How to help your business during the COVID-19 crisisSaša Zgrabljić
If your business is dependent on people moving about, you’re most likely already experiencing consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Companies are already suffering a drop in sales, and everyone is trying to cope with the current situation. So with that in mind, we’ve prepared a list of things you can do to help your business survive during this crisis.
Move your business online
With most of the world currently in lockdown, webshops and online services are thriving. If you already own a webshop, you’ll most likely experience a surge in sales. People are unable to move about, which means they’ll spend more time online, and in turn, spend more money online. As a result, companies selling their goods online experience heavier load, which can easily lead to problems with infrastructure stability. You can read more on preventing downtime on our blog, or get in touch with our experts if you need assistance with keeping your webshop stable under heavy load.
However, if you’re not already providing services online, the first step would be moving your business online – as much as possible. To help you with this vital step, we’ve prepared a blog post detailing all steps needed to move your retail store online.
Work from home
Another step which is proving more and more important in the current situation is working from home. Considering all governments advised against mass gatherings and close contact, having your employees work from home will be beneficial, if not necessary.
Working from home might feel strange at first; however there are certain steps that can help you bridge the gap between your coworkers.
The first step is ensuring all of your employees have the proper hardware to work on. Even though many companies tend to use desktop PCs for work, it’s always a good idea to invest in laptops, as it gives you and your employees mobility. You can get excellent refurbished laptops for half the price, in case you need to switch from desktops quickly (for example refurbished.com.hr if you’re located in Croatia). Your employees will also need monitors (which they can borrow from the office), and probably a headset, to communicate efficiently during online conferences.
As for keeping the morale up, having a quick video call with your coworkers each day or every few days helps everyone feel connected. Share your daily or weekly agenda, discuss current projects or issues and check in with your coworkers.
When you’re not speaking in person, use other means of communication, such as chat or e-mail. While e-mail is excellent for keeping note of everything that’s going on, using chat is the best option for a remote work environment. Before using chat, however, we advise you to define some rules, such as what channel should be used by which department, etc.
Another thing you need when working online is a task or project tracker. Such applications are required to maintain discipline and liability for your employees, primarily if they’ve never worked from home before. They also help you keep track of any ongoing projects and day-to-day tasks. We’ll list some of the tools we’re using below, in case you’re unsure what to use.
Unfortunately, some companies won’t be able to move their entire workforce online. Companies which depend on manual labor and face-to-face contact won’t be able to adopt the work-from-home model entirely. If that is your situation, we suggest moving as much of your workload online as possible, including accounting, management, customer service, etc.
Change your niche
Even though working from home and moving to an online-based business is an excellent solution to some companies, certain companies will be unable to do the switch. If their business is heavily dependent on tourism, large gatherings or anything that’s currently in the “forbidden” zone, their business will suffer. However, there are still things they can do to mitigate the situation.
One idea is to move some part of your business online. An example would be restaurants which quickly started a home delivery model or bookstores that started selling their books online. While they still have their actual physical store available, they moved most of their business online.
Another option is to start broadening your niche. Think about what you’re currently offering, and what additional services or products can you offer to your existing customers, that can be useful in this type of situation.
For more tips on changing your business niche, check out AliDropship’s article How To Change Your Business Niche When Your Store Is Already Running.
Even though we’re all hopeful and we’re looking forward to the moment we’re free to roam about, we’re unsure how long the current situation will last. With that in mind, we all have to try and plan as much as possible.
Consider your potential losses, and try to find solutions before the problem arises. If the crisis hits your customers, chances are you will be too. Try to anticipate what will happen – do you expect a drop in sales, if so, how much, etc. Check your budget and eliminate unnecessary expenses and plan for the next couple of months. It also helps to find opportunities in the crisis – think about how your business can help people during the crisis, which leads us to the next point.
When there’s a global crisis, everyone is affected. And when people are affected by a crisis, they will join and try to find a solution together. Instead of shutting yourself inwards, be open and discuss the problems you’re facing with your local and global community. Connect with your peers through social media and be open to give and receive help.
Everyone is affected by the problem, and two heads are better than one – you’re bound to get ideas on dealing with the situation when discussing it with your peers.
It’s also a great idea to connect with your community and offer your help. While it might not bring you any financial reward immediately, people are bound to remember who helped them during the crisis.
How are we dealing with the situation
Same as everyone, we’ve also had to make some changes to cope with the COVID-19 crisis. Admittedly, some changes were not as hard for us as we’re already providing services online; however we also had to change our daily routine.
Instead of drinking our morning coffee with our coworkers, we’re staying at home. Luckily, we’re all using laptops, so it was doable. Each morning now starts with “good mornings” and jokes on our company chat, where we also discuss projects and issues and have fun in our “offtopic” channel. For this purpose, we’re using Mattermost, an open-source alternative to Slack.
Our sysadmins track their projects using Asana, and we meet daily using Zoom. Compared to other options we tried before, Zoom proved to be the best, as it works on different operating systems (we use Linux, Windows and macOS in the company), and it’s the most stable one. We also use Google docs and Drive to exchange documents and work on projects, and we use our internally hosted GitLab for DevOps lifecycle management. Handling phones remotely was easy, since we’re using a 3CX solution. Such software allows us to perform all administration tasks remotely, including redirecting all calls to cellphones or desktop applications.
We’ve cancelled our Sysbeer meetup, and we cancelled all live meetings with customers. Instead, we’re meeting them online. So far, there’s not much difference as we’re used to doing so.
We also went through the numbers, and we’re trying to plan for every possible scenario. This last step is hard, considering the situation changes each day, but we’re analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, and we’re following trends to make sure we’re not surprised if the situation goes awry.
As a final note, our message is: stay positive and work hard. As William Arthur Ward said, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – we know the situation isn’t great at the moment, but we’ll adapt and overcome this crisis.