As lockdown eases we offer our advice and tips for small businesses to adapt to this new transition period.

DWH is a small business and the coronavirus pandemic and lock own has affected us greatly. As it has most businesses in the UK.

We do sense, however, that things are starting to open up again.  We have been asked to quote for more work, clients have started to brief in new jobs and some clients are looking to refresh and revitalise their websites ahead of lock down easing. Now is the time to prepare as the inevitable reduction and removal of support from HMRC for furloughed workers will mean many business have little choice other than to make sure their business can operate in this environment.

Here are our tips for small businesses on ways to get back into the work groove:

Cut costs. Then cut them some more

There’s absolutely no doubt that work will continue to be different for a while. We took the painful decision quite early to furlough our full time staff, shut our office (the beloved DWH Towers in the middle of Coventry) and work out of our kitchens, bedrooms and home offices. Like the old days. Our tips for small businesses will inevitably focus on costs as something to control.

After building up the business for years, we’d only recently moved into our swanky new office. But our clients told us quite early they were reducing a lot of their activity. We knew it was a poor use of budget to maintain an office we couldn’t use for an indeterminate amount of time. We also wanted to protect our staff for when things started returning to normal.

After 3 months of lockdown, we know this was the right decision.

Home working should be part of your future plans

If you have a business where any part of that operation is desk and computer based then you should plan to continue home working even as restrictions ease. Video conferencing has proved to be effective.  Despite what some business owners might have thought, people are actually quite effective if they have the responsibility to manage their own time.

There is always going to be a need for an office. We’re a creative and consultative business and what we miss the most is being able to just chat about our work and ask for opinions and advice and suggestions on work we’re doing. This isn’t easy to replicate on structured and appointment-based video conferencing calls.

It’s important that some of the spontaneity of the office can happen but a mixture of home and office work is our aim. Staff can have the benefit of being able to manage their time but have the office environment as well.

Facilitate digital communication

As well as work discussions, we also find work to be a social thing and we miss the banter of the office. We manage work AND we maintain the water cooler moments using slack which facilitates digital conversations with instant chat. Crucially, you can set up dedicated spaces called channels so you can set up project specific chats as well as general conversations.

It’s a great way if someone needs a quick bit of help or clarification on something without playing telephone tag. For us this has been crucial for both project management and staying in touch with one another on none work related stuff.

For video conferencing we’ve used Google hangouts as most of our clients use it. Its straightforward to use and really iterative so even in a post coronavirus world (we’re assuming that day will come!) we will try and do more client meetings using this medium to save us or the client travelling time.

Of course, some colleagues have needed some education on using a new technology but we don’t know anyone who hasn’t mastered it. Eventually. As well as this blog with tips for small businesses check another one of our blogs: Life in Lockdown: 10 things we’ve learned. This blog takes a light hearted look at learning new lock down skills.

Take the opportunity to spring clean

Whilst we’ve had extra time, we’ve cleaned up our contact database, instigated a regular contact strategy with clients and expanded our social media activity. Not only that, we’ve reviewed our business plan that we write every year. We plan to offer some additional packaged products that will suit how we see the market developing for businesses that will use our services.

There is never a time to stand still and 2020 is going to be a crucial year for many businesses. Take the time to prepare.

Be flexible

Everyone we speak to has their own story of how they’ve coped and what they plan to do with their own business as we transition out of lockdown towards a new normal. We advise our customers and contacts to be flexible as things can often change quite quickly. Where possible we break down projects into a series of smaller steps so clients can manage the project and their cash flow whilst staying able to react to market changes.

For example, we recently started a project for a client to refresh a website and to develop a content and marketing strategy. Normally we’d develop all elements concurrently but rather than asking the client to commit to everything, we’ve broken it down into a three-phase plan to give the client flexibility. As their business depends on how social distancing guidance changes, they’re in a good place to be able to change the plan as new guidelines are issued by the Government.