We’re now well over six months into the pandemic and the economy has been hit hard. For some industries its business as usual. However, many others are experiencing very tough times with some sadly closing through no fault of their own.
I’m an optimist by nature, but I like to consider myself a realistic too. Whilst I firmly believe the tide will change, the reality is that we need to adapt to the environment we find ourselves in, in order to ride out the storm.
What I have noticed is that people are reacting differently. Some companies are hunkering down, several are making necessary changes and others are moving in a different direction. This got me thinking about what we can do to protect ourselves and keep going?
Here is a list of some practical ideas which I feel any business can take on.
Manage customer expectations – many companies are experiencing extremely long lead times in their supply chains. On a few occasions recently, I placed orders for items where I was told there was a 6-8-week delay. The reality was more like 12-14 weeks. Be honest with your customers from the start and set realistic expectations. Be open to sourcing new suppliers, new or alternative products when it is really hitting your bottom line.
Stay on top of your invoicing - I am often surprised how often SME’s are so busy generating sales and providing products and services that they neglect invoicing. Sometimes this can be for weeks or months at a time. Make a point of sending out invoices immediately after delivery on a weekly or monthly basis. Stay on top of your debtors and remember to regularly follow up outstanding payments. Take the time to pick up the phone rather than rely on emails for late payers. Be openminded and instigate the conversation around payment plans where needed.
Cut back your overheads – Stay on top of your bills, making regular payments where you can. f you are having difficulties, be upfront and talk to your suppliers to arrange a payment plan. Analyse your overheads, look for ways to cut back, renegotiate contracts and reduce your bills. For instance, you might have a full-time employee who wants to reduce their hours to become a part-timer. Another example that comes to mind is a client who decided to move into a building with another company, immediately halving their rent (most staff working from home).
Avoid discounts – whilst some businesses might feel under pressure to give a discount, it’s not always the best option. Offering a customer an additional or complimentary product can create more impact, whilst extra time is often highly valued by customers.
Be better organised – As the saying goes “time is money”. Pay more attention to how you spend your day. Sometimes we estimate a task will take “just an hour”. Start logging how long it actually takes and work out the cost involved. Look for ways to streamline activities and eliminate time-wasting ones. Stop procrastinating, keep a diary and spend more time planning for calls, zoom meetings and other projects.
Don’t sit and wait for the phone to ring – For some people the market has unfortunately shrunk. There may be less opportunities, but there are still some. Be proactive and talk to your customers. Its five times easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new one. And we have a 50% chance of getting the business, 25% if it’s a dormant client.
Be prepared to pivot and change – There is a saying “there is nothing permanent except change”. We all know change can be difficult and unfair at times. However, we need to dig deep and look for new ways of doing things. This might entail changing our delivery service, product or service offering or our entire business model. We have all witnessed great examples from restaurants like those who are now focusing on traditional take-aways or others who developed the “create your own dinner” concept. A recent example includes the newly restyled fruit and vegetable shop.