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5 biggest business pitfalls to avoid during COVID-19

When you’re deciding how to weather this storm, it’s best to develop a comprehensive plan for protecting your company and then monitor the progress regularly.

Making the right decisions when you can while avoiding setting anything in stone means it’s far easier to change direction if and when new information becomes available.

But we know that these times are certain – and extremely unprecedented – and there are some ideas which may seem good now but could be counterproductive to the success of your business for future.

So, here’s 5 pitfalls to avoid when you’re navigating your business through Covid-19.

1. Don’t base financial decisions on anything other than the best available data

During difficult and emotionally charged times such as these, a combination of fear and uncertainty means we sometimes rely on gut instincts in order to make decisions quickly and try to stay ahead of the game.

At some point, we’ve all been guilty of this. But if you’re not using the most reliable data possible to make decisions, then this could put your business at a serious disadvantage.

One of our dealer partners made a good point in relation to this, suggesting dealers ‘shouldn’t lower prices out of fear and despair, as I feel we are going to be earning every penny of our profit on the way out of this’.

This is a useful reminder that though we may feel pressured in the moment to make rash financial decisions to stay afloat, we should remember to look at the bigger picture, use reliable data to weigh up how things may change, and only then determine the best way to stay on top.

You may want to consider taking the last 12 months sales and then apply a factor for what you expect to be an optimistic, realistic and pessimistic outcome for this year.

This will provide you with the extremes of what might happen and within these you’re more likely to find the realistic outcome.

Using a spreadsheet based on percentage differences for each scenario also enables you to model the potential outcomes and adjust your assumptions as you discover more information.

 

2. Keep yourself informed, but don’t drink from the fire hose

We’re big advocates of ‘over-communicating’ at this time when everyone is facing difficulties.

Speaking with people who are well-informed within the industry is highly beneficial for supporting you, your business and the way you navigate this crisis.

Engaging in Webinars, Q&A sessions, online discussions and talking to your peers can also be a great way of keeping up to date and deciphering your next business moves.

Researching the impact of the industry, staying up to date with the news (but not following overzealously), tuning in to what industry experts, trade press & trusted sources have to say are all further ways you can keep your head out of the sand and your mind ahead of the game.

But just as important as being on the lookout for information, is being able to decipher the wheat from the chaff.

Be very wary of fake news, any questionable sources, excessive drama and unrealistic stories. Rumours and incorrect sources can be just as damaging as being in the dark.

We asked our dealer partners and friends of Office Power for their opinion on this, and the overriding message was to ‘avoid making ‘knee-jerk decisions based on fear.’

3. Don’t resist change and wait for it to all blow over

When times turn tough, it can be easy to stick your head in the sand and hope that this will blow over.

It’s difficult, but the only thing that’s ever really certain in life is that things do change, and we all need to come to terms with the fact that things aren’t going to totally return to ‘normal’.

We’ve already seen huge wholesaler changes in our industry, and though we can hope that things will start to stabilise in the coming weeks, we can’t foresee what changes may still be to come as the industry readjusts.

We might sound like a broken record, but we’re already on the crest of the wave of change when it comes to ecommerce, customer behaviour, our industry landscape, technology and the way of life in general.

So making sure that you have the system, website and functionality to serve your future customer is crucial.

Soon, you’ll also need to think about making realistic plans when it comes to bringing back your employees from furlough too. It’s likely to be a fine balance between bringing them back too soon and wasting resource, and too late, which could stall your growth.

The sooner you’re stable enough to bring your employees back on board, the sooner you can start to trade fully and financially recover, but this all begins with a plan.

Almost all the dealers we asked named complacency as one of the number one things to avoid during this time of crisis, supporting the need to make changes in order to survive.

4. Don’t ignore your customers

There’s a lot to think about at the moment, but regardless of what’s happening, touching base with your customers as often as possible is still as important as ever.

Whether you have existing customers who want some more support or information from your end, or you’ve taken on some new ones, maintaining those important bonds with customers and keeping them healthy is vital.

Using your CRM or other customer management system to determine the potential value of your customers and then allocating time for the most important ones can be a great way of maximising on your time.

Dealers who’ve already chosen to partner with Office Power have a CRM system that is designed for the industry, with intuitive filters and alerts. These make prioritising and contacting high value customers easy.

The relationships you build and strengthen now will be the fuel for your growth in a few months’ time. When we asked for their thoughts, one dealer made a very good point ‘stay in regular contact with your customers and their needs to avoid PPE scammers fooling them’.

This is a prime example of how things are changing in the market, and with certain items very high in demand, caring for your customers and ensuring that they receive the best service from you – and don’t resort to more questionable sources – is crucial for long term success.

5. Don’t waste time on what doesn’t matter

We’ve talked a lot in recent blog posts about slimming down your business by cutting non-essential costs, but a good idea is to look at how you’re spending your time in the same way.

Your time is precious, especially if you’re running on a skeleton staff model, and funnelling it into the activities which can deliver ROI and help you fuel your business is important.

So, cutting down on non-essential areas like extra marketing activities and non-essential admin tasks means you have more time to speak face to face with your customers and secure sales, plan for the next steps and drive growth.

Also, you could look at even suspending some non-essential products. We know that demand is likely to be on the side of home-working tech, janitorial products, social distancing visors etc, so pushing irrelevant lines right now won’t deliver you much back.

It sounds simple, but time management is just as important for keeping your business healthy and running for the months ahead.

 

While it’s important to focus on a select few areas while times are tight, looking after your staff and ensuring they feel comfortable returning to work is vital and shouldn’t be ignored.

One dealer stated we need to ‘be sure not to ignore or miss the stress colleagues and staff may be feeling on returning to work’.

With new regulations anticipated for the workplace and uncertainties surrounding working practices, it’s never been more important to ensure your staff are protected and feel comfortable with the prospect of returning to their jobs.

Conclusion

We can all agree that the current climate and medium-term outlook are scary but doing nothing is – unfortunately – not an option.

Businesses need to develop and implement their plan pretty quickly in order to minimise the financial impact, and office supplies dealerships are no exception.

These plans will involve some difficult decisions but trying to avoid making them now will only postpone the pain, and it will be worse if you’re in a position of having no choice to make.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best and be prepared to capitalise on everything in between.
Ultimately the message is clear: take action now to reduce the impact later.

Remember that if you’d like access to the latest industry updates, advice, webinars, support and dealer discussions, then contact chris.armstrong@officepower.net for free, no obligation access to the Office Power Dealer Community Portal.

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