Last month we looked at the immediate issues around covid-19. None of us knew what we were in for. While we might quibble over details, our government acted decisively in favour of human lives. The greatest difficulty we all faced was (and still is) the unknown. While they might have chosen less draconian measures, had that been followed by some of the tragedies witnessed overseas, we'd all be blaming them for failing to protect their people.

 

There is still much that is unknown - both about covid-19 and about the future of our economy. As pointed out by an article in last month's newsletter, there would be different outcomes for different businesses. Some will thrive, others will die, and many will adapt to the new "normal". Supermarkets have been greatly challenged with people literally queuing to get in. On the other hand, print media has suffered fatal losses, and survivors are haemorrhaging. Surprisingly doctors and pharmacists are among those doing poorly.

 

So how will your business cope? All have to adapt to a new normal. Change is not comfortable for most people, but since change is forced upon us, why not think more broadly? Why are we in business? What do customers really want from us? How could we focus on new ideas / services / products? It's probably not a good idea to start producing masks now - unless there's something special about them, but if ever there was a chance to re-evaluate our strategy, it is now.

 

While we can't do much directly, a key factor is how our customers will be affected. Obviously this will vary enormously, but the overall economic effect of the pandemic is severely down for some time rather than up. We are likely to be asked to extend terms to loyal customers who could still dive rather than thrive or at least survive. We need to be prepared for this so it gives us the best chance of both of us surviving.

 

One thing that could become even more valuable and special is our NZ brand. Suddenly made in NZ should mean we again have an edge over imported products. A "green" economy was on the rise anyway - covid-19 further boost it. We will never be able to compete (cost-wise) with the economies of scale of China and others, but suddenly the desire for local means price is not the only factor (but obviously is still a major consideration, especially for the many whose income has fallen). Quality (of both the product and it's production) is vital - cutting corners is a dangerous game. While price is always important, consistent excellence stands out, improving your chances is such an uncertain market.

 

Mental health is always a concern - but covid-19 has greatly magnified this. Our PM has regularly encouraged us to be kind. Having once had (undiagnosed) depression for six months after a business failure, I suspect this will be seen by many as just a warm platitude - but we can each be a difference in someone's life.

 

Obviously there is an even bigger shift now to digital. Even if you're a tradesperson so required on-site, more and more people are looking on-line, which means if you haven't yet developed an online strategy (including social media), your market share is likely to shrink. If the total market is growing, that might not be a serious issue immediately, but it will limit your potential. For a start, you are less likely to be able to choose which prospects you want to work with. Going digital can also be useful behind the scenes - for managing jobs through to accounting.

 

Adaptability is key. With so much turmoil throughout the world, never assume "your" way is the only or even best way. Asking questions, especially of those outside your business, can provide new ways of looking at things. It's amazing how new eyes will see things differently.

 

That doesn't mean old ways are forgotten. More than ever personal attributes such as empathy will ensure you are highly rated by your customers (assuming your work / product is as good as your competition) - and word of mouth is still the ultimate marketing tool.

 

Above all, be proactive. Don't wait for opportunities to fall into your lap. They might - but are much more likely to if you're trying new things. If you have been in your market for some time, I stress again the importance of getting fresh eyes on your business - be they customers (be pro-active in seeking their input), suppliers, prospects, or advisors.

 

I present again the link to the article I mentioned last month. It ends with five questions to shift your business from Dive to Survive to Thrive.