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10 things small businesses  should think about during  a lockdown
We are living through an unprecedented situation in human history. The world is going through a massive upheaval. But if we acknowledge our humanity and focus on really helping each other and getting through the situation, we can emerge in a great position to continue. 

At this time it is important that small business owners take time to assess their situation and make a "Lockdown Plan" to help get through this current crisis and come out the other side stronger than ever. SiGNAL has compiled a few tips and techniques to consider implementing right now and throughout the lockdown, which is predicted, to last 90 days. 

90 days is the perfect length of time to make some short-term goals, below we also share ideas on how to use your time productively if you have more time on your hands.   

1) Finances 

Let's start with the biggest issue on most people's minds, money. How will you cope with reduced income? Financially we're all in a very uncertain period right now, but that doesn't mean we should put our head in the sand, lock the doors and ignore the practical aspects of this situation. 

First make an inventory of your expenses and income, both business and personal. Look at what income is most vulnerable and see what your finances look like with lower income or slower cashflow. Know your numbers, talk to your accountant or bookkeeper about your business income and outgoings, they may be able to offer professional advice about tax and other longer term planning. Do not just start cancelling direct debits, consider the impact of your actions on others and try to work with all your customers, suppliers and financial institutions to help lighten the financial load. 

We have to protect the local economy to ensure it comes out the other side as strong as possible. 

2) Relationships 

If we are going to get through the lockdown we need to have the support of other people. Now is the time to forge great relationships with other business owners. However bad the situation is we will only get through it if we support each other.  

Contact your bank, suppliers, and customers to try to work with them to ensure you can function or come out the other side of lockdown in the best shape possible. Reassure your customers that you are doing your best with the resources you have access to, and ask them what you can do to help them with their own issues. Don't simply avoid or ignore businesses and other business owners in your network, however embarrassing you think the call or conversation is going to be; other business owners are all having the same exact issues.

3) Communication 

We all need to make sure we are sharing the news in our industry with our suppliers, contacts and customers. Make sure everyone who comes into contact with your business understands what you are doing. Share vital information with your network and make sure they understand what they need to be doing to protect themselves, their people and their business. 

Update your website with a newsflash or warning if you have issues delivering your products or services and how that will affect your customers. Be pro-active in explaining the situation and what you are doing about it. 

Ask suppliers for updates and share these with your customers, this is not the time to start "blame-throwing", we are all in this together and those who were most helpful are the ones that emerge with the strongest relationships in their networks. 

4) Planning 

It's difficult to know what will happen over the next 90 days, with an ever-changing situation it's hard to predict the future. However, you do need to consider a few possible outcomes and scenarios, so we can put in place some provisions for the next 90 days.

Be realistic with yourself and take a deep breath first thing is ask yourself "What does the worst case scenario look like?" Once you know what this looks like you can start to make a list of all the steps or tasks you need to do to prevent this. Then, ask yourself "What does the best case scenario look like?" then write down the steps and tasks you should implement to make this happen.  

If your plan involves others; staff, team members, freelancers, customers, suppliers and financiers you need to share your plans and best/worst case scenarios with them too. They may be able to shed more insight on the plan if they know what you are worried about and what opportunities you may see. 

None of us have a crystal ball but having thought about these two outcomes will allow you to stay on top of the changing situation and what it means to your business. Want to get some advice on planning? Members of the BiZHUB can find a talk and presentation on planning in the Members' Portal (see login top right).

5) Review 

Once you have an idea of what the future looks like, however loose or undefined your plan is, it is now time to review what has been successful in the past. 

What work have you delivered that was most appreciated? What can you do to adapt your products or services to meet current requirements? Can you break things down into smaller and cheaper 'chunks'? Delivering your work over a longer timeline may allow you to reduce your overall cost to your customers in the short term but at least keep cashflow moving. Can you adapt your offering to assist your key customers with their current situation? Do key customers require help implementing their own survival plan? You only know if you call and ask, so get on the phone and discuss the situation frankly with your key customers and suppliers. 

Whilst some industries are struggling others are finding the workload has grown massively, can you adapt and offer services or time to those who need it most?

6) Community 

The key to getting through this emergency is being part of a strong community. Now is the time to strengthen your relationships, as we stated above, communication is key. However, can you offer support and help with those in your community, especially if they are considered "vulnerable". 

SiGNAL BiZHUB has always stated "no one should build a business alone" and being parted of a strong community during a crisis helps protect you with training, ideas, support and guidance at a time when we are isolating ourselves. Being a business owner can be a lonely position, all the decisions are on YOU. At a time where in-person communication is difficult or forbidden it can feel even more lonely running a business. 

We can't stress how important it is to be a part of a local community of like-minded business owners to share your frustrations, problems and ideas with. Feeling valued and knowing you have a group of people who are also looking out for your best interests will help sustain you in the current situation. 

Strengthening community ties and sticking together is how we will all get through this situation and emerge in the best shape possible. 

7) Information 

At a time of fake news, speculation and uncertainty it can be difficult to get the right news and information. Social media is rife with rumours and outright lies and the scammers are not taking anytime off due to this emergency. 

It is therefore important you stay up to date with your local business community and have a source of news that can be trusted. We are working hard at SiGNAL to ensure we provide you with a trusted source of local and national information with links to resources that you can bookmark and return to frequently to keep you "in the loop".  

Feel free to share our information with your local network or business community. We're in this together and if what we publish publicly is of value to others please feel free to share links to our pages and resources. 

We have a daily blog which is being continuously updated with information as we receive it and if you have any questions go to our members only Facebook group and ask us, the team are here to help. If you haven't joined the members group, now is the time!  

8) Staff 

It is vitally important to share information with your staff, you may feel like the weight of the situation is on your shoulders, but sharing your concerns with them may help relieve the tension. Also, your staff may be a source of ideas and additional support, so don't hide the truth from them as they'll probably be able to guess what's happening especially if the phones have stopped ringing.  

Speak to them as quickly as you can, even if you just tell them you are formulating your thoughts, However, make sure you give them a concrete date and time you will speak to them by. The longer you leave it the worse the situation will be.

9) Yourself 

Take time to acknowledge the stress you are under, and however bad the situation is you must take a small break from worrying every day. Whether that's watching a favourite film with family or mediating and doing yoga you HAVE to take time-out from the worry to prevent it overwhelming you. 

At this time everyone is in the same boat, so share your worries with loved ones or close confidents: it helps. If you have ANY concerns about your business we are here to help. Even if it to just be a listening ear, the team at SiGNAL and the BiZHUB are here to listen and advise where possible. This is not the time to go it alone and tough it out.  

10) Future 

It may seem like the world is ending and full of turmoil, and all hope is lost. However now is the ideal time to acknowledge the risks to your business and start to plan to do something to avoid them in future. Look at what you do and see how it can be strengthened, or talk to the BiZHUB team to find creative ways to adapt and change and future-proof your business. 

Can you use video, or phone calls to deliver your products or services? Can you provide after-care, training or other such video content as an upsell or upgrade? The Internet can deliver many things automatically, so can you adapt some of your service or products as an over-the-net solution for your ideal customers? 

If you have more time as work has dropped off and you have time on your hands then now is the time to start planning. Start to think about how do you come out the other side of the current lockdown stronger than ever? 

Can you create a course or other distance learning resource for something unconnected to your current business? Can you offer telephone support and guidance? Can you add a subscription service to your current offering or as an upgrade? 

Also consider your own business needs and how you can take the next 90 days to improve it. Think about upskilling, what about doing a free online course or reading a book that helps you understand something in more depth? 

Can you take the time to practice and learn new techniques or procedures to give you a wider skill set?    

Think about starting to streamline and automate your processes, can you implement an automated customer follow up sequence when they have purchased? Can you implement a new automated system online for customers? 

You can also begin to implement long-term projects that you've meant to get started. If you have more time than usual now is the time to get the ball rolling for projects that remain on you to-do list. 

Watch useful videos and make a list of books you want to read, maybe you can set up a challenge with your BiZHUB Buddy? Who can read the most books in the next 90 days? 

It may be time for a Spring clean of your office or workspace, can you clear all the clutter or maybe redecorate to give your mood a boost? How about moving the furniture about and getting your office space more efficient? 

11) Bonus 

One final idea… We often see those in our industry as competition, or we may think of other businesses as having no relevance to us and our needs, however now is the time to think about collaboration. 

Could you create a new service or offering by collaborating with other local businesses? Perhaps a competitor is not great at the one thing you absolutely love doing and you can swap tasks? Can you speak with other business owners and create a hybrid product or service? There's plenty of opportunity now and if you follow our guidance above you can fill your time making your business stronger and more resistant to change in future. 

You don't have to handle this all alone, we are here to help and staying in touch with SiGNAL and The BiZHUB will give you the information you need to make the best business decisions in the current situation. 

Feel free to call the team on: 01420 556335 or email [email protected]

All the best and stay safe!