There was no business playbook when coronavirus arrived. However, being proactive has helped mitigate the impact. Discover the most impactful calls leaders just like you have made and the effect each one has had.
If you’d like to share your most impactful decision, then please do so in the comment box at the end of the article.
Invoicing quickly, in smaller bundles
John Williams, founder, SpaceInvader: “We decided to focus rigorously on cash flow, including some tough early decisions on redundancies, because we knew that even with furlough payments some of our projects were not going to come on stream again for a long time. HMRC breaks in PAYE payments were crucial, but the real long-term lesson was to invoice more quickly, even if in smaller bundles, and to review cash flow not just monthly but weekly.
“Our existing situation meant we invoiced at the end of the month, so we reviewed each project and identified instead where we could invoice before that, based on the completion of project milestones. We couldn’t do it on every one, but there were some where we could. This simply meant cash came into the business more quickly. By increasing invoicing frequency – along with using the furlough scheme, having a robust redundancy strategy and really focusing in on cash – we reduced our debtor days by ten, which has given us around eight to nine per cent of our turnover available as headroom each month.
“The second thing we did, which may initially seem counterintuitive, was to take on a PR consultant, and ask her to interview all our major clients in-depth about our service, values and offer. This mirroring exercise was not only highly insightful for future direction but fed us a huge morale boost – a bit of soul food just when we needed it most.”
Calculating project return on investments
Helen White, co-founder, houseof: “Coronavirus has proven to be challenging for every business and managing cash flow is more important than ever before. At houseof, we are analysing every internal project and reviewing where we are getting the best ROI – in speed and in monetary terms. Each project throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been scrutinised to ensure our capital is being deployed effectively. Projects where we see investments paying off longer term have been halted and we have focused entirely on projects that have quick returns.
“For example, we’ve been very focused on our conversion rates across all marketing channels and have reallocated capital to the highest performing channels and removed budget from those that haven’t been performing as well as we would have liked. Our pay-per-click ads and organic search have both had handsome returns on Google, whilst social media has been performing poorly compared with our pre-coronavirus results. We are monitoring performance across all channels on a month-by-month basis and allocating capital accordingly.”
The right tech for different people
Charlotte Evans, associate director, The Double Unit: “Rather than investing in new tools or products, we decided to give serious consideration to what works best for us as individuals. One of us suffers from Dyscalculia, which means spreadsheets are a complete nightmare to work with. So, instead, that person uses a pen and paper with regular reporting.
“We also felt that project management software need not be so intrusive – sending us aggressive reminders about tasks overdue – so we scrapped it in favour of a work plan structure we have created ourselves, allowing us to carefully manage all tasks for our clients and the business in a way that works for us.
“We do appreciate that shifting from software to good old Excel and a notebook is easier for a smaller team to do, but I dare say there are many big firms which would probably feel the same. It’s all too easy to panic and jump in situations we are totally unfamiliar with, as the last few months have shown, but actually sitting back and taking stock, analysing what tools you really need to do your job in the best way you can and ensuring you are able to communicate easily (but not unnecessarily!) with your team is invaluable.”
Ramping up Facebook advertising
Chris Lampitt, founder, FITT 20:20: “I decided to ratchet up my Facebook advertising because I was advised that it was currently the most cost-effective way of advertising during lockdown. Business owners who had previously been using the platform regularly started to look at ways of reducing ‘additional costs’ during such an uncertain economic time, when really this was the time to be upping the ante even further to enhance their online presence whilst everybody was stuck indoors and on multiple devices.
“For my business, one which offers bespoke insurance services, it was vital for my offering to be accessible online particularly at a time where sadly more of us were becoming increasingly worried about illness due to the pandemic. Facebook advertising is such a cheap advertising method compared to print or other digital options, plus having the ability to take payment breaks allows greater flexibility. With the use of various business grants, it has allowed me to further invest in improving my brand awareness nationally and expand my client base.”
Really communicating with furloughed staff
Gareth Smyth, CEO, Hilton Smythe: “We have found that focusing on our priorities in these uncertain times has been essential. Looking ahead to where we want our business to be in the future has helped us to align what is important, as well as causing us to plan how we are going to get there.
“We have also realised the importance of encouraging a sense of connectedness in these uncertain times. Checking in with furloughed employees will make them feel like they haven’t been forgotten. Radio silence can cause worry and stress for your employees, so it’s vital to keep them in the loop and be transparent. We have been sure to let our staff know early about likely upcoming situations and changes, which has helped them prepare for whatever challenges lie ahead.”
Getting in contact with all of our customers
Angela Yore, MD, SkyParlour: “The response from clients was special in the tough times we are going through. We have had numerous calls with every customer and asked them how coronavirus is impacting their business. Some were in crisis and we have supported them by looking at ways to deliver more value or in a few cases giving a temporary reduction on the fee to help them get through the difficult times.
“We asked people to share their experiences of coronavirus in articles to support other businesses which they have embraced. Every month we have reached out to our customers leaders to get a sense of how they are doing. We have done this because we care but also to allow us to plan the impact that coronavirus is having on our business. At the very start of the pandemic, two clients had to served us notice. However, one of these clients has now signed a new contract with us doubling their work with us. By sticking together, we have made our relationship with all our stakeholders stronger. This has been one of the most touching and wonderful things about the adversity we have all faced.”
We had to prioritise innovation after our sales disappeared
Baoli Zhao, MD, Allsee Technologies: Baoli Zhao and his business, Allsee Technologies, had a choice to make – wait for the market to come back or proactively develop a new product. Find out why they decided on the latter and what the impact has been.
And don’t forget, if you’d like to share your most impactful decisions, then please do so in the comment box at the end of the article.