COVID-19 – A longer term view for businesses

by Mar 17, 2020

I keep hearing the voice of Corporal Jones in my head, “Don’t Panic!” Easier said than done as we seem to lurch from one shocking day to the next with the Media pounding us with doom and gloom. So, as a Yorkshire man, I’ve decided to do the only thing I can. I’ve put the kettle on and taken some time to reflect in a calm and pragmatic Yorkshire way…

The first person to catch COVID-19 in this country tested positive on the 29th of February. As I write this, 17 days have passed and much has changed that has caused ripples across the world and not least in the Small-Medium sized business market within the UK.  We have seen panic buying of Rice, Pasta and Toilet Rolls, and Hand Sanitiser changing hands on eBay at £40 a bottle. There has definitely been an attitude of “I’m looking after myself” and very little, until recently, of people looking after others.

Different approaches to Coronavirus

Over the last few days, we have had businesses contact us with complete opposing views to their marketing.  Most are saying, our marketing is more important than ever but we are going to delay paying the tax man (not something we are suggesting you all do!).  Some are even increasing their advertising spend, and a few are taking the approach of cancelling their advertising and locking themselves away as their customers cancel bookings and they immediately look to cut costs.  This is a natural knee jerk reaction to the disturbing news that surrounds us, however in this fast-moving situation we need to take a wider and longer-term view.  More than ever businesses need to stay visible in front of potential customers. Disappearing from the public eye now would be very damaging.  From a marketing point of view, consistency is key.  Keep your head, don’t make any drastic changes to your advertising but maybe tweak your message to reassure consumers that you are following strict sanitising rules and that their safety is important to you.  So, let’s keep the hand sanitiser analogy in mind as we look to see how we can look after others in difficult times and as a result help our own businesses.

The long term view of COVID-19

First, we need to remember that whoever our customers are they are not vanishing off the face of the planet in some kind of Marvelesk click of the fingers. They will still be there in a few weeks or months when things change for the better and we all start to mix again. Let’s also remember that this quarantine period can only last for a matter of weeks for the most of us as the supply chain needs to continue to function to keep everyone fed, the emergency services need to keep moving to do their great work and the water mains need repairing and leaking taps need fixing. The jobs that need doing are not going to go away and will need to be serviced as usual. So how can you add to your service in a way that will allow you to look after your clients more and hence help look after yourself?

A number of restaurants and cafes are already offering to deliver meals. As a business with a kitchen full of food and staff and rent to pay, would it not be better to keep working and have somebody drop food off for those who are isolating and/or in need of help. Apart from keeping the vulnerable fed, you can also keep a social eye on them. What a local hero you would be too.

If you are one of the amazing trades that keep our homes working, especially while we are confined to them. Why not offer to do outside work without contact with your client or wear a mask, gloves and protective overalls whilst working in their home.  Payment can be made over the phone or contactless if you must – show your professionalism and care for others. They will remember you for the extra mile you went to in order to keep them healthy and safe.

Changing attitudes following COVID-19

And last of all, if you are experienced in business or are a little more resilient, why not offer help to other businesses. Pay their invoices immediately give them some extra work that you would normally pass to larger businesses, or just give them help and advice. Many of us can continue to work using the latest technologies to make communications easier but for some of us it is all about being hands on.

If anybody needs to have a chat and put everything in perspective, then we are more than happy to do that. The only way to get through these challenging times is to work through it rather than running and hiding. Hard times make us stronger and this may be the time that we look back in history and say that it made us better, stronger and more caring to others. Something that can be missing in modern society.

Stay strong, stay safe and keep washing your hands.