06 Jul Five ways small businesses are planning to change the way they work after lockdown
As restrictions start to ease across the UK, despite the temptation to revert back to the comfort and safety of prior business routines, many of the small businesses we speak to are starting to consider the things they can change for the better. Here’s our round-up of the changes local businesses are planning to make in their quest to not only survive, but thrive, post-lockdown.
A balance of tech and human interaction will drive client communications
Alex Baggott, Simplex Computing, Staplehurst
“I must admit, how I run my IT business post-lockdown will largely depend on how my clients run their businesses, and so remaining flexible will be key as we emerge from lockdown. As businesses have been forced to set up remote working, there has been an increased demand for IT (implementing and maintaining these systems). Speaking with clients and friends, many are planning to retain an element of homeworking when the pandemic is over, so I’m expecting remote working systems to remain an important area of my business.
Another aspect is shifting methodology. My less tech-savvy clients often need my help to set up video calls and screen-sharing, but being unable to sit down with them in person and discuss a project has placed more onus on phone calls and emailing. This often makes the planning and amendment phases longer, so I’m looking at changing the way I quote for work.
Lockdown has also affected how I grow my business, since face-to-face networking has been replaced by online networking – but I’m hopeful these will still result in some new clients. While not the same as chatting over a pub lunch, online events are lower cost and take less time out of the day. And with businesses likely to continue leveraging online networking to some extent post-lockdown, I plan to do a mixture of both.”
Integrating software will enable seamless stock-taking
Kate Tompsett, Happy & Glorious, Cranbrook
“Lockdown has been a very difficult time for small businesses, and mine is no exception. I was lucky to have a working website ticking away in the background, but 12 weeks away from the bricks-and-mortar shop really gave me the opportunity to focus on boosting sales. April and May saw a 300% increase in website turnover compared to last year. I will definitely pour more energy into keeping that going. In the short term, I will continue to add more product lines, and work towards getting an EPOS system, which will work seamlessly and mean I can have both website and shop stock in one place. I believe there are a lot of positives to come out of all this. Screens, sanitiser and social distancing aside, I am excited to see the changes and see how the business can move forward.”
Remote working while retaining a central hub will be key
Nathan Blackmore, Hitchell Financial Planning, Tunbridge Wells
“As a small company of 9 permanent employees, we adapted quickly to remote working. We were already cloud based, so it was just a case of setting everyone up with the right tech at home. The void left by not sitting alongside one another has been replaced by Microsoft Teams and daily stand-up meetings which bring the team together more than when we were office based.
As a financial planning firm, we value our face-to-face interaction with our clients and for some, particularly the vulnerable or elderly, that will always be the preferred choice of communication. But we have been surprised with the adoption of online meetings across all age groups. The need to communicate with families has pushed a lot of people into embracing technology who perhaps wouldn’t have pre-Covid.
We’ve had to adapt our business processes too, for example switching to electronic signatures; something that would have happened eventually I’m sure, but not as quickly. Suppliers are also simplifying their application processes as they move away from paper-based working.
The big question we now face is what to do with our office going forward. It’s a dilemma facing everyone I have spoken to, even more so for London-based companies paying premium rents and incurring extortionate commuting costs, not to mention the health risks of public transport. Most people agree that there is a need for a central hub where we can all meet and work collaboratively, and host client meetings, but perhaps not somewhere that needs to accommodate every staff member every day.”
Daring to delegate will drive the business forward
Hazel Broadley, Lexical Llama, Cranbrook
“Despite being cautious of expenditure back in March due to the uncertainty of how much new business might come my way, fast-forward to June and the sheer increase in workload has actually accelerated my plans to hire extra help this year by at least three months. In short, Covid has forced me to become more confident about making business decisions, and to take the risks I needed to help to spread the load and ease the pressure. Post-lockdown, I’ll continue to delegate and to invest time in briefing and training colleagues, as my eyes are now open to the longer-term benefits this will bring to my business.”
Investing in tech will increase flexible working and client security
Karlene Rivers, Organised You, Cranbrook
“I know several firms are considering sticking with remote working post-lockdown, but when the team and I talked about it, there was an overwhelming “no!”. It may be because we’re all missing the social interaction, and feeling a bit stir crazy. But also, a great deal of what we do in the office together revolves around sharing ideas, knowledge and experience, and I just don’t think we’d do that the same way if we were 100% remote. That said, I am definitely going to invest in more laptops and encourage everyone to work remotely when it works better for them, for instance school holidays or when children are off sick. We’re also investing in some changes to our IT structure to make sure our client files are just as accessible and secure when we’re working from home.”
Whatever the nature of your business, and however you’ve been coping so far, we hope these anecdotes will help to inspire and build your confidence so that you can survive – and indeed thrive – by embracing a certain amount change as we start to navigate the new normal.