The social aspect of business: how businesses can adapt and flourish in the face of adversity

As this is a fast moving topic, please note that this article is current as at 27/03/20. For further information, please contact Alison Loveday or Carlyn Weale.

Last week, the majority of businesses were asked to stop trading face to face and to practice social distancing. As a result, many businesses, owners and staff have been concerned about the future viability of the business and their income streams.

This has triggered a huge surge in community spirit. When supermarket shelves started emptying, many turned to local suppliers and local stores. This brought some of those businesses back to life and reminded us of the importance of supporting our local businesses.

The ability to transition

Community spirit is not limited to our home lives; it extends to our business communities. Many businesses have, with minimum notice, had to rely on technology and become virtual and online. Busy offices have emptied and instead, we have a strong online community, working from home and being able to deliver services to customers and clients, using email, telephone and video conferencing. In an age where going ‘paperless’ is encouraged, it is now inevitably enforced. People will adapt and use less paper and so even in this crisis situation, we are doing our bit for the climate.

There will inevitably be an impact on their profitability for the months to come. However they are retaining goodwill, keeping motivated and this will encourage customers to head straight through the doors once they reopen. It may also lead to those businesses being able to provide more creative ways to interact in the future. They may retain some of their online classes and increase the breadth of their services and therefore, their potential profitability.

Some businesses who can demonstrate their ability to transition to alternative solutions during this period may have been surviving but not thriving previously. They could even see a sharp increase in numbers after this unusual period. If businesses support people now, the people will support businesses as and when they can.

We have seen many examples over the last week of businesses taking huge innovative steps forward, thinking well outside of the box and providing alternative solutions to deliver excellent customer services. In some cases, businesses have offered services free of charge to keep morale and spirits high.

The resilience shown by these businesses at such time of crisis, provides hope for the future viability of them and others.

Online tutorials have started for some pupils, with teachers running helplines to support parents and carers who are home schooling. This has helped to maintain routine and education. Restaurants and bars have become takeaways overnight.

Other examples include gyms, baby groups and dance classes. These businesses traditionally rely on people coming through their doors. However, we have seen businesses such as Nuffield Health Clubs, Toddler Sense and Baby Ballet franchises move to on-line teaching immediately. This has provided their customers with routine, exercise and companionship when they most need it.

Other businesses are now streaming live sessions over the internet, using platforms such as Skype, Zoom and Facebook Live to interact. At first glance, you would not expect these groups to be able to adapt so well to technology, relying usually on head counts and physical presence.

Comment

In the face of this crisis, the businesses who think the most innovatively and adapt well are likely to flourish, or at least be maintained, whilst doing their bit to help the community. This will pay dividends looking forward to the future.

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