Access our lockdown guide to ensure you are prepared throughout the pandemic
This page was last updated on 5 January 2021.
With the reintroduction of a national lockdown it is important to be well-informed. GOV.UK provides the most up-to-date official guidance on national lockdown measures and information is also available on the web pages for your Local Authority.
In these uncertain times, effective leadership is crucial and can enable businesses to plan ahead and minimise the impact of the crisis on their organisation and its people. Now more than ever, business leaders are called to fully embrace agility to be able to adapt their strategy as required and quickly respond to the new national restrictions.
Key actions for businesses to take to be prepared throughout the pandemic
1. Review your initial COVID-19 response and update your pandemic plan
What went well during the March and November lockdowns and what could you have done differently?
Understanding the pinch points of your business’ response will allow you to address these in your business continuity plan and be better prepared. In addition, it will reveal the areas in which you excelled, perhaps by quickly pivoting to a new product or range, embracing digital technology to continue trading, or adapting to local restrictions with a new business model or strategy.
Access our pandemic planning guide as a template of key considerations.
2. Assess the risks in your supply chain
Undeniably the coronavirus lockdowns had a considerable impact on supply chains on a global scale, which in many cases halted production entirely or increased lead times. Businesses should review the risks that a new lockdown could pose to their supply chains and take appropriate actions to alleviate the impact.
In the event of more national lockdowns being announced on an international level, supplies from outside the UK could once again be difficult to source. Business could therefore consider shifting to alternative local suppliers or even explore opportunities to design and develop parts in-house which would minimise risk even further. A great example of this approach was stop motion animation manufacturer, Animation toolkit and oven and incubator manufacturer Genlab whose in-house capabilities eliminated reliance on external suppliers.
Businesses will also need to establish a plan on how to best manage and communicate with suppliers. For example, if your business is required to close again you may need to freeze or cancel certain orders. It will be important to know your suppliers’ policies to avoid additional costs and ensure you have the cash flow required to continue operating.
3. Consider and improve your cashflow
Keeping the cash flowing is always important for a business and even more so during a crisis. Local lockdowns could see businesses facing recurring temporary shutdowns, experiencing a fluctuation in demand at different times of the year alike seasonal businesses. For these types of businesses, it is critical to ensure they have the cash reserves required to continue operating during the “off-season”.
Businesses should explore how they can minimise outgoing payments, whilst maximising cash coming into the business. Some key considerations are:
- Are you allowing too long time periods to chase overdue debtors?
- How important is a persistently late paying client? Some strategies to minimise late payers:
- Increase the price to meet extra costs of late payers
- Decide not to trade any more with that client
- Give a discount for early payment
- Offer staged payments
- Are you keeping too much stock?
- Trade creditors – are you paying too quickly?
- Do you have suppliers who require short payment terms? Can you find alternative ones with more favourable terms?
- Is your invoicing timely and accurate? Remember that any errors in the invoicing process can result in payment delays
- If labour is a significant cost in your business, consider utilising the extended Job Retention Scheme.
- Does your business ask for customer deposits? Are these used to fund the business? In the event of a shutdown you should have the cash reserves required in case you have to repay these.
- Can you ask customers/clients to “pay it forward”?
- Are there any other sources of income generation you can leverage during the “off-season”? The previous lockdowns saw many businesses diversify and reimagine their offering. Are there opportunities to pivot? Can you offer your services virtually? Can you offer click and collect? Can you offer a delivery service?
4. Understand the new customer needs and communicate with your clients
Communicating effectively with your customers has been and will continue to be a key consideration during the pandemic. You will need to respond quickly and ensure your clients are aware of any last-minute changes that have had to take place within your operation.
- Have you had to change your hours? Remember to update all your channels (website, online listings, adverts and social media platforms)
- Have you switched to delivery, takeaway or click-and-collect?
- Do you have to cancel bookings? You will need to inform your clients and customers in a timely manner.
In addition, it is crucial for businesses to understand how the pandemic has shifted customer values to be able to restructure their marketing approach, adapt their messaging and successfully reach their target market. An in-depth guide to marketing your business during a pandemic is available here.
5. Review and strengthen your systems and IT infrastructure
When lockdown was enforced in mid-March most businesses around the globe had to shift their workforce to remote working. However, at the time, it was considered a temporary solution. If localised lockdowns become the norm, businesses should seek to review and optimise their IT systems to support the long-term sustainability of working remotely. The Growth Company’s Guide to Remote Working provides a series of systems and tools to help you successfully implement agile working in your business.
Equally important to upgrading your systems will be staff training. Businesses should further invest in training their workforce on how to best use the systems implemented to work more efficiently and increase productivity. Moreover, when reviewing systems, businesses should remember to consider cyber-security and ensure they educate staff on becoming more cyber-crime aware.
Businesses in sectors such as manufacturing can also consider opportunities to automate processes and procedures on the shop floor. Manufacturing SMEs interested in implementing technology software or hardware can make use of Made Smarter’s Digital Technology Internships and bring in fully-funded digital engineering skills.
6. Upskill and cross-train the workforce
During the past few months, businesses will have developed a good understanding of which business functions were the most impacted by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown and required additional support. To ensure business continuity, employers should look to cross-train the workforce to maximise flexibility and be able to redeploy staff as needed much faster the second time around. More information on multi-skilling your workforce is available through our factsheet.
To better understand the skills and experience within your team, businesses can conduct a skills audit. This visual tool enables leaders to identify skill gaps as well as areas where critical work is reliant on a single person and could pose a risk to the business if a leave of absence was required (e.g. need to self-isolate due to experiencing coronavirus symptoms or instructed to do so by the NHS Test and Trace service due to having had close contact with someone who tested positive).
7. Support staff mental health
Employee mental health and wellbeing should be at the forefront of all conversations when planning and preparing for new lockdown measures. Returning to a new lockdown can feel like taking a step backwards and can be demoralising and a source of anxiety for your employees.
The Growth Company’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources Pack provides a wealth of information to help you manage employee mental health during this period and includes a library of local, national and international support services.
GC Business Growth hub advisors are experts in resilience planning, international trade and supply chain strategy. Tell us about your business and we’ll find the right advisor and service for your needs.
The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.