How businesses can adapt in Covid-19 times

2020 year of technology for businesses shown on an image
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Crazy times. Customers in supermarkets value toilet paper more than bread. Borders are closed, shelves in supermarkets are empty, businesses suffer.

As a small business owner, I know that tough times are coming. But I also know that these are amazing times coming for businesses. It’s opportunities times. The recession might be coming and we all might pay the price. But that price might be rethinking the world’s order and in a few years, we might look at 2020 as the revolutionary year where everything started to get better. Why am I so optimistic? Because I know that today’s businesses should help each other transform rather than panic. Panic has never made anyone successful. Here’s what you need to do.

Enable remote working

Many businesses are fully unprepared for global pandemic and no one blames them. There’s really no precedence in our generation. But digital transformation can be easy. All you have to do is be creative and effective.

Home office

If your company has office staff, change their computers to laptops and change your phones to IP phones. You see our phones at FutureLab are desk phones but all it takes is to disconnect them and connect them to your home router and they just work (sometimes your employee will have to ask their internet provider to help set up their router as we’ve seen some telcos blocking VOIP ports by default). Once you have a laptop and a phone, all your employees need is an internet connection at home. There are also other problems with remote work that need to be solved like performance and communication. Here are a few tools that you can use as a business to help employees work remotely:

  • Asana/Jira/Trello – Task Management systems will give you a summary of what your employees do at home and how much work they do
  • Harvest/Toggl – Time management systems will show you how much time employees spend at particular tasks at home and will give you reports for projects, customers and teams
  • Zoom/Skype/Hangouts – Video conferencing allows your employees to meet customers without leaving the house
  • VPN – your IT company should be able to set up a VPN that will allow your employees to connect to internal servers you have at your office
  • Slack – free (with limits) simple communication tool that will allow your team to communicate remotely

There are many tools out there and solutions to help you work remotely but these above should get you going. It’s important to communicate with employees often while they work from home in a clear process (e.g. assign their tasks, ask them whether they have any roadblocks etc).

Food companies

We imagine a restaurant as a loud place full of people. Same with bars and local shops. But maybe it’s the right time to turn digital. Here are a few ideas for your business to keep the profits and maybe even grow through the tough times.

  1. Join food delivery network.
    Whether it’s Uber Eats or other local company, you can reach your customers through their platform and still sell despite people staying at home
  2. Discount your food.
    In tough times sometimes it’s easier to sell through discounting your food. In the end, your expenses are lower too. You don’t need waiters or cleaners since no one is coming to your restaurant.
  3. Create a digital presence.
    Once people stay at home they can’t walk past your food store anymore. The only place where they can find out about you is the internet, whether it’s a website, an Instagram account or even Neighbourly listing. Without a digital presence, they just won’t find you.
  4. Adapt.
    You might find out that when people need to stay at home they won’t crave shrimp cocktails or tiramisu. But they’ll still be hungry. Adapting to customers’ needs is something that every business will have to do so if there’s a need and you need to sell, there’s no shame in selling fish and chips.

Services

Once the virus is out and the government will ask everyone to stay at home, services will take the biggest hit. In the end, you can’t have customers if they can’t come to you. But even those businesses can come up with some creative solutions, depending on restrictions that the government will introduce. Here are a few ideas for you if you’re in a service business:

  1. Be mobile.
    Hairdressers, beauty salons, car mechanics – all of those places will be empty soon. But with many services, you can go to the customer’s home and cut their hair or paint their nails at their house, change the oil in their own garage or bring and install the new tyres.
  2. Be social.
    Online of course. With limited abilities to meet people due to pandemic, you can share your skills and connect with your customers via social media. Building the audience will help you with mobile services and definitely will help you in the future when all restrictions are over.
  3. Be online.
    Many services rely on customers walking past their store or driving past it. Signage won’t work when people are at home. But online presence will. Your customers won’t lose the need, they’ll still need to cut their hair, but they’ll change the way they engage with you and you need to adapt.
  4. Be creative.
    As with every business – tough times require tough measures. So if we’ll all get asked to stay at home, why won’t you teach for a fee. Teach a customer how to trim their own hair. Teach them how to change the oil in the car. And charge them for that. When everyone will be locked up at home, any entertainment will be important and connecting fun with work might be your way of surviving hard times. Anything creative will do!

Make the most of technology

Here we are, I just helped 1% of businesses and 99% of you shake your head and think “how am I supposed to do it”. The reality is that you can. Almost everyone can with the use of technology. Let’s be honest, we’re almost fully replaceable by machines. Sure there will be some exceptions but they are the minority. Even some surgeries are done by robots these days (manually controlled by people but they limit human contact!). Fire? Surely we can automate a fire truck so the fire brigade doesn’t have to get out of the truck. Construction? My wife is a construction engineer and she is already using a robot for something that she needed an assistant a few years ago. There’s a solution for many problems, you just probably never asked the question.

I’m not saying that technology will solve Covid-19 problems or tough economic times coming. I’m not saying that building an eCommerce will save a small store in Rotorua. What I am saying is that we all have to try, we all have to suffer the consequences of pandemic and try to make the most of our skills, tools and businesses in these tough times. There will be businesses that will collapse, there will be people who will lose their jobs. But we will all come out stronger and I believe that in the end, the world will learn a lot from 2020 global pandemic.

Good luck to you and your business. If you’d like to grab an idea or two about what you can do during the recession to push your business, give me a call. I might not always be the one who can help or have a great idea but I’ll certainly know someone who will.

Author: Ralf Klis

With over 15 years of experience in the digital world, I've seen it all and I'm often happy to share my knowledge. I've been involved in many R&D projects including one of the first TV Apps or mobile websites (back in 2005!). Now I'm passionate about making the digital presence work for businesses.