Enterprise Bank & Trust is speaking to hundreds of clients every week about the impact of COVID-19 on business.
Themes Are Emerging
While the majority of business owners we speak to are reporting an adequate cash position with 20% reporting being concerned, one thing is certain - the longer it lasts, the greater the impact. Over half of the nearly 400 people we have talked to say that their biggest concern is the duration of the pandemic.
Business adjustments are widespread, the two most frequent being the preservation of cash and fewer in-person meetings. More than half of those hit hard by the pandemic are laying off workers. For anyone involved in rental properties collecting rent is becoming a big worry. Customers are beginning to extend the time it takes them to make payments, which is having an impact on businesses who need cash flow now more than ever.
But enough with the doom and gloom - there are emerging signs of hope. Business owners are taking advantage of some downtime and using it to solve, plan and grow. Here are some of the great solutions leaders are deploying in the midst of the pandemic:
Planning for the Unexpected
You can begin with an examination of potential threats throughout your business or, depending on the size of your business, build a team to help you move forward. Here are some ways our clients are preparing for the unknown duration of this crisis:
- One business is allowing associates to work from home and tracking lost productivity in the case there is some future relief effort that this metric plays into.
- Nonprofits that are dependent on grants are researching alternative income sources in the event grants dry up.
- Some companies are investing in technology upgrades they’ve been putting off for years. A few are paying for these with a line of credit. They are turning it into an opportunity for associates and clients to make use of their updated or new tools while working from home.
- Multiple companies mention spending time on crisis planning. It’s never too late. Now, while it’s fresh in your mind, is an excellent time to document steps needing to occur for preparedness.
Look for Hidden Sales Opportunities
For as many businesses that are feeling the pain of this crisis, some are finding new opportunities. Just ask video conference software companies, toilet paper manufacturers, and home delivery companies. Different needs come from the circumstances we’re presented with. For example, a fiber optics cable company says business is up from all the people who need better internet connections. Other organizations are rethinking the supply chain and their go-to-market strategy. Now might be a great time to expand a newer product line and reduce your reliance on resources that can be impacted by the prolonged duration of the outbreak. Explore new needs and how your business can meet new demands to improve or secure profits.
One thing is also certain, this is the time to dust off the sales and marketing plans you’ve been putting off. Being grounded might not reduce your workload, but think of all the time you’re saving not commuting and traveling. Even if it’s only an hour a week, use that time to get ahead with your sales and marketing plan and invest this time in the future of your company.
Think Differently About the Workday
Students are out of school for an extended period of time, if not for the rest of the school year. This situation has immediate ramifications for workers with childcare issues. Those companies that have the ability to let workers work from home are feeling different pain than those who don’t. Consider how you can redefine the workday for your associates. We’re seeing companies put in multi-shift work hours so people can get work done while kids are home with a spouse/partner and not having to work at the same time. Others are letting negative balances accumulate in PTO banks. Running a leaner business isn’t about just doing more with less, it can also provide opportunities to improve culture and avoid unproven strategies and investments. Read more in our “A Different Type of Workday” blog.
Keep it Light If You Can
There are plenty of acts of kindness emerging during the COVID-19 outbreak that will restore your faith in humanity. In uncertain times, leaders are revealing who they are, and it’s often inspiring. Some are trying to keep it light with virtual social ‘quarantini hours’ for teammates, fun social media questionnaires about where they will go when this is over, etc.
Employees want to know the owner is a human being—someone that cares for them. Great leaders are showing their authentic selves and this will pay dividends for employee morale. Through this pandemic, we can identify the next generation of great businesses, leaders and communities - not to mention the new companies that will emerge to service what is sure to be a changed marketplace.
For more information about what companies like yours are experiencing and how they solve for challenges associated with the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Trends page and we’ll keep you up-to-date on what we are seeing.