How to prime your business for recovery post-lockdown
COVID-19 lockdowns have slowed or even halted trade for many small businesses. But for some this is a unique opportunity to explore how to prime their business for the recovery and beyond.
There has been no shortage of examples of small businesses pivoting quickly to the new normal presented by the coronacrisis: winemakers and distillers making hand sanitiser, restaurants selling meal kits and gyms going online.
But short of launching an entirely new service offering, some Aussie small business owners are sharing their insights on how they’re using this time to prime their business for recovery once the lockdown ends.
Help others now for longer-term gain
As the founder of award-winning SEO agency StudioHawk, Harry Sanders has been faced with a mixed bag in workflows, as ecommerce surges but restaurants may hit pause on their spending.
“We offer SEO, so we’re fortunate that a lot of businesses are still doing that. But you’ve got a problem where a lot of business owners have time but not capital. So what do you do about that?” he explains.
His approach has been to develop an online learning centre, offering free advice to other business leaders.
“There’s two prongs to it: number one is businesses can develop their own initiatives that will build their brand and IP,” says Sanders.
“The second is they can look to online education in digital marketing, because things like SEO are going to take months to have an effect anyway, but when you do come out of this, you’re going to be in a really strong position.”
Part of this free advice offering includes “tea time” videos, designed to give business leaders easy, actionable points to implement themselves. These videos are sent by email to “help people stay accountable”.
Sanders believes that making useful content available online during the current downturn will ultimately drive his own sales pipeline longer term.
“It’s a longer-term play, but the reality is if you want to position yourself as an authority, you need to give away information.”
Get your paperwork working
“The public needs to have a working sewer system, they need to have hot water for hygiene and heating in the winter… so we do see ourselves as an essential service,” says 2019 Telstra Business Awards winner Tom Martin, founder of Water Tight Canberra.
And while he has seen customers opt for less expensive options such as solar hot water installations, Martin’s business is one where work has generally been steady to date.
However, one of his main concerns has been around cash flow and the ability of clients to pay on time.
“We have much stricter payment guidelines; before we go out to site, we are confirming with customers that it is payment on completion,” he explains.
On top of this, as a director of Master Plumbers Australia, Martin has seen a lightening of his personal workload with fewer meetings and less travel, enabling him to plough through administrative tasks.
“I think I’m more on top of my paperwork than I’ve ever been,” he says.
“My invoices are out and my email inbox is kept at a reasonable level.”
Upskill your team; embrace technology
As travel restrictions were introduced to combat COVID-19, IP lawyer Terri Janke of Terri Janke and Company had an initial “crash” in workflow as multiple clients cancelled.
But this gave her the time to invest in two key aspects of her business, which are already helping to bring in new work: upskilling her staff and transitioning to digital processes.
“We can fit more in as we don’t have to travel to visit clients,” Janke explains.
“I’m not travelling so much now, so it gives me more time to mentor the other lawyers.”
Part of this employee upskilling has involved transitioning to more digital ways of operating.
“It’s funny how a crisis like this makes you hone your business.”
“We’re now looking to go 100% digital, and that had always been a challenge because, as a law firm, the documentation was so important. But as long as we can keep the hard-copy contracts, everything else can be digital.”
The Indigenous Business Leader of the Year at last year’s My Business Awards says that while there is an initial cost of digital set-up, it is quickly paying dividends for both the business and its clients.
“It will deliver more cost savings to clients and save our time in travelling.”
Janke urges other business owners to use the current downtime to really seal the leaks in turns of time and money wastage.
“It’s important to look at where you get work – to look really at where you might be churning time – those things you may look over, because as a business owner you’re so busy. Then build the new system from there,” she says.
Perfect your sales technique
According to sales coach James Michael, of Justified Talent, many people go into business believing they are entrepreneurs, when they are actually technical experts in their field. As such, he suggests they can underperform and even fail because they have not mastered the art of selling.
“Selling is all about a fair exchange of value; it’s about having conversations with people and being more interested than interesting.”
Michael coaches salespeople and business leaders into understanding that sales is not about pushing something that the person really wants or needs. Selling, he says, is more about understanding what a person needs.
As such, he is urging businesses to use this time to really understand your customers’ needs and whether you really meet those needs.
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