“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrarywise, what it is, it wouldn’t be and what it wouldn’t be, it would,” said Alice.
Well, that just about sums up the current situation. While it may be an apt description of where we are at the moment, it isn’t nearly good enough for those of us who run businesses and who are trying to find reliable reference points in perilous and uncharted waters.
So, as we wait for clarity (remember how in ‘Waiting for Godot,’ Godot never arrived) what can we do as business owners to help ourselves?
Surprisingly, perhaps, this pandemic has lessons for all of us, lessons we can learn from right now.
First and foremost, put the maximum amount of pressure on protecting your cashflow. Nothing is more important to your future stability and success. Without positive cashflow your business is rudderless. Even if you have a clear idea where you want to be, you are very unlikely to get there.
Being paid on time and in full must be a pre-requisite going forwards. It is an admirable aspiration, but how do you achieve the gold standard of being paid on time and in full when it was hardly working in the good old days before Covid-19? After all, the UK owns an unenviable reputation as having a culture of late payments.
At the last count, UK businesses owed each other £23.4 billion and were spending £4.4 billion chasing late payments.
The answer is Direct Debit. Collecting your invoice payments by Direct Debit is the only tried and tested way of ensuring that the money you are owed gets to you.
Far too many businesses think that Direct Debit is only available to large corporates like utility companies or mobile phone operators. It is not. It doesn’t matter what size of company you run; you can collect the money you are owed by Direct Debit.
With Direct Debit, you have the security of knowing that if you are owed £100 and it is due to be paid on the 1st of the month, so long as the money is available, it will be collected and paid into your business account. It’s simple and will transform your cash-flow.
Talk to a company like Cambridgeshire-based, Eazipay. It collects Direct Debits on behalf of SMEs, just like you. It works for their clients; it will work for you.
However good your product or service is, whatever problem you have cracked, it means nothing if you are owed money that you can’t access.
So, what else can we learn from this awful situation? Do you need that beautiful suite of offices in that swanky building so centrally located? Do you need your own kitchen, the loos, the air-conditioned meeting rooms and break-out spaces? If your staff have adjusted to working from home, then take a look at your actual office needs. Do you really need to be paying so much for fresh air?
A couple of points here though that might be worth factoring in: how do you maintain productivity levels? How do you ensure that the highest levels of customer service are being maintained? How do you make sure your own policies and processes are being followed?
Also, if you are happy with staff working remotely, how are you going to keep morale at a consistent peak? If I am in the office working with my team, then we are all in it together. But if I am working from home then my sense of isolation increases and I begin to fret about what I am missing out on.
The mental health well-being of your staff working remotely is something you need to be aware of. Invest in a mental health first-aid course for a responsible member of your company. Or access outside specialist support. Don’t view it as a cost, see it as an investment. Consider the needs of your staff, not just your business. You need them.
Make social media work as hard as possible for you. Online sales are surging and so are the number of SMEs advertising their products and services on social media platforms. Can you do the same? Be active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Would your products be suitable for an Amazon shop?
If your customers are moving online, then so must you. How has your website performed since March? Have visits to your site increased? If they have, that’s where you should focus your marketing. If they haven’t increased, why not? What can you do to increase online sales or enquiries?
Have a look at Google Trends to see which way the wind is blowing in your sector.
These are just some of the positive actions you can take, irrespective of the uncertainty and confusion out there in the wider world.
So, before we tumble any further down the rabbit hole, let’s work on our businesses, don’t wait for others to give us a lead. Make some concrete decisions.