Key Steps to Building a Resilience Plan
It’s safe to say business leaders have learned a lot in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has required resilience, decisive action and strategic action from businesses of all sizes. Data released by the US Chamber of Commerce in June 2020 reported that 21 percent of all small businesses had closed down all or part of their operations because of COVID-19. Additionally, 8 in 10 small businesses that participated in the Chamber’s Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll said they’re adapting their business strategies in response to the pandemic. As you prepare to enter a new year in business, it’s time to analyze the impact from COVID-19 and decide how to adapt long-term. Here are seven ways businesses are responding to the ongoing pandemic entering into 2021:
1. Protecting Cash Flow
With a new year ahead during a continuing pandemic, it’s important you get a clear picture of your cash flow and secure as much of it as possible. Run a cash flow report with the tool you use to track your balance sheet or income statements. It should show your monthly fixed expenses and variable expenses, plus incoming cash in terms of sales, royalties, payments made or investment returns. Run a cash flow report for 2019 as your baseline. Then run a cash flow report for 2020 and analyze it against 2019. This will give you a good sense for how your cash flow has been impacted by COVID-19. If cash flow is tight, see what financing or small business aid you can apply for. Also, cut costs wherever you can.
2. Investing in Automation
There’s an initial cost in automation technology but it has a huge long-term pay-off in savings, making it a profitable investment. An example is replacing a call center team with an AI chatbot that enables customers to get help on their own, without waiting for a phone representative during call center hours. It saves you labor costs and the AI continues learning from its experiences to improve over time. According to Forrester’s 2017 Customer Service Trends report, AI chatbots exhibit higher accuracy levels than human representatives in giving customers the information they need. Another example of investing in automation is sales prospects and lead nurturing automation tools. Getting technological upgrades like these can help you better leverage data, offer machine-level productivity and help cut labor costs.
3. Switching to a Remote Workforce
People are still important in business, and not all jobs can be automated. With the help of technology, you can enable your office teams to work remotely. Make sure you provide them the equipment they need, such as devices, headsets and software for being just as productive as they were in the office. Having project management tools, collaboration tools and virtual conferencing software can keep teams on the same page. Some companies are giving their remote employees home office stipends to help encourage productivity. Telecommuting readiness is worth the investment because it prevents the disruptions of operations and productivity during lockdowns, which could occur anytime in 2021 given the uncertainty of the virus.
4. Adopting a Contact-Free Experience for Customers
It’s not just your staff who should be ready to stay home at any time, but also your customers. Have a way your customers can experience your service or purchase your product online. For example, many health practitioners have transitioned to having virtual contact with their patients, giving rise to a booming “telemedicine” industry. Even if you’re not a health business, you can adopt a similar strategy to deliver an otherwise in-person service to your client or customer. If you typically host in-person seminars or conferences, leverage technology to virtualize and digitalize the experience for your customers.
5. Providing Health Checks for New and Returning Staff
If your business requires having in-person staff who work together or directly interact with customers, you may want to adopt screening protocols recommended by the CDC to ensure their safety as well as the safety of your customers. Some companies are providing on-the-job medical screening for employees. Amazon, Walmart, Home Depot and Starbucks, for example, are taking the temperatures of their employees at the beginning of shifts. Policies like these protect the health of your employees and show customers that your business is doing its part to prevent the spread of the virus.
6. Ramping Up Marketing and Lead Generation
As more people are working from home, their online search for products and services has increased dramatically. To secure your cash flow, put your money into online marketing and lead generation efforts. Market your solutions and products to your target audience with the coronavirus pandemic in mind. Use content marketing strategies like blogging and publishing video content to drive more qualified leads to your online offers. Mobile marketing is a growing trend as consumers spend more and more time on their phones. Plus, according to 2018 research from CIODive, as much as 70 percent of all online traffic happens on mobile devices. Consumers find mobiles convenient. Mobile marketing includes any channel that reaches your target customer through their mobile device, whether through an app, text messages or phone-only social apps like Instagram. With mobile marketing you can leverage the power of push notifications and see higher engagement rates in your content. Social commerce is using social media as an additional place to sell your products, since Instagram Shops, Facebook Shops and Pinterest’s “Product Pins” feature let you include links to your services and products which customers can quickly use to make a purchase within the social media app in just a few clicks. Keeping up with the latest trends in digital marketing can help your business remain competitive in a pandemic-struck economy.
7. Planning for Multiple Futures in a Resilience Strategy
Many businesses began drafting a resilience strategy in 2020 in response to the surprising hit of a global pandemic. A resilience strategy is a defensive one that can help you survive potential crises. As businesses meet new challenges during COVID-19, the global supply chain is changing every day. Create a contingency plan for how you’ll meet demands if any of your suppliers disappear or have major delays. Think about possible future crises and how the company would respond strategically to each. For example, businesses that already had a remote workforce survived COVID-19 lockdowns more easily than those with in-house staff. Evaluate future risks and plan contingencies that will allow you to continue operations.
Weathering the Pandemic in 2021 and Beyond
COVID-19 has been a stress test for businesses. Action and response were required from day one, but adapting for the long-term effects of the pandemic and the uncertain business environment going forward is a focus for businesses in 2021. Health screening and telecommuting readiness are strategies many businesses have already put in place. Protecting cash flow and investing in trends like mobile marketing, automation and productivity tools for your remote workforce are important considerations at this time. Having a resilience strategy and adopting a remote workforce and a contact-free customer experience today will pay off for businesses in the long term.
About Universal Funding
Universal Funding is a private funding source that has funded thousands of businesses and more than $2 billion since 1998. We turn your accounts receivable into the funding you need through invoice factoring and can have capital in your hands in a matter of days.