How to adapt your business to cope with coronavirus

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has already had a major effect on businesses around the world. While many governments have announced measures to ease the burden, most businesses simply cannot go on as normal, and will have to adapt to the change in circumstances.

While this will be a difficult period for everyone, it can also be an opportunity to regroup, reconsolidate and test new ideas. By considering the ways in which you can keep your employees safe and your business active, you’ll find that adapting your business to cope with the coronavirus could leave you stronger in the long run.

Remote working is the future

Many businesses already allow employees to work from home on certain occasions, and already have the infrastructure to accommodate this, even if it needs to be upgraded. Others may find it a challenge to coordinate people online, and to undertake simple processes such as meetings, time allocation or working together on the same project.

Thankfully, there are a whole host of software suites and websites designed to help you with this. Messaging apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams allow you to form ‘chatrooms’ for different projects which everyone can see, keeping relevant messages in one place. Many video conferencing tools meanwhile - including Skype, Zoom, Discord and Hangouts - have raised their limit for simultaneous users to allow larger video calls for free.

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Time monitoring tools such as Toggl can prove extremely useful, logging each employee’s time on various tasks, and giving you a wealth of options to view and analyse the data. On a more traditional front, there are also a range of VoIP options to replace a traditional private branch exchange telephone system, allowing you to field business calls over the internet.

All of these processes will inevitably take some time to get used to, perhaps more so for some employees than others. But they could also be a fantastic opportunity for your business to modernise, and to digitise some of its traditional workflows. The end result could be not just greater flexibility in future, but making your business more efficient and effective.

Adapt your marketing

While the immediate instinct may be to dial back your marketing budget during the coronavirus outbreak, it could be more important than ever. There are more people sat at home on the internet than ever before, meaning that money spent in the right places could have added value.

This doesn’t just mean paid media - where prices may rise due to increased competition - but also content marketing, producing things that people want to read, watch or listen to. There’s never been a better time to explore things like podcasts to connect with your audience at home, and depending on your industry, your audience may welcome the distraction.

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As with any situation that appears dire on the surface, there’s usually an opportunity to be explored. Consider the ways in which your products or services apply to the current situation, and market them accordingly. Try not to be exploitative - in other words, don’t try to scare people into buying something - but highlight your usefulness to people in the coming months.

Take the example of a training company, which might be able to offer online courses to help people learn skills while they’re stuck at home. Or, say, a company that helps people to start their businesses, providing relevant business advice! Most businesses will have something to offer that provides genuine value - hone in on that and sell it in a tactful way.

Consider alternate means of delivery

While some products and services are purely physical, others could be adapted to be delivered online. From consultancy to classes to simple business deals and meetings, you may be able to keep your virtual doors open even as your physical ones close.

You should look to adapt the copy on your website to reflect this, and project the message that you’re still open for business - just that the way you’re conducting it has changed. This means correcting mentions of site visits as a matter of course - or at the very least, placing a banner across the site to point people towards an information page.

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While it’s one thing to get everyone on your team using the same bit of software for video calls, it’s quite another to expect this of clients. Try to remove as many barriers to conducting business online as you can, and provide a range of options for clients to connect with you.

Email is obviously the easiest and most standard approach, and you should expect to be manning this regularly. But where you do need to call people, either suggest a range of options or use a service such as Skype, which allows people to connect without having to sign in.

How to adapt your business to cope with coronavirus 3Take health & safety seriously

While many businesses can transfer most of their work online, some aren’t so lucky. For those who still need people in the office or another working environment during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s vital that you undertake a comprehensive health & safety risk assessment.

Generic risk assessments for the coronavirus have already been produced, and can help to guide your approach, although they should not be taken as read. Instead, you should use them as a template to highlight the areas to focus on, and find solutions that match your situation.

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On a fundamental level, this will mean more frequent cleaning, as well as limiting physical contact between people. In the long term, however, you will also need to have plans if things like waste collection are disrupted, or supplies cannot be delivered as frequently. All of this could impact on your routine, and compromise the safety of your facilities and employees.

Cover every contingency

With uncertainty lingering over the spread of the coronavirus and how long it is likely to last, it’s important that you plan for every eventuality, and stay up-to-date with the latest news. Various governments around Europe and the world are providing assistance for businesses, including loans and deferred payments.

Equally, everyone is bound to feel the pinch, and many businesses may have to limit investments, and cut back on certain B2B enterprises. You should consider all of these relationships carefully, and make pragmatic decisions that are also based on solid evidence -not getting rid of things you need just because they’re expensive!

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Think about what the most valuable aspects of your business are, and how you can best adapt to the current situation. Given current projections, it may be worth investing the time in focusing on one part of your business at the expense of others, or pivoting altogether. The work you put in now may not pay dividends immediately, but could be crucial if there are still major issues two or three months down the line.

These are just a few things you can do to try and insulate yourself against the threat of the coronavirus. While there’s no ideal solution, remember that everyone is in the same boat, and many people continue to need and want the same things. With a little persistence, patience and ingenuity, you can ride out the storm of the coronavirus, and hopefully come out a little stronger.

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