As businesses return to some sense of normality and more typical forms of trading after the removal alert level 3 and level 2 restrictions, business leaders offer their advice on what business owners need to ensure business longevity.
Small business commentator Craig Garner says collaboration, thinking outside the box and managing cashflow are the most important considerations business can do right now as Covid-19 uncertainty remains in the marketplace.
Former Icehouse Ventures boss and founder of business advisory firm Manaaki Andy Hamilton says constant communication, managing cashflow and looking after staff should be a top priority.
Looking after yourself, taking regular breaks, and seeking support from family and friends, peers, staff and community is really important in times of uncertainty, says Garner.
“Some people have a tendency to retreat but now more than ever your networks are vital.”
Garner says be open to partnering with people you perhaps wouldn’t normally.
“These are unusual times, so possibly even the people you would have considered as competition, you might want to be talking to; there may be opportunities to collaborate because chances are they are struggling too.
“If you can say to them ‘Hey, times are hard’ – you never know what might come from these conversations. Combining resources, combining efforts, working together, might help you to actually start pivoting into a more stronger position.”
Talk to people and be honest with how business is going was vital. Staff included, says Garner.
“You’ve got to keep them informed, be honest with them and get their feedback … by involving staff in your conversations things may come from it and that’s where resilience comes in.”
Hamilton agrees, he says constant communication and “connectedness” – both in and out of lockdown – with customers was vital for long term success.
“If you really understand how you win and you understand what customers think of you then you can keep dialling those elements up. If you don’t understand and you don’t know the real feedback customers have about your product or service then you are liable to lose,” Hamilton tells the Herald.
“The relentless focus on improvement goes: do I seek customer feedback, do I ask my customers what they think, do I use new digital tools that enable a strong sense of connectedness?”
Think outside the box
Keep your plans for your business simple in these times, that is Garner’s advice.
“Identify what your big issues are of course but deal with those on a micro level, think ‘What can I do today to make a difference to that?’, and during that process you’ll come up with longer-term strategies.”
Garner says there is no use in writing a 10-year plan at present as right now is about survival: “Short term, simple solutions to problems right now are what you need to focus on.”
Having back-up or contingency plans for changes in circumstances is also a good idea, he says.
“This is the time to pivot and some of the great success stories we’re seeing are people thinking outside the box and coming up with new ways of doing things that they probably hadn’t considered before.”
Don’t ignore left-field ideas you may have, he says, and run them by your customer. “If you start saying to your customer ‘What can we do that might improve our service, or add value, or be of more interest; you never know what could come from that.
“Often it could be that one thing that you never considered that makes all the difference.”
Review cashflow, where your money is going
If you don’t have a steady income then you need to be thinking about alternative revenue streams.
Assess whether you are eligible to access support through the government, such as through the wage subsidy scheme or Covid-19 Resurgence Support Payment, or loan options available through your bank.
Hamilton says business owners need to be managing and review cashflow and outgoings.
“Look at the top 10 [outgoings] and think about if you need them all, if you can cut some of them or delay some of them; look at every single line of expenditure and find ways to be able to save some money,” he says.
For example, if your business is doing quite well at the moment, perhaps you could cut back on advertising spend or stop advertising for a short period of time, says Hamilton.
“Any money saved on something like advertising, the question is ‘Do I need that money or could I use that money in a more effective way? For example, paying your staff more.
“Access to high-quality team members is quite a big issue for a lot of businesses. The cost of replacement is so high and finding really good people is extraordinarily challenging. What you don’t want to do is lose your best staff.”
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