Notwithstanding the losses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, I daresay that this is a rare opportunity for businesses. This may be the best time to dot the i's and cross the t's, making necessary adjustments to strengthen operations, service delivery, and other major aspects that are vital to the growth and stability of any organization. In this piece, I will share five things that businesses across the board can do to bring their operations up to par.
1. Update Database and Codify Processes
This pandemic provides a good opportunity for businesses to do some re-evaluation; ask questions about how to improve efficiency after this blows away. One way to achieve that is by codifying processes and updating the database. It is popular knowledge that information is vital for any business to survive. This means that customers and employees must be up-to-date on the business plans and direction as it changes to meet market demands and different realities. Businesses must take this time to document/update all of the unwritten policies, processes as it involves the business as a whole. Many times, there have been experiences of employees claiming not to be aware of a certain rule that should have guided their decision, so codifying all the information that your employees need to be aware of should be written down somewhere and shared across the board so that everyone is aligned. This would go a long way in helping to improve communication and efficiency in the long run.
Another important part is uploading information databases onto any of the cloud systems (G-suite, dropbox, salesforce, etc). The pandemic has forced many businesses to go digital and having as much of your information saved online is critical so that anyone who needs it can have access at their convenience. Digital transformation is a thing and we need to adjust as soon as possible. The quickest way down for any organization is to lack accurate data on policies, structural adjustment and customer information which often translates to poor strategy execution when forecasting for the business and its future.
2. Build Social Presence
The use of digital platforms has been on the increase during this period and very rightly. Businesses are trying to gain market share and are competing for audience attention. Beyond ensuring that you have an active online presence, what is key is focusing on the platform that targets your audience. As a small business, you cannot be everywhere because you most likely do not have the resources (finance and manpower), so what is advisable is to "go deep and go wide." Find out what platform(s) your audience congregate and create highly engaging content and begin to build human interaction. The trends of events have shown that there is so much to be gained from active participation on these platforms.
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp for Business, Twitter, Medium, LinkedIn, to mention a few should be taken very seriously because of the large number of users.
If you are yet to set up your platform, you can start off telling your business journey; challenges and lessons learned. Nothing beats value-relatable content. The opportunities are endless and it will also afford an entrepreneur or business owner the chance to engage and feel the pulse of its target market/audience which will definitely take the business to the next level.
3. Rejig or Revamp Branding Materials
Nothing tells the story of a business as much as its brand materials. Beyond the promise and messaging, other elements that make up a brand including the materials. While speaking with some businesses, there were conversations about wanting to update some branding elements but due to busy schedules, these could not happen. Fortunately, or unfortunately, businesses now have some time to work on this so that it reflects the image you want the brand to have. These materials include brand logo, message fonts, colours, design layouts, tagline, color palette, and all the marketing and promotional materials, letterheads, signage, etc. These, as we know amongst other things, will aid giving your company an appeal in a very attractive way. With adequate feedback through communication with customers and your team, you can birth something that will keep your target audience glued to your brand.
4. Encourage Professional Development
The success of any business lies with its people. As a business owner, it cannot be over-emphasized the importance of professional development for employees. Given the current reality where non-essentials have been forced to work from home or take unpaid leave, businesses should encourage employees to take advantage of this 'opportunity' to develop themselves and build in-demand skills. As a CEO or a manager, you want the best people on your team especially coming out of this pandemic. You want people who can hit the ground with ideas to keep the business running.
As you know, professional development helps employees continue to not only be competent in their profession but also excel in it. It should be an ongoing process that continues throughout an individual's career.
Actively pursuing professional development ensures that knowledge and skills stay relevant and up to date. It also allows employees to be more aware of changing trends and directions. With the professional world moving at a faster pace than ever before, not developing oneself will cause one to be left behind as peers expand their knowledge and skills. There is always room for growth and improvement of professional skills. Attending a webinar or live session on social media, and so on, can provide employees with new ways to sharpen skills within their professions. The more knowledge an individual gains of a specific skill set, the more confidence they will have when performing these skills.
There are several webinars free and paid currently being advertised that your team can sign up for. Select the one that is relevant to them (individually or as a unit) and encourage everyone to participate. There is no better time than now to drive professional development to sharpen skills. The chances of having a positive impact on your output as a business from this period onwards are high.
5. Build Thought Leadership
Every business has a story to tell; journey, challenges, learning, insights and general experience. If there was ever a time to share that story, it is now.
Procrastination and tight schedules might have restrained many businesses from unleashing the phenomenal content that could turn things around in their fields. Incidentally, this period has also forced a lot of people to stay online and access the necessary knowledge and know-how on various issues of interest. There is no better time to unpack all that knowledge living in your head and share with the world than now. Value is the number 1 magnet in business and thought leadership is arguably the fastest way to give value.
Thought leadership is a type of content marketing. It positions you as an expert leader in your field. People look to you for information and ideas because you are able to lead their thoughts. It makes life easy for you as an entrepreneur when you are perceived as a thought leader in your industry. Platforms others pay to get on, you are invited to. Also access, others struggle to get, becomes easier. For SMEs, especially service-based SMEs thought leadership is infinitely cheaper than expending resources on core marketing.
Some of the things to settle in your mind before starting out include, what platform is suitable for your subject, following relevant people and contributing to their conversation. In addition, deciding the format or medium is important. Many are comfortable with writing which can be translated into an eBook. You can decide to give it out for free or charge a token for it. Other formats to consider are podcasts and videos. For podcasts, tools like AudioBoom, anchor, headline.app, etc will come in handy. While for videos, you can launch a webinar, live session on Social Media (Instagram, Facebook or YouTube) or record video content and share on your platform. These are also called digital products.
If you can establish yourself as an expert in your industry, potential clients and customers will inherently trust you more and are likely to respond to you more warmly.
This list is inexhaustible but these pointers can guide you to other areas that directly impact your business. In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining, the lockdown may just be the silver lining your business had always wished for. I look forward to sharing more tips that will take your business from where it is to where it ought to be.