Being a great leader in the office, when you’re surrounded by your team, and being a great leader from the isolation of your own home are by no means one and the same. The current, uncontrollable situation has brought to light previously unknown or unthought-of difficulties in management, regardless of the expertise of the individual.
Marcus Evans is the managing director at Nutbourne, an IT managed service provider, that has been helping its clients become Cyber Essentials certified and helping them with all their IT needs. He has provided a selection of advice in ensuring you are able to keep your business running smoothly, as well as keep both your clients’ and your employees’ best interests at heart.
Manage your cash flow
Cash is, undisputedly, a true necessity for any thriving business, and without it, things can start to spiral downhill alarming quickly. The effects of the lockdown have made this a nightmarish reality for many businesses, however, there are things that can be done to mitigate this risk.
It’s essential that you are honest with your suppliers. Lockdown or not, if you’re going to be late with a payment, you should always let them know in advance. You will find that most companies are fairly adaptable and will try to help wherever they can. With the current scenario in mind, you will find that payment plans have become a lot more common. We’ve happily offered them to some of our clients.
On the flip side, if you are owed money, you should definitely keep an eye on the companies that have gone quiet. These are the companies who may need assistance in paying back what they owe. You don’t want this to become a long-term problem, so keep them in your radar.
It’s also essential that you know the difference between cash flow and profitability. Regardless of the situation, if you find that you are losing money with each month that goes by, it is very likely that your business isn’t viable. Alternatively, if you are profitable but debtors are yet to pay you, then you are in a much more manageable situation.
Keep morale high
Being sociable and inclusive is the mark of a good employer. It’s important to make plans to keep your staff in touch with one another and engaged in their role at the company. Many employees might be isolating alone, and it’s important to take this into account, as well as the general morale of all your staff.
There are a variety of things you can do to help lessen the strain of isolation for your employees. Something that many companies are doing (and Nutbourne is no exception) is hosting a quiz night. Dedicating an evening to this, and giving your staff the chance to relax around their colleagues and have an entirely informal night of banter and conversation can be unexpectedly helpful. It will provide the opportunity for your hard-working team to let off steam with others who can fully relate to their situation, and will ultimately result in a much more dedicated and engaged workforce.
A second, important suggestion in the ongoing endeavour to look after your staff, is to simply talk to them. The management team should make the effort to call at least two or three people, over the course of a week, just to touch base. Having a quick chat to find out how their work is going, how they’re feeling and whether there is anything you can do to help should be the bare minimum of what you can do to show you care as an employer, and are striving to keep your employees’ morale high.
Communication is key
Communication is critical for SMEs. It’s amongst the most important things to get right if you want to grow and develop your business. Weekly meetings with your senior management team/department heads are recommended to ensure you are regularly updated on any projects, and that there is smooth interaction between departments. This will also provide the opportunity to raise awareness of any issues and consequently put measures in place to resolve them.
This is a necessary endeavour regardless of the situation, but since the lockdown, it’s been doubly important to stay connected as we have all needed to adapt to different ways of working. On a practical level, we recommend looking at interdepartmental workflows, and working out how to shift information more effectively between teams.
Be prepared to help your clients
Despite many of the lockdown’s restrictions gradually easing, there’s no doubt that a return to normality is still quite far in the distance. It’s undeniable that some businesses will have no choice but to close, but in the meantime, business owners need to be as supportive as they can.
Nutbourne, for example, have frozen contracts with several clients that are currently unable to trade due to the restrictions, meaning we won’t receive any payment from them until their contract resumes in 90 days time. Additionally, they won’t have incurred any fees. Ensuring you can retain a good relationship with your clientele through this difficult period is advisable, as when normal working life inevitably returns, there will be no question of whether you are on good terms with any particular client.
If you need to, adjust your service
A declining scope for your service is likely to indicate that an adjustment of what you offer the market is necessary for your company to remain viable, regardless of whether you’re operational during this crisis or not.
Nutbourne, for example, has introduced an infrastructure baseline, with an accompanying report service in which we scrutinize the state of an organisation’s IT setup. We get the client up to speed, ensure that all their staff are on board and that their systems can cope over the first four weeks. After that, we review their systems, processes, and make sure everything is efficient and secure. This wouldn’t normally be a service we provide but cybersecurity solutions are essential at a time like this, and adjusting your service to suit the needs of your clientele is essential in surviving the lockdown.
Pivot towards your strengths
Although times may well be difficult right now, they may also present a timely opportunity to pivot your business towards its key strengths. Certain services you offer, that were not a priority at the beginning of lockdown, might now be key in assisting your clients. Right now, any helpful service your business can provide should become a more essential focus.
Being adaptable and flexible is key. At Nutbourne, our two core strengths are being helpful and solving problems. We have seen an increase in targeted phishing and ransomware attacks since the beginning of the lockdown, as there are many more people working from home. As a company, we then need to consider, how can we ensure these risks are mitigated? How can we make life easier for our clients? We have adapted by playing to our strengths as a consultancy for IT solutions – by working out what you can offer during this time of need, you can adapt your services in a similar way.
Overall, it seems essential for businesses to take the initiative to adapt and work to their strengths whilst the lockdown persists. This will help keep both your clients and your employees happy, and will result in a variety of prosperous business relationships once normality resumes.