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Stay on top of cashflow

Identify any cashflow problems as soon as possible and forecast with the worst possible scenario in mind, meaning that your business will be prepared and resilient to any further socio-economic changes. Prioritise employees to processes essential for cashflow, even if it means cross-training. Many businesses do not have a proper, regularly updated, cashflow forecast in place so do not have a real understanding of their finances and potential impacts – if this is your business, make it a priority to develop one. Here is a link to a useful article explaining how to create a cashflow forecast, with a link at the bottom to a free Excel template.

Assess the risks in your supply chain

In a similar way to cashflow, you need to prepare for the worst. What if one of your suppliers can no longer get you the items you need? Make sure you have feasible back-up suppliers if possible, talk to them and check that they can deliver what you need as things may not be as advertised on their website at the moment. You may also need to make some strategic supply chain decisions, focusing on your most profitable products or services and minimising other offerings and supply chain risks. These may just be short-term decisions whilst the economy is so volatile, but it is always important to risk assess your supply chain.

Keep informed

As a business leader you need to be keeping informed of the latest COVID-19 developments daily as the advice is changing at an astounding speed. However, make sure to be checking official advice, don’t get drawn into sensationalised news and social media posts and carefully decide what to communicate to your staff, suppliers and customers. Avoid panic and confusion! The government response and business support provisions will also be key when devising your strategy for the next few months. The latest advice can be accessed here.

Maintain and build your relationship with customers and suppliers

Just because normal modes of operation and communication have been disrupted, does not mean that your business relationships should be neglected. Existing connections could be your most valuable assets (alongside your staff) at this time of uncertainty, so be as open and honest as you can about your situation and treat them as you would wish to be treated. This war-time mentality could define your future relationship and people will certainly remember who it was that supported them or worked with them through this challenging period. Reassure your customers and get them on board with your shared goal of continued trading. Share your updates regularly, by email (in compliance with GDPR of course) and/or via social media where you can develop a strong online community. Follow local Warrington business Social Media Executive on YouTube for some tips on this.

Support your employees

This is also a worrying time for your staff and their loved ones so as well as keeping them well-informed, be understanding of their anxieties and other commitments they may have (particularly if they are caring for children or elderly). Chances are they will also be very understanding and flexible, so do not be afraid to try new ways of working to fit your team dynamic. If you have employees working from home, Microsoft Teams is a fantastic tool to keep the team on track and is a very transparent way of working if using built-in apps like Planner (there is a free version of Microsoft Teams). Instead of focusing on when, where, or for how long your team are working (like most office-based businesses are used to), start to focus on the outputs instead. Trust that your team will do the work, and accept that you need to offer them lots of flexibility during this time. You may actually find that this way of working is much more productive. Key to homeworking and maintaining your employees’ mental wellbeing will be to have a routine (whatever theirs may be) and regular communications. Schedule in regular meetings, informal catch ups, social coffee mornings, lunch and learn sessions and weekly goals. You could even encourage shared social or fitness activities before and/or after work.

Take care of your own wellbeing

After all, how will you look after your business and employees if you do not look after yourself? Your attitude and moods will be reflected throughout the whole business so this is the single most important factor. You may be tempted to work all hours under the sun if you are worried about your business, however it is more likely to thrive if you do too. The online social interactions above are just as important for you as they are for your employees so make sure to engage with your team, as well as your friends and family. Give yourself a daily routine, with a clear start and end time and regular breaks, and make sure you stick to it.

Be open to change and innovation

During a crisis like this, many of the businesses that survive and thrive will be those with open-minded leaders that can adapt quickly to change and inspire their team to do the same. Your business model may no longer be viable and need to be adapted, considering the way our lives have drastically and rapidly changed recently. There may also be new opportunities for you to seize and diversify your business into. See my full article on adapting and diversifying your business.

Plan for the ‘after’

Once all the major challenges have been tackled, start thinking about how you might want your business to look once the pandemic is over. It is better to start planning now rather than have the shock of going back to ‘normality’ with no recognition of the drastic changes we all went through. Keep a note of all the things that are working well for your team and that you might want to continue long-term, and all the things that you definitely want to reinstate. Are you finding more efficient and cost-effective ways of working? Is your team working more collaboratively? Has your business’ environmental impact been minimised? Try to think about how your customers and suppliers might function afterwards too, and factor them into your plans.

Stay positive

You have managed to build a business from nothing which is incredible in itself, but you could not have done it without having customers, suppliers, colleagues, peers, family and friends. Things may seem challenging at the moment, but remember that all those people are still there for you, so lean on them now for new ideas, advanced orders, advice or just a friendly chat. It’s important to remember that they will also still be there when all of this is over, so do all that you can to ride the storm now and know that there will be an end. These next few months will be a test of your resilience but you will figure out a way to thrive!

By Bryony Robertson, Business Development Manager