How to keep your business going in the time of coronavirus

Posted by Derek Mason

14th April 2020

Articles about surviving and even thriving in this current crisis abound. But the reality is that, no matter how positive we manage to remain, there are some industries that will suffer more than others in a lockdown situation. And it’s safe to say that the construction industry is taking a hit right now, even while some sites remain open.

There is no definitive way to react to the coronavirus pandemic, whatever industry you’re in, but I wanted to share some details from my own approach. Hopefully you will be able to take something useful from the way I’m keeping my business going, while London has essentially shut up shop.

Stay in touch with your team

With my entire team now working remotely from home, it’s important that we keep in contact. Currently we’re having regular team Zoom calls as well as telephone calls and e-mails between me and my staff. This is helpful for keeping track of our projects, but is also a much-needed morale boost for all of us. Don’t forget the social side of things with your team during this time. We have a ‘virtual’ drink Zoom call on Fridays, to catch up and discuss how our week went etc. and what we have planned for the weekend.

Keep doing the work you can do

We’ve all had to accept that there’s some work we can’t do, and some that we can. Our ability to do site visits is limited, so clients can take their own measurements and mark-up drawings that we e-mail them, with our guidance, so we can still undertake designs and drawings, and this helps the client feel involved with the project which helps them when they are confined to their house. But inevitably there are some details and aspects of the projects that will have to be resolved once the lockdown ends, but it means we can get the majority of the work done now, which helps progress the projects and means we can invoice part of the fee, which helps cashflow. This also helps our clients get costs from potential builders and even book builders now, so that they are ready when the lock down ends.

Remember cash is king

A lot of the things that need to be done right now are things that business owners should also have a process for in more normal times. Cash is king – now more than ever – so it makes sense to see if there are any expenses you can reduce and stay on top of chasing unpaid invoices. I have a process in place for both automatic reminders within my accounting software, Xero, and for manual chasing on a regular basis. This is not the time to be shy about chasing money your business has earned.

It also makes sense in some cases to require payment before work is delivered. It’s about running a tight ship and reducing the chances of cashflow problems occurring.

And, of course, you should look into the financial help on offer from the government and via banks. Talk to your accountant about what’s available for your specific business.

Consider an introductory service

Do you have a “gateway” service? One that’s at a lower price point and therefore easier for a customer to commit to. Getting someone to book your standard, expensive service when they’ve just met you is a stretch, so what could you offer as an introductory service? For example, I can offer clients a feasibility study first, ahead of a full structural survey and design, which is at a more palatable price point for a new customer.

Fill your pipeline

You may have seen a drop off in the number of enquiries coming in. With everyone on lockdown, that’s not surprising. But it’s important to keep doing the activities that bring you leads and enquiries, even if you have to adapt those activities in these strange times.

I have a number of different methods for winning new customers, including the little house campaign that has so far brought me a 476,720% return on investment (ROI). (If you’d like to know more about that one, let me know and I’ll write an article about it.)

I also have my book which has raised my profile and helped to bring some fantastic clients on board. If you do have time on your hands right now, it might be a good time to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard!

The key point is, whatever you do to bring in customers, don’t stop. At some point this situation will end, and when that happens, you’ll be glad of a full pipeline.

Summary

To summarise what we’ve talked about, these are the businesses habits you need to build to give you a chance of weathering a storm like this:

  • Stay in touch with your team and your clients
  • Do the work you can do
  • Remember cash is king
  • Fill your pipeline
  • Consider an introductory service

If you’re lacking in work right now, this is the perfect time to work on some of this and give your business a fighting chance.

None of us know for sure whether we’ll ride this out, but it’s too soon to throw in the towel. There is still work out there, and even if you can’t land projects now, you can make sure you have an active pipeline of work that you can get started on when the lockdown lifts, or when widespread testing means that some of us are allowed back out into the world.

I hope you and your family are safe and well and I wish you all the best with your business. If I can help at all, please get in touch. And if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please do get in touch.

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