Running a business post-lockdown – tips from countries emerging from isolation

Thought about how your business might look after lockdown? Give yourself the best chance of success by starting to prepare now.

6 May 2020

Lockdown in the UK has brought about many changes to the way we live our lives. New consumer trends are forcing business owners to think proactively in order to keep trading and stay ahead of the curve. But as other countries around the world begin to emerge from this period of isolation, what can businesses do to prepare themselves for when the UK eventually does the same? To help, we’ve compiled some tips for business in a post-lockdown world.

Coronavirus health and safety measures

When lockdown is eventually lifted and shops gradually allowed to reopen, there will undoubtedly be more of a focus on the importance of health and safety in the working world. Businesses that require physical interactions such as those in retail may even be required by law to have certain procedures in place.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said he will reveal the UK’s roadmap out of lockdown in early May, and while it’s hard to say exactly what this could look like, business owners should begin thinking of ways they can improve their current policies to make reopening as easy as possible.

Here are some ways that you could improve health and safety within your business:

  • educate staff on the importance of good cleanliness to increase the chances of new policies being kept to
  • follow Government advice on the use of gloves and masks, especially if your business handles food
  • take and record staff temperatures as they arrive at work each day
  • install hand washing and sanitising stations and encourage using them regularly
  • increase the frequency that you clean your premises, including wiping down less commonly cleaned surfaces such as tills, tablets and door handles
  • make the public aware of the changes you’ve made to show that the safety of your customers and staff is your highest priority

The importance of e-commerce

Exiting lockdown will give consumers a lot more freedom, but it’s likely that the world of e-commerce will remain a key channel for many businesses. Those that invest in their online platforms are likely to reap the rewards now, as well as when lockdown ends.

Have a think about the following areas to ensure your business can keep up with the demand for shopping online:

  • if you don’t already have an e-commerce platform, consider getting one. Some providers, such as Shopify, Squarespace and BigCommerce, even offer free trials
  • make sure the platform you choose can cope with the amount of traffic you expect to receive to avoid it crashing
  • making your site user friendly is also really important – make sure customers can browse through products easily to maximise this channel
  • focus marketing spend on your website and hold off on investing too much in your physical store
  • finally, if it’s not possible to keep your warehouse open, you may want to think about shipping directly to customers and offering a contactless local collection service too

While larger businesses have struggled to move quick enough to keep up with changing market trends, the flexibility of small businesses has allowed them to move fast enough to keep up with the demand.

A new e-commerce initiative in Italy – Daje!

In order to compete with the likes of Amazon, local small business owners in Rome clubbed together to set up their own makeshift e-commerce platform. The initiative, named ‘Daje’ meaning ‘come on!’ or ‘let’s go get it!’, allows locals to place orders from small, trusted traders in the community.

Shoppers begin the process by submitting a list of what they’d like to buy, leaving the Daje team to gather the items and deliver it to their door. Customers can pay cash on delivery, or via a paylink sent via Whatsapp. The orders are delivered direct to the customer’s door, and have made the difference between survival and bankruptcy for small businesses in the area.

Cash flow is king

Cash flow in a post-lockdown world will be more important than ever, with many businesses already carefully managing their finances in order to ensure their survival through coronavirus.

While you can’t control how the end of lockdown will play out, try to plan for as many feasible scenarios as possible. What will you do if sales skyrocket, or fail to increase for a few months in a row? Can your suppliers meet your demand in a best case scenario, and if not, what other arrangements can you make in order to provide your customers with the products or service they require? Many businesses have found direct to consumer (D2C) channels incredibly valuable, and it’s likely they will continue to be when lockdown ends.

It could also be a good idea to hold off on new investments and reduce your expenses in areas that aren’t key to your business’ function. It’s important to streamline your operations and make running costs as low as possible, but also worth thinking about which areas of your business may require new staff if demand does pick up.

To summarise:

  • plan for as many outcomes after lockdown as possible so you’re not caught off guard
  • streamline your business so it’s as efficient as possible
  • hold off on new investments until you’re confident your business will recover
  • be ready to hire new staff if demand for your business does increase

iwocaPay – a complete invoice solution for buyers and sellers

Buyers and sellers trying to keep on top of their cashflow may want to consider using iwocaPay – a win-win invoice solution for buyers and sellers. Buyers get up to 90 days to pay for their products with the first 30 days interest free, while sellers only pay 3% for each invoice – getting 97% of their cash upfront. iwocaPay is free to sign up to, doesn’t require any long term commitments and can be used to cover both new and existing invoices.

Make the most of your space

If your business has some form of commercial premises, whether a shop or warehouse, it’s important to consider how you could adapt this space to reduce the risk of infection and make staff and customers’ experiences as positive as possible.

Here are a few tips on how you can make the most of your business’ space:

  • if you run a physical business, consider repositioning shelves to allow customers more space when browsing, and remember to make similar changes in your warehouse to keep staff safe too
  • be aware of how many people you can safely fit in your shop, and plan where customers will queue to get in
  • staff who can continue to work from home effectively should continue to do so to minimise physical contact

Working from home… away – Germany

For those who are lucky enough to have jobs that can be done from home, finding a space away from housemates, kids or partners can be a battle in itself. Others may not have the resources to make it work – a comfortable chair and desk that doesn’t leave your back in agony at the end of the day.

Hotel owners in Germany seem to have found a solution to this problem that’s a perfect example of making the most of the space you do have. Hotels across the country have lost a considerable amount of business as a result of travel restrictions, but in an innovative pivot have taken to renting out their rooms as spaces to work. This surplus of fast WiFi, phones, parking spaces and room service make it an obvious solution that businesses in the UK could also take advantage of.

Communication

Research by Gallup found that organisations that communicated well with employees performed better in terms of profit, productivity and motivation levels. With this in mind, it’s important to be transparent with all stakeholders when emerging from lockdown, including customers, investors, employees and suppliers.

When talking to customers, let them know your post-lockdown strategy in a calm and reassuring way, and try not to spam them with emails. If you think that customers are likely to have a lot of questions about your new way of operating, consider setting up an FAQ page or chat facility to help answer queries as fast as possible. Be sure to manage customers’ expectations about when they can expect a reply to avoid them getting frustrated.

Investors will want to know how quickly they can expect your business to recover from the damage that coronavirus has caused – this doesn’t mean they’ll expect you to be back to 100% in a matter of weeks, but over-zealous recovery estimates could leave them confused and frustrated by a lack of progress. Be transparent and realistic with expectations and be sure to keep them in the loop.

Make sure you’re sympathetic to each of your employees’ situations – it’s likely that many will have experienced tough times through lockdown, especially if they were furloughed. If you’re understanding and flexible in the way you treat your staff when they return, they’ll be more likely to respect you and put effort into their roles.

Talk to your suppliers to understand where their limits lie and how they’ve been affected by coronavirus. If you think that they may struggle with the demand for your products, consider forming relationships with new suppliers to make sure you don’t miss out on sales.

To summarise:

  • communicate your post-lockdown strategy to customers and employees in a calm and reassuring way
  • consider setting up a chat facility or FAQ page on your website
  • keep investors in the loop and manage their expectations of recovery
  • be sympathetic to furloughed staff when they return to work – they’re likely to have had a tough time in lockdown too
  • understand your supplier’s limits to avoid missing out on sales

words by <span>{authorName}</span>

Dan is part of the content team at iwoca. He writes articles explaining financial topics, as well as guides on the best support for small businesses during coronavirus.

Article updated on: 18 June 2020

Is this article helpful?