There’s arguably never been a tougher time to run a business than throughout this coronavirus pandemic.
While technological advancements mean remote working is much easier than it would have been even ten years ago, business owners have been hit with hard decision after hard decision. It’s been an unenviable task most of us weren’t warned about at business school.
Now that we seem to be approaching something of a return to normality (albeit with the looming threat of a second wave and the biggest recession in 10 years) it’s time to start preparing your business for the worst. As we drip back into our offices and more and more cafes, restaurants and shops open across towns and cities, intelligent business owners need to spend this period future-proofing their companies for difficult times ahead.
Do the basics well
Post-coronavirus, people aren’t going to be in a position to take risks. They’ll want to put their money into simple, straightforward ideas and products they understand, from brands they can trust.
That’s why perhaps the best thing you can do to future-proof your business post-coronavirus is get the basics right.
Mastering the fundamentals, not just of post-coronavirus management, but general business and marketing operations will give you a significant advantage against companies looking to take risks and struggling with changes forced upon them by the pandemic.
Internally it’s vital that you set simple business goals and make achievable plans for the coming year. That’s not to say ambition should go out the window, but this is not the time to bet the safety of your company on a new, risky innovation you had planned pre-coronavirus. It’s best everyone in the company understands its place in the market and can work towards giving it the strongest footing in that position.
Externally it’s the same story — exude confidence and professionalism. Get the simple things right. Have a great website with a simple design and appropriate domain name they can understand. Research the importance of social proof and how it fills consumers with confidence. Streamline operations to avoid frustration on the simple things. It’s all about being the very best at the things people take special note of.
Take a more digital-minded focus
The companies that have done well throughout this pandemic did so because they had a more digital-focused operation, output and infrastructure.
It’s important that part of your future-proofing includes moving your business online as much as possible to secure its longevity. That includes companies with largely brick and mortar operations.
Now, we’re not advocating for the death of the high street or for all companies to become entirely remote. However, it’s important to at least partly offer your service in a digital form or have the flexibility to do so should problems arise.
Survival in this market is about digital ingenuity.
Consider the clients and consumers you work with. Would the customers be willing to shop online as much as they come into a physical store? Maybe transitioning online would give you a wider audience to appeal to? In terms of clients, try and work with ones that are less likely to be affected by a second outbreak or similar disaster – companies less reliant on more frivolous consumer spending and ones that will provide a useful asset no matter the economic landscape.
Think about how you can continue to be a useful asset as a business even in the most dramatic circumstances. Being more digitally-minded doesn’t just make you a slick silicon valley clone – it gives you the tools to respond quickly and keep things running smoothly.
It’s this kind of flexibility that keeps a business profitable throughout their worst period and allows them to transition back into remote working at the drop of a hat.
Alternative revenue streams
Talking of flexibility…
One way to future-proof your business is to consider alternative ways of making money.
Rather than finding yourself in a position of having to cut costs when things get bad, wouldn’t you rather be able to turn to an alternative stream of generating revenue – even temporarily?
Many businesses have found success through exploring adjacent markets and putting the insight, ingenuity and flexibility of their workforce to good use.
Take bars and cafes for example. When the pandemic forced them to close, many businesses started offering delivery or takeaway services to keep operations going and their brand at the forefront of consumer’s minds. These aren’t particularly unique or innovative measures — but that’s not important. They made creative use of what they had available at the time and allowed companies to continue operating without major investment.
That’s the best kind of alternative revenue stream – one that uses your pre-existing assets, tools and systems but offers something unique. As part of your future-proofing look for existing gaps in the market that you could reasonably fill and put in place systems to jump on them in times of need. If you can keep these alternative revenue streams dormant without costs they make an excellent way of giving your business some much-needed backup.
Consider using freelancers
As the scope of the coronavirus pandemic really started to take shape businesses across the world were faced with a difficult task of choosing which team members to make redundant.
Out of no fault of their own, businesses were no longer able to support the fantastic teams they’d grown over time. This is something that for both personal and financial reasons you should look to avoid having to do again post-pandemic.
How do you do so without risking the future of your business? By investing in freelancers.
Rather than going through the hiring process with the uncertainty of recession in the background, consider using the cost-effective option of freelancers. While their hourly rates are higher, freelancers will often only work on a project for short periods. Their skills and flexibility allow you to take on more exciting work without having to invest in training and seating a member full-time.
You’ll be saving money on everything from electricity to desk chairs to coffee.
On top of that, working with freelancers opens you up to a huge network of talented people you can eventually try and bring on full-time. The wider your scope of freelancers, the more innovative work you can do and diverse you can become as a business.
The coronavirus pandemic should have taught every business owner across the world that no matter how secure they think their business is, there’s always more they can do.
There’s no sure-fire way to future proof your business. Nobody can be sure of what challenges are on the horizon and how businesses will be affected. However, we do know that in this moment being flexible with a digital focus can carry a company through many challenges — so look at who was successful and try to model yourself after them to some extent.