Last night the Irish government announced that the country would be moving to level 5 of the ‘Plan For Living with COVID-19’ framework. This is effectively another nationwide lockdown and will come as devastating news to some people and businesses.
This is a very serious time for many Irish businesses and we understand that some will not recover and live to see a brighter day. For other businesses however, there is an opportunity to turn a perceived negative into a positive. This article will explore this.
Business is changing
We’re strong believers in the phrase that every business must embrace change. As a business owner you can plan for many different outcomes, carry out risk assessments but you will never ever be in control of all of the variables and threats to your business. COVID-19 has proven this fact. ‘Normal’ is gone and has been replaced with a new ‘normal’. In some cases we all hope that normal returns some day soon (bars & restaurants, concerts, sporting events etc.) but in other cases ‘normal’ may never return. For example if you used to sell products or services at a physiical premises – when ‘normal’ returns, your customers may not want to return to ‘normal’. Their eyes may have been opened by the new ‘normal’ and they may see the benefits of this.
There are plenty of examples of this over the history of business. Not so long ago booking a flight required visiting a travel agent office. Renting a film involved a trip to the local video shop. Viewing your bank statements & balances involved visiting a branch and asking tellers to print them for you. These processes have been replaced with digital alternatives and people have embraced them wholeheartedly.
So business changes over time. It always has and it always will. Historically businesses that thrive, embrace change and proactively own it.
Strike while the iron is hot
It may sound bizarre to suggest that the best time to change the way you do business is in the middle of a global pandemic but it may not be as crazy an idea as it sounds! This pandemic will end and one day lockdowns will be a thing of the past and things will revert to ‘normal’ – but for many businesses the new ‘normal’ will not be the same as the old ‘normal’. If you’re going to reboot your business – it makes a lot of sense to do the heavy lifting during a downturn and steal a march on your competitors for when the inevitable upturn comes.
At government level this has been recognised and that’s why in April the Local Enterprise Office announced significant changes to the Online Trading Voucher Scheme. This scheme is about encouraging more small businesses to sell products & services online and accept online payments. This scheme closed on September 30th but it may well open up again for new applications so keep an eye out. Under this scheme (and subject to qualification criteria) you can avail of a grant of 90% up to €2,500.
Never Waste a Good Crisis
Disruptive shocks to markets are often followed by a fundamental shifts towards digital strategies within businesses. After the 2008 financial crisis the world saw the demise of many established business whereas companies that reinvented themselves developed and grew. Small nimble businesses can often become the bright sparks that fly high after a recession. Online sales have been around for almost 30 years and while they were once seen as exclusive to the larger multinationals – that picture is changing now. Mature, supported open source e-commerce solutions are available now and coupled with initiatives like the Online Trading Voucher – e-Commerce solutions are now very much affordable.
If you can use this pandemic to take a step back and ask yourself the right questions – you could turn this threat into an opportunity for your business. We can help you identify those questions and share with you our experience of how digital solutions could improve your customer offering. It’s not just customer offering that we can help with. Many business have interal processes that are resource heavy – we have a track record of automating many in-house processes that can increase efficiencies within your business.
The world is moving towards digital and if you think you’re ready to explore that we can help you embrace the opportunities that come with that shift.