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Sunday, March 15, 2020

Positive Business during a COVID-19 Shutdown

Well - it's rapidly gotten weird and wild out there with businesses in every single sector of the economy poised to directly - and indirectly - cop a harsh beating from COVID-19 circulating around the Australian, and indeed global communities.

Government incentives, tax breaks, and handouts can help a bit to keep parts of the economy moving along, but what can you as a business do to help weather the storm and even come out the other side better than before ?

As Business Process and Technology Consultants we've recently been part of a number of internal conversations and discussions with our clients, many of whom are trying to war-game different scenarios around their business, industry, customer base, supply chains, and staffing.

Positive Business during a COVID-19 Shutdown (image credit:  pixabay.com)

The fact is that regardless of whatever disruptions might occur in the business community, there's always going to be an "after". Just like weathering a storm or bushfires, the crisis will eventually pass and that's the time to be ready to pick up the pieces and get moving with a renewed vigour!

Maybe you're in the same boat (let's face it, we are all actually in the same boat to some extent) ... so here are 6 of the ideas that we have been bouncing around, just in case they help:

1. Innoculate Your Cashflow


PROBLEM:  A small business in the service industry that relies on staff and/or customer attendance - such as a cafe, beautician, dentist, driving school - is going to suffer during any shut-down because there is literally no turnover/income during that time.

ANSWER:  Sell gift cards (online). Tell your story and get your local community behind you so that when you are able to trade again you still have staff and products to be able to get moving again.

CAUTION:  Remember that you must be able to eventually service the work for which you have been pre-paid and not just kick the ball down the road to become a bigger problem for another day.


2. Work Remotely

PROBLEM:  Your business relies on employees who can't come in to the office but don't have to be onsite for your business to continue operating (accounts personnel, software developers [like us!], sales staff, etc).

ANSWER:  Arrange for staff to work remotely if they need to be isolated for a period of time. Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for staff to connect to the office network from home as if they were in the office. Make sure that your staff can work as "normally" as possible.

CAUTION:  Working from home isn't for everyone, and you have to help your staff stay focused - so regular video chats (using Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom Meeting, GoToMeeting, etc) is great way to keep your team connected to each other.

Working from home isn't for everyone,
and you have to help your staff stay focused

3. Tweak Your Business

PROBLEM:  Some businesses (for example, restaurants) may not be able to service customers in the same way as usual.

ANSWER: For a restaurant, grab on to the idea of pickup or delivery with both hands! Stop dine-in immediately and put up clear signage and social media posts about your new delivery & takeaway menu. Change your menu to ensure the best quality of food when delivered (hint: a soufflĂ© may not eat as well if it's been on the back of an Uber Eats rider for 10 minutes). Move tables around to improve or optimise the workflow of the restaurant.

CAUTION:  Most small/local businesses have a certain place in the heart of the neighbourhood. Find ways to safeguard that place for later (e.g. include a personal note, a thank you, and updates with every delivery).


4. Reinvent Your Business

PROBLEM:  Some sectors are going to struggle for an extended period of time (certain travel and tourism operators for example).

ANSWER:  Think about taking the downtime as an opportunity to consider the big picture of what you do and what opportunities you may have been too busy to pursue until now. Where is your passion ?  What excites you to think about doing in your business that you're not doing right now ?

Whilst the rest of our business is firing very well, we know that some of our clients will take a little longer than usual to sign off on projects. So, at Creative Intersection we are taking the opportunity to invest some of our war-chest into expanding our existing app and business hosting arm. Our plan is to elevate hosting from a value-add for existing clients to a standalone offering including high-security, private cloud services. 

CAUTION:  Remember that you still need to focus on the original parts of your business and position it to recover when the time is right. It'll most likely be easier to recover an existing business than starting up a brand new one.

What excites you to think about doing in your
business that you're not doing right now ?

5. Work With Social Distancing

PROBLEM:  COVID-19 community management protocols currently suggest "Social Distancing", meaning that some everyday business workflows and practices may need to be adjusted.

ANSWER:  Take for example a linen cleaning business. Perhaps your delivery drivers don't have to spend 1/2 hour chatting with the office staff or having lunch in the staff room to catch up and work out their next shift ... but they do need a certain level of engagement with their colleagues and management. Consider deploying a simple business-focused app on their mobile phones to stay in touch with push notifications/news about closures and movements of other staff.  Most smartphones can handle video conferencing, so an all-staff meeting can even happen with dozens of participants using established services.

CAUTION:  Don't get caught up in the scary tech questions that naturally come up when you start talking about "apps" or "video conferencing". Try talking to experts (yes, like Creative Intersection) who can help you implement solutions within days or weeks instead of months or years!


6.  Change your perspective

PROBLEM:  Your national broadcast sports game looks strange without a crowd, and the players are feeling disconnected and deflated without the roar of the crowd ?

ANSWER:  TV broadcast is traditionally 1-way. Change the paradigm!  Run a competition for 50 small groups of fans (mates or families) - the winners of which get to be broadcast back from their living rooms to the giant TV screens on the ground and via switched, embedded parts of the broadcast program.  Using existing Internet infrastructure and traditional TV broadcast equipment, this can be active within days, in time for Round 2 of the NRL for example.

CAUTION:  We have two cautions for this one:  Firstly, always remember that real people can do unpredictable and inappropriate things, so a fast finger on the ”dump” button with an appropriate broadcast delay is essential; and secondly, this might forever change the way sports broadcasts are consumed so be ready for a new “normal”.

It's time to get creative and try to forget that there even is a box to think about! And give us a call if you need help.

Ian Exaudi
Managing Director & Senior Solutions Architect
Creative Intersection Pty Ltd