How to use the COVID-19 lockdown to prime your business for the future

Priming your business for recovery after the COVID-19 lockdown | Prospa NZ

With many small businesses scaled back or closed entirely due to the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19, savvy business owners reveal their first-hand tips for how they’re using this time to position their business for the future.

Do things you’ve never had the time for… until now

For Laura Heynike of Pocketspace Interiors, the lockdown and product supply interruptions could have been debilitating, particularly when the loss of income turned out to be more than double what she had expected.

However, it was a new service she had on the backburner, with no free time to develop, that she saw as her “lifeline”.

“So I sat down and spent an entire week at my desk and built Clkspace.”

The platform allows clients to undertake smaller design projects remotely, in turn enabling Heynike to expand globally.

While initially intended as an additional income stream, the project has allowed the interior designer to establish it as a sales funnel for her existing business too.

“I was really happy with the outcome – building an entire company in a week!”

Meanwhile, Heynike has used the downtime to expand her marketing and implement contingency plans to keep Pocketspace Interiors trading too.

“Use this time to position yourself as an expert in what you do, and the perfect platform for that is social media. While a lot of companies have shut down their advertising spend, I’ve actually increased mine!”

Find new ways of serving clients

Professional speaker and MC Greg Ward saw the conference and events industry effectively having to shut down overnight.

While most bookings were cancelled or postponed indefinitely after the nationwide lockdown was put in place, Ward set about convincing one client to hold a virtual conference instead.

“We looked at how we could take a four-day conference and repackage it,” he explains.

With a mix of borrowed and older equipment pulled from storage, Ward and the client successfully evolved the event into an entirely digital format.

“In just two weeks, they had gone from it being a four-day face-to-face event to a full four-day online event, still retaining all of their sponsors, almost all of their exhibitors and they even picked up a new exhibitor as a result of going virtual,” he says.

“Over 500 delegates from all over the world joined us online.”

In turn, Ward’s work on this project has since led to new opportunities coming through, as more businesses overcome their panic and realise that life must go on.

“Ultimately, [this industry] is about connecting people with people, and the only thing we can’t do is meet face-to-face right now.”

He urges others to “do what I did”.

“How could I still do what I know my client still needs to do? With the skills and abilities I’ve got, how could I make that happen? The key factor was curiosity,” Ward says.

“If you’re fearful, then you aren’t in a position of thinking logically… When you’re thinking about someone else, you’re not thinking about yourself to a great extent, and it opens up a huge playing field.”

Diversify your offering

For Alex and Catherine Watson of Little Bone Broth, the lockdown has given them a chance re-evaluate their operations and explore new product options.

The husband-and-wife team were forced to close their two other food-services businesses due to the lockdown and have focused their efforts on expanding the range of products they make for Little Bone Broth.

“Little Bone Broth will probably have its best two months in March and April,” Alex Watson says.

Among the shake-up of their operations has been the addition of an organic line, an expanded product offering and reverting back to their early days of making home deliveries (now contactless), which they are doing themselves.

The latter has been promoted on new platform delivereat, essentially a directory of independent local food makers.

While this diversification is expected to pay longer-term dividends, the Watsons have tapped into rent relief and government support to help cover the immediate hit to their overall cash flow, in order to continue paying themselves and their employees.

“If you think you can just go back to business as usual, I think you’re being a little bit naive,” Alex Watson suggests.

“Spending is going to change, the way people are buying things [will change], so you’ve got to adapt,” Catherine Watson adds.

“You’ve got to try and make the best of it, because if you don’t, there may not be a business at the end of it.”

Progress is key

Regardless of how you choose to prime your business for recovery during the current lockdown, business coach Russell Freeman says one thing is crucial.

“The biggest issue is keeping positive and focused,” he says.

“The most motivating factor in business ownership is ‘progress’. Currently, that’s hard to quantify. However, with a focus on re-building and knowing this situation will gradually improve, progress will be found in those business owners who are resourceful and determined to succeed.”

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