Posted: Mon 6th Apr 2020
COVID-19 has changed the way that we trade so here's how businesses can adapt to the new landscape.
Pandemics are rare (SARS in 2003, H1N1 in 2019, MERS in 2012 and Ebola in 2014) but planning for one, should be part of any business continuity plan. It is therefore crucial to plan for such events and build up your business resilience accordingly.
This will then better prepare you and your business for any subsequent economic downturn or future natural disaster, e.g. a second spike in COVID-19.
The dictionary definition for resilience is "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness" so whilst business continuity planning is an important element to this, business resilience, in the broader sense, is more about having the right mindset to cope with the sort of challenging situations that most business owners face throughout their business journey.
Having a resilient mindset
Being business resilient also involves adopting a more pragmatic approach to dealing with whatever challenging situations arise. This means taking a step back, taking the emotion out of any given situation and dealing with things in a realistic way i.e. based or practical, rather than emotional, considerations.
All business owners need a thick 'resilient' skin, in todays' volatile and unpredictable world. As we move into the recovery phase of dealing with coronavirus (as Chinese companies are currently doing), there will, no doubt, be a short-term regulatory challenges.
Emerging technology trends that have helped us stay connected, may well become permanent. Working patterns will change as more employees expect flexible home working to become the 'norm'.
Finally, as customers buying preferences change due to the current restrictions made on shopping, e-commerce will replace more traditional bricks and mortar retail outlets. The message is if you aren't selling online or have passive income streams to fall back on, then you should be revisiting your entire business model.
All businesses will have to remain much more agile in the future, modify their working patterns and adapt their sales proposition, accordingly.
Having a resilient strategy
There are a number or recognised strategies for building business resilience and these include:
Not getting distracted from your particular goal (daily targets or your main business mission)
Being clear and decisive in your actions (drafting a written plan can often help with this)
Having a positive perception of yourself (believing in what you do and why you do it)
Not assuming that all challenges are insurmountable (using logic to understand the situation)
Looking for opportunities when there is change (don't assume that any change will be negative)
Keeping a balanced perspective (counter your enthusiasm with some practical caution)
You can also follow this simple process formula for building resilience in your business:
Try to identify the most likely risks - where you can. Then put in place some practical measures to either mitigate that risk or avoid it all together, as well as some remedial actions for dealing with any resulting consequence or fall-out. Document these measure in a formal written business continuity plan.
There will always be the odd unexpected situation or challenges that you hadn't planned for e.g. force majeure i.e. acts or god or nature such as COVID-19, which could cause a worldwide pandemic and have a huge bearing on the local, national and global economy.
Your strategy should also involve seeking help and advice from official sources, in coronavirus' case the government, NHS, your local council (who have a brief to look after local businesses) and membership support groups such as Enterprise Nation.
The City Business Library has some good online content around business continuity and emergency planning too, whilst specialists such as the Business Continuity Institute provide training resources for such event planning.
I speak in more detail, about having a more resilient mindset in my new book Entrepreneurial Sales.
Covering the bases
As stated above, the minimum every business should have is a tailored business continuity plan (which should be updated at least once a year) - as well as the requisite levels of business insurance and some documented processes and practical measures around cyber security and data protection.
Planning and being pragmatic about things, as and when they happen, will help you better cope with whatever consequences happen.
There are a number of other approaches that you can take to being more pragmatic and these include:
Keeping your dreams realistic (have goals but making sure they are achievable)
Dream less by doing more (actions speak louder than words - so start 'doing' ASAP)
Look for practical solutions (break down problems and prioritise the important actions)
Adopt continuous improvement (audit your business planning and processes each year)
Understand what is 'controllable' (don't waste your energies on things that you can't control)
Seek out best practice (research and compare what other businesses do to mitigate/avoid risks)
Building business resilience takes time, but as long as you are accepting of this and pragmatic about the sort of challenges that will inevitably come your way (and they will) - then you will learn to cope better with whatever life and business, has to throw at you.
Some commentators call this resilience 'business bounce-ability' so perhaps think about getting some proverbial trampolining lessons through the Enterprise Nation database of experts, if you think you need them!
Sign up to Paul Durrant's online course, Generating sales in a recession: Trading through tough times, here.