How to prepare your business for a local lockdown - Hilton Smythe

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How to prepare your business for a local lockdown.

The easing of lockdown presents a sense of relief and normality for some businesses across the UK.

With pubs, bars, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers having opened within the past few weeks, we now have the opportunity to boost the economy and support people getting back to work.

However, this understandably looks very different than before with measures in place to support the safety and health of employees and customers. 

Following the Government guidelines and adapting to the new normal has undoubtedly presented challenges for businesses, forcing some to make difficult operational decisions not to re-open. Developing and revising business plans has become a top priority, with flexibility at the core as things continue to change on a daily basis. 

With the first local lockdown being introduced in Leicester, schools, and non-essential shops were asked to close again. Of course now in the North West, particularly Greater Manchester, East Lancashire, and West Yorkshire, stricter measures were put back in place last night and it seems the nation is holding its breath waiting for further clarity.

This morning alone we’ve heard that hundreds of restaurants are facing cancellations due to the announcement, and families who organised camping trips and getaways with other households are now having to reconsider their plans.

This move naturally increases the possibilities that businesses could face the threat of being asked to shut again in an effort to prevent further spread of the virus. 

Whilst this is another setback for businesses, the Government has stepped back in for Leicester to do whatever it can to support organisations, and new ways of support are being announced daily.

As we continue to tackle the pandemic and overcome it we all must remain vigilant and do our best to mitigate risk wherever possible. 

Top tips for preparing for a local lockdown

1: Stay in the loop

Learning and keeping up to date with the news, statistics and government guidelines is strongly encouraged. It is only with this level of information that UK businesses can plan and implement strategies accordingly.

2: Think about your offering

Other considerations could also include what your products or services are that you offer, and if this needs to be adapted in any way, even if this is outside your usual business scope. 

From the start of lockdown we have seen many businesses shift to a different business model, from providing a delivery service to launching different products. 

Amidst the pandemic, it has also led to a renaissance of small family firms, and an increasing desire and responsibility to shop local. Getting your business into a position to continue providing a service or product, regardless of whether high streets are allowed to be open or not is what businesses should be thinking and acting upon. 

3: Actively promote and support the guidelines

Although the new restrictions introduced across the North West currently only limits people visiting other houses, this may change if cases continue to rise. 

The chances of this can be greatly reduced if you ensure protective measures are in place, such as ensuring any workplaces are Covid safe by giving room to social distance, ensuring pubs and cafes have one way systems, stocking up on hand gel, taking staggered breaks where possible etc. Actively promoting and encouraging both staff and customers to fully adhere to the Government guidelines.

4: Review your IT infrastructure

Do your employees have the equipment they need to work from home? When the UK lockdown was announced in March it was very much seen as temporary, however in the longer term it is essential to ensure that all employees are still able to work as usual. Consider how else you are keeping in touch with your employees, encouraging them, showing recognition and keeping the team’s spirits up. 

5: Learn from the past

When the UK was in a full lockdown, what worked and what didn’t? Consider what you have learnt and implement it again. Were their clear gaps in certain areas, such as IT infrastructure or communication? – You could seek feedback and opinions from your employees, actively encouraging them to play a part in developing your strategy. 

Preparing early will protect you. Last night we saw the Government making an announcement at 10pm, proving that circumstances can literally change overnight. Being flexible here will be key.

6: Know what support is available and develop partnerships

Accessing loans, contacting your local council, and liaising closely with your business banking partner is naturally going to be crucial to support any business in the short to medium term. Research what support is available – there is the potential to develop partnerships from this, and with other businesses where there may be a collaborative opportunity.

Do you have a good network of other entrepreneurs or business owners? If so, reach out and connect with them. Can you share any best practices or just general support to listen. Social media can be a great platform to engage with others and build relationships. 

 7: Embrace new technologies

Getting stuck in with new technology and shifting to online is also higher on agendas as businesses move to working from home and consumers have been forced to shop online. 

Perhaps this is an area you could branch off into and develop another arm of the business.

8: Communication

Communication is now more important than ever. With everything so uncertain, it is vital to keep in touch with your team to let them know your plans early on so that they know what to expect. Daily conversations will help to create a sense of unity, even though your workforce may be miles apart.

Communicating with clients/customers is also very important to manage their expectations and strengthen your relationship with them at such a difficult time. 

Have you changed your business opening hours or introduced new measures in-line with the government guidelines? Then you need to ensure customers know this. From social media, to email marketing or text messaging services, utilise different channels to ensure you’re frequently communicating with your customers.

In conclusion…

As we have discussed, preparing early can really help your business face the risk of a local lockdown. Implementing the tips above can push you to get a head start and ensure that your business faces as little disruption as possible should a local lockdown occur.

Having clear strategies in place for the range of scenarios we may, as business owners, find ourselves in over the coming months is the first step. Alongside communication and support for employees and our customers, in whichever way works best for you. 

Flexibility, understanding and patience is also essential for us all to work together to overcome such challenges.

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