Yeah, not so much. And so it got me thinking: Are other small businesses prepared for the future? In the (unlikely or is it?) event that the country shut down, do we have the infrastructure and foresight to pivot and serve our customers differently?
TGRG already has a couple of products and services in the pipeline – one of which I hope to launch on our third birthday in March – so we’d begun to really look at diversifying our offering but never was there an innate urgency to have that type of contingency in place until now.
So what advice did I give my clients? Well, obviously the advice they received was bespoke to them based on the knowledge I have of them and their business but some of the overarching themes can apply to any business.
1. Start to prepare now
My thing is there’s always a benefit to regularly reviewing your strategy. Don’t let people railroad you into thinking that preparing for the future is an overreaction or you ‘panicking’. This particular scenario is a global threat and with multinationals being affected (including our stock market) it would be strange to think that smaller businesses wouldn’t be affected in any way. At the end of the day, your business can only benefit.
2. Look at your services – can they be delivered in a different way?
The advent of technology has meant that we can deliver services in so many different ways. Through video courses, the video calls there isn’t an absolute reason to be physically anywhere really? Review your services and asses if there are additional ways you could offer them. You might even find you make a saving either in time or money.
3. Go for the quick wins
If you have a number of new services you could potentially launch start with the one that is easiest to set up and give you a quicker return on investment. The point is to keep yourself afloat but not cripple you at the same time.
4. Check in with your clients and suppliers
– how are they handling the situation? What contingencies are the putting in place? Are they likely to be impacted?
I think the key thing to remember during this time is to make sure you are keeping up-to-date with the latest news and maintain a healthy sense of awareness. At the end of the day, to be forewarned and all that…