What can small businesses do to prepare for the end of lockdown?

Published: 12/05/2020

Small businesses have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, with social distancing in place, as well as the forced closure of many businesses. Some businesses have been able to keep trading, or do things differently, but this hasn’t been possible for everyone.

However, with the Prime Minister announcing the COVID-19 Recovery Strategy on the 11th May 2020, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  So, if you have temporality stopped trading, what can you do to help prepare your business to reopen once you get the go ahead?

1. See if you’re eligible for any further government support

We’re sure most of business owners will have already done this, but now is a good time to double check whether you’re eligible for any more support if you need it.

It’s not known how long all of the support that is out there will continue for - have a read of our blog which shows you what is available. From deferring VAT and Tax repayments, to business rate holidays, grants and loans, find out all you need to know here.

2. Review

Now that we have more of an idea as to when businesses may be allowed to reopen, you could review how you run your business in the new world that we’re entering into.

There’s guidance out there from the Government that helps businesses that are still operating, which you can take advice from and start thinking about how you will need to adapt to keep you and your customers safe. Read more here.

If you’re in retail, the British Retail Consortium have released their advice on how to implement social distancing in non-food retail shops, which can help you plan ahead too.

We’re sure more information and guidance will come out over the coming weeks, which we will keep you updated with.

Looking at other countries who are starting to come out of lockdown, and from Boris Johnson’s speech, it will be a gradual process. There will be restrictions in place, for example, if you have a physical store, you may only be allowed a certain number of people in store at once. A bit like supermarkets are operating currently.

How can you plan for that? It may involve removing some displays temporarily to ensure room for people to keep apart, or making sure you have a full view of your retail space to make sure you can adhere to the rules. Could you start a click and collect service, where customers can call you and pay for the items they want over the phone, then just come and collect them, so they don’t have to come in store?

Think about how you can make your customers feel safe when they are able to return. You could make some posters showing how you’re keeping your business as hygienic as you can, encouraging contactless payments where possible (it’s now available up to payments of £45) and explaining what other measures you may put in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

It’s also a good time to review day-to-day tasks too to see if you can become more efficient. Is there a manual task that you have to do each month that could be moved online? For example, if you’re manually sending emails out to your customers, could you use a free email platform to bulk send instead to cut down the time you spend on it?

If you’ve got lots of old stock, could you use this time to do a stock check and see where you’re at? You can then discount anything you need to get rid of once the lockdown ends.

3. Keep your relationships positive

Speak to your suppliers to see how they’re planning to come out of lockdown and work with them to ensure you’re ready to start trading again when given the go ahead.

Keeping these relationships positive will help you bounce back quicker once lockdown is over. It’s good to know whether a supplier will be able to provide what you need once things start to recover, and vice versa, they’ll need to know if you still need their services.

It could also be a good time to reach out to other small businesses that are local to you. You could talk together (virtually) and potentially share knowledge and learn from each other – you never know, someone may have ideas you’ve never thought of. Maybe you could create a leaflet or something in the local area, letting everyone know that their local businesses are going to reopen? People are shopping locally now more than ever, which will hopefully continue in the future.

This also includes your staff too – if you have them, whether they’re on furlough, or something else, keep them in the loop regularly – let them know what you’re doing to plan for after lockdown – they may have thoughts and ideas that could help you.

4. Communicate with your customers

Things are still changing week by week, but one thing to remember is that we’re all in this together and your customers will most likely want to support you as long as you communicate properly.

This is as simple as letting them know you’re still shut, or offering a reduced service if you haven’t done so already. You could let them know that you’re starting to plan for reopening, and even ask them if there’s anything they’d like to see from you that could help them out once you’re back up and running.

If you have a website, make sure your communications are added on there, put a post on your social media, or you could send out an email if you have customer data (that meets GDPR requirements, of course).

If you’ve a physical shop, putting a note up in your window with all this info is a good idea too. And if customers call you, add a personalised voicemail that explains how you’re operating for now.

It’s also important you make it easy for them to communicate with you. Respond to any social messages as quickly as you can, put contact details somewhere easily accessible on your website and keep an eye on your inbox.

5. Build up your social media presence

People are at home, with little opportunity to leave the house, and this is likely to continue for a while longer, even with the new rules, so a lot of them are still going to be spending more time on social than normal.

And what’s become clear is that customers want to protect their go-to local businesses. In fact, in March, there were over 31.7 million online posts and articles supporting local businesses on Facebook, and 11.6 million on Twitter, so become a part of it.

Keep in touch with your customers, update them on what you’re doing and stay in their minds so they don’t forget about you. Whether you’re specifically posting about COVID-19, or posting light, positive content to cheer people up, make sure you’re posting regularly to ensure you’re popping up in people’s news feeds.

If you’re not already on social, now’s the perfect time to get your business page up and running. Find out more about which could best suit your business here.

We appreciate spending money is not top of the list right now, but Facebook advertising is something you could consider to build your audience – whether that’s now or when your cashflow improves. Find out how to get started here.

6. Take care of yourself

This may sound like an obvious one, but with all the stress that COVID-19 is bringing, it can be easy to forget to look after yourself. Eat well, get as much sleep as you can and make sure you take regular exercise.

This could help you keep calm and retain perspective – this is temporary and things will start to ease. If you need emotional support, there are services out there, the NHS has put together this guide for more advice.

If you’re struggling to keep busy, there are free courses online to help you upskill yourself. Whether it’s how to be a stronger leader, to how to be more efficient – a quick Google search should bring you plenty of results.

 

Stay safe.

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