There are two very corporate phrases that exist, in “business continuity” and “operational resilience”, but it really means how can I keep my business going in times where my normal way of operating cannot continue. In other words, “How can I keep as calm as possible in a crisis?”
Many businesses are very much a “face-to-face”, or “on-site” operation, so having a sustainable business relies on that contact being able to continue. What happens, however, where the perception of face-to-face can be altered?
Bearing in mind that this is being written in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, there are some things that just could not be prepared for until now. Therefore, some of the measures introduced by the Government are unprecedented and cannot be prepared for, like an ordered shut down. You can still, however, make the most of any new measures by linking with the relevant experts to make the most of the relief provided through Government action.
The reality of the options available are varied, and will vary from industry to industry, but there are some constants that will provide sustainability for a large number of companies.
What do you do face-to-face that could be moved to some type of online interaction? As well as the use of an online shop, as mentioned above, there are many other online tools that will allow your business to continue.
The First Set of Real Options
There have been so many advances in technology that we can have video calls, or to provide an online shop, to complete our responsibilities as a provider. Of course, that will not work for all businesses. Some are too small, or too specific, to do this, like market traders. So, what real options are there?
The answer is one that most people will not want to hear, but it is the truth, and it is to make sure that you have good practices written down. What are practices? They are the policies and procedures that support your business plan. There’s a lot of hard thinking to be done to work out how things will have to happen when the “normal” way of operating does not work.
What are the online options for a non-retail business who is based in a premises, whether separate from their home or not?
There are free options to both store data online and complete online meetings and it is really a preference as to which one you use. All of these options do have restrictions to the freely provided services and you will have to pick a service most useful to you.
Probably the most well know online communication tool is Skype. Skype for Business is being renamed as Microsoft Teams (“Teams”) and will be part of the suite provided through Microsoft Online. “Teams” is best used where you already have a Microsoft Online account, or are looking to move to creating a Microsoft Online account.
Zoom is another one of the freely available online options which allows screen sharing of any window on your computer/laptop. This can, therefore, be the most popular application as long as you don’t need to include more than three people for 40 minutes or more in your meeting, as this is where the costs start.
If all you need is telephone conferencing you can also look to use both Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for free. These are of course reliant on you having the appropriate contacts on your device and your contacts having the appropriate software on their device.
This is just a snippet of the options available and are general options. There are other unique applications for more specialist roles which should not be ruled out.
The Second Set of Real Options
For retail style operations, now is the time to look into your model and investigate how you can start, or expand, your online shop.
There are many options available and most will connect with various common payment methods, like PayPal, etc.
The most used online utility in Europe is, of course, eBay. However, do not stop your investigations there. If you are a UK manufacturer check out other options, like NuMonday, www.numonday.com , and there are a number of people I know that use Shopify too, www.shopify.co.uk . One very real job to do is to make sure that you cross the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” when setting up your shop, if you do not already have one, to make sure all your compliance issues are resolved. Shopify, for example is a Canadian based company, with links to US servers, so you need to make sure that everything in your T’s & C’s is compliant to UK regulation, like the Data Protection Act 2018.
This leads me on to choosing the correct payment method. People paying your businesses bank account directly may sound perfect, but research the charging structure that your bank as. I know that there is at least one high street bank that has a charging structure based on the number of electronic transactions alone. Look to the “challenger” banks for cheaper, or even no-cost, options when receiving money electronically.
Finally, how do you get your goods to your customer. Data issues aside, you must choose a method and/or provider that is right for your business. Your business has a brand to protect and if you choose the wrong type of delivery method, and/or provider, you risk real and lasting damage to your brand.
A Short Summary
In summary the good old slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On” is of real consequence here. If you do the right amount of thinking, and planning, then the way forward for your business can be easier than you believe right now.
Please note: none of the applications, and/or resources, mentioned in this article are recommendations. They are just facts that are correct at the time of writing and options that are known to me.
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