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With COVID-19 continuing to spread worldwide, we are all facing unprecedented challenges with large scale social distancing and temporary shutting down of economies. Mobility constraints have shifted in-person human interaction to digital and remote mode, changing consumers’ behaviours and business operations. Business owners are challenged on every facet of the business; from shifting to new kinds of team and customer interactions to finding solutions to keep the company afloat and rebound post crisis.

To assist businesses in building resilience and minimizing disruption, we have put together a list of potential action items to reference for strategy planning amid the COVID-19 downtime. It is important to recognize that the following blog post only provides potential directions for your consideration.

1. Run your business with sustainable financial capability (burn rate and runway)

 

Liquidity is one of the key survival elements for all businesses. As seen in the recent depreciated global stock market, investors are preserving capital in cash rather than in other assets. The investment momentum is expected to remain stale until the COVID-19 impact begins to reside. It is important for startup founders to retain as much cash as possible until the next round of fundraising.

  • Revising financial budget: Be realistic and re-adjust the sales pipelines and revenue forecast, create stress test analysis to derive the affordable amount of monthly expenses
  • Cutting down on variable expenses: With lower consumption appetite and sales, moderate spending cuts may take place in terms of reducing human capital, working hours, salaries or marketing budget
  • Applying for financial assistance: Governments across all regions are setting up relief funds and new loan schemes with low interest rates to support small businesses in various sectors through the difficult downtimes

2. Adapt to new customer interaction and shift sales channel mix

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the world as we know it and a wide range of sectors are affected throughout their supply chain including tourism, entertainment, dining and retail. However, there are business segments which have seen growth in the past few months. Those services are concentrated on digital channels such as e-commerce, food delivery and video streaming. Given the social isolation, digital communication plays a vital role in customers’ engagement. Stay connected to your customers and keep the sales pipelines alive.

  • Email with latest updates: It is always better to have a voice than remain silent. Inform customers of the latest company / store arrangements amid the COVID-19 period; the preventative measures in place to give customers confidence in the business or visiting the store; and how they can get in touch if they would like to resume business discussions.
  • Monthly newsletter with creative content: Create useful and interesting content regularly to keep customers engaged, retain important relationships and encourage new purchase online
  • Social media to encourage purchase: Establish a stronger online presence to keep your business services and products on customers’ radars, for example, create an online product catalogue and make it easy for customers to place an order or ask questions through social channels such as Whatsapp or Messenger
  • Targeted communication: Identify and invest in the core customer segments; create personalized messages and content to better influence buying behaviours

3. Minimize operational downtime

 

With more businesses encouraging their employees to work from home, clear operational guidelines can help maintain employees’ productivity and efficiency.

  • Be mobile in human capital: Relocate excess labour to different activities, for example, instead of actively pitching for new business, your sales team can help manage the existing customer base to provide high quality customer service through instant messaging tools and maintain sales pipelines
  • Improve internal processes: Leverage the time available to develop better services and purchase and delivery processes to increase efficiencies

4. Retool to prepare for growth post-COVID-19

 

Given the global economic downtime, business discussions are expected to remain slow. It may be a good time to analyse existing product quality and develop better functionality. Get prepared to hit the market again when economies become better.

  • Co-create with clients: Remote working has led to rising new demands and services; actively connect with customers for feedback on products and new features
  • Explore new business model: Social distancing changes consumer behaviour with increased reliance on virtual and digital platforms; it may be a good time to explore re-packaging existing offerings to SaaS business model or online channel

With the ever-changing situation of COVID-19, the above potential action points represent some of the immediate responses to the disruption. As the pandemic continues, longer-term planning with technology solutions should be in place. Going forward, adoption of new technologies such as 5G network, virtual reality and smart city solutions shall be accelerated given the increasing need for remote interaction and the great value of technology as used in crisis management.

External references:
The Matrix for COVID-19: https://medium.com/sequoia-capital/the-matrix-for-covid-19-c25bd5195f46
Managing your burn rate and runway is key to sustain business operations at uncertain times:
https://www.inc.com/steve-blank/coronavirus-covid19-pandemic-startup-leader-response-plan-strategy-crisis.html
Stay connected to customers during Coronavirus:
https://www.uschamber.com/co/grow/customers/stay-connected-to-customers-during-coronavirus
10 tips to help your business communicate throughout the coronavirus crisis: https://thenextweb.com/growth-quarters/2020/03/12/10-tips-to-help-your-business-communicate-throughout-the-coronavirus-crisis/

Photo courtesy: Getty Images / eternalcreative, US Chamber, Pexel

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