History tells us a second wave is practically inevitable. There are likely to be intermittent lockdowns until we have a vaccine. A vaccine is a year or so away. Battening down the hatches isn’t an option – unless, of course, you want your business to go tits up. Which we assume you don’t, so we’ve created a set of Corona Survival Tips: three geared to revenue and cashflow and two to best practice.
1. Agility. You most likely need to pivot your business. Taking it online is an obvious pivot – that some garden centres aren’t doing online and telephone ordering is sacrilege: plants and profit being thrown away for no reason. Marks & Spencer at Marble Arch is allowed to open because of its basement Food Hall: they’ve transformed their ground floor and filled it with a selection of womenswear, menswear and homewares and created a one-way system that means all customers have to walk through it all to get to the food. Customers can then pay for clothes and homewares at the food tills. Smart.
2. Intelligence. Amazon, with its phenomenal fulfilment capabilities, was always going to do well in this scenario. But they haven’t simply rested on their laurels. Amazon spotted a gap in an emerging market and went for it. It is now working with governments the world over, to deliver PPE equipment. They’ll be delivering home testing kits (should they ever become available). Smart.
3. Focus. A natural reaction to a crisis is to panic, and to adopt a scattergun, catch-all strategy that chases many different possible fixes to the problem, in the hope one works. (A bit like the UK government’s done in locking almost everyone and everything down). In our opinion, this is short-sighted. Far better to take time to plan, to map and segment the market, apply entry and growth strategies to each, and to prioritise the route(s) that will secure cashflow quickly. And then to communicate the priorities to the workforce and customers, to create clarity and a shared vision, with everyone pulling in the same direction, towards that cashflow. No cashflow: no business.
4. Perspective. Often, in a crisis, we are too close to a situation to see the optimum route out. Perspective is vital; garnering the opinions of others – and listening to what they say – is essential. Friends, business partners, employees, non-exec directors, industry experts, independent consultants: all have a role. In our experience, the majority of businesses fail for one of two reasons: cashflow; blinkered, stubborn leaders who won’t listen to the market, customers, employees, advisors.
5. Integrity. For as long as I remember I’ve been surrounded by the trials and tribulations of business ownership. I have an acute awareness of what happens when a business goes bust and can’t pay its suppliers. Or when a business won’t pay its suppliers. It wreaks havoc on other businesses and people’s livelihoods. Last week’s decision by New Look not to pay its supplier is absolutely disgusting. There’s no excuse. It’s a repugnant decision by their board and recently appointed CEO Nigel Oddy. Integrity, in business and life in general, is paramount. It’s a small world: be a decent human. Behaving otherwise will, with any luck, come back to haunt you.
Copyright MuirRedfern Ltd. 2020