We arrived at the end of the month in a state of partial lockdown, with businesses shutting their doors and thousands upon thousands of pounds worth of work lost. Not quite the good times I was expecting.
So, as we move into April and realise that it is suddenly Easter weekend (but not as we know it) I wanted to reflect on some learnings from the last few weeks and what I plan to do over the coming month.
You know those roles that we were told couldn't be done from home? Turns out, they can. With some creative thinking and an awful lot of zoom meetings, we can perform a good 80% of our own business from home.
Yes, I miss the face to face banter and chats with the team but so far, work-wise, we are all managing to perform in an almost identical fashion.
But if you think this is going to be an "its all great" blog, you are wrong. Just because we can continue working as we were, lots of our clients have shut up shop, even if it's only temporarily. I am not going out to meetings to win new projects and even the clients who are still working are watching the purse-string even closer than they were.
I have had struggles. I have 2 young children (6 and 2) and their understanding of me needing to work while sat in the house is at times, very challenging (by this I mean I have almost lost any remaining hair I had!) but my partner and I are making it work as best we can.
With this in mind, it highlights that there is more to life than work. I know that sounds obvious but as someone who has put blood, sweat and tears into this business it is good to step back and remember why you started it in the first place, and for me, it wasn't for the money. I started this business to make a difference in our community and to provide the lifestyle that I want to live.
Sometimes you need a wake up call to be reminded of that.
I have eaten dinner with my kids most evenings for the last couple of weeks and for that I am grateful. I have kept up with my fitness by doing burpees in the garden and I have written more blogs (which I enjoy doing) in the last fortnight than I had in the previous 3 months.
But if the arse has fallen out of the bottom of your business, what can you do?
Well, I am slowing down just a tiny bit and taking advantage of the little things. That doesn't mean I am not working every day, or I am taking my eye off the ball. I am still pushing for new work, I am still speaking with clients every single day. I just mean I am not arriving at the office before my kids have woken up or working so late that I have missed helping with bath time at the end of the day.
This is probably a once in a lifetime situation and before we know it, we will be back to 10-hour days of meetings and report writing. This won't last forever, so just make sure you get through this.
Investing in your business
You know all those little jobs you wanted to do but haven't had time? Guess what...
From creating canned responses for commonly asked questions, to reviewing internal processes and creating new website content, now is the time to do it.
Marketing is a long game. When we first set up the office in Hastings we didn't even rank in the top 20 for "Hastings Web Design" or "Hastings Marketing Company", today we are number 1 for both!
The reason for this is that we spent about 10 months optimising our website, which included blog writing, creating case studies and ensuring our social media profiles were active. If you want to be at the top of Google once this is all over then you need to start this now.
You may not be able to service customers right this moment, but when that time returns do you want to be behind or ahead of your competitors? This is why you shouldn't stop marketing.
Business is all about relationships, and the best relationships are the ones where you talk regularly. While normal business actions are not applying you should still be speaking with your clients. Just give them a call, business owner to business owner. It may not generate any work right now but that isn't what this is about, it is about keeping in touch and building relationships.
Put the growth mindset slightly towards the back of the queue and use this time to nurture your current network.
Once this is over (and it will be) you will want a strong network and great relationships to be able to start flourishing again.
There is still work out there, it just may not be your first pick.
How can you diversify your services and offerings to reflect the current environment?
I was supposed to be speaking at a seminar at the start of April, this couldn't go ahead so we changed the topic and are now running it online next week.
We have an estate agent client, and while they are unable to show vendors around properties in person, we have been creating virtual tour videos for them.
As a marketing agency, we are now positioning ourselves not just as one that can help businesses gain more work, but as one who can help just get business through this time.
Most business owners are concerned about just surviving, so that is how we are positioning our services in the majority of cases. We are building marketing foundations now so that once the lockdown ends, we can build a growth plan straight away for these businesses.
Multiple revenue streams
There is nothing wrong with being an expert in just one area, but one thing I am thankful for is having a few different services. This has allowed us to lean on one more than the other.
Many businesses have diversified over the last few weeks. From PTs running online fitness classes, to event catering companies cooking and delivering home meals.
I would expect those who have diversified during this period will probably keep some of these new services up and running when this is over, at least in the short term.
We are all in this together. Every business is being affected.
With this in mind, don't try and get through this on your own. There is lots of great free information and support available from professionals in Finance, HR, Marketing etc.
Attend webinars, talk to clients and keep networking.
Many networking events have moved online which could be argued makes them easier to attend! Use your time to extend and build your network and add value to others. Take stock of your own business and look at the areas where you could improve efficiency.
This will hopefully be a once in a lifetime situation. Work hard, get through it and aim to have a better business once it is over than the one you went in with.