As six months dawn, we are definitely experiencing a new normal. It’s been six months and life continues, business (mostly) goes on and we settle into accepting this is life. I personally believe because the change was so quick, that we struggle with that change. One day we can go get our hair done, sit over a long lunch, hug people and not have to fight (literally) for toilet paper. So what is normal now, below that, I’ve outlined how we deal with the new norm and even potentially flourish.
New Norm in Life & Business
- Many retail options or cafés can be closed; so we buy less or shop online.
- Facemasks and gloves are commonplace. When I first started wearing a mask, I effectively created a personal bubble – people would physically take a step back from me, now even children don’t point.
- Retail shields are now commonplace in most supermarkets.
- Holidays are different; even crossing the border is unreliable; making plans for recreation and business is very difficult.
- Some products can become limited. I don’t think anyone will let it get down to one roll of dunny paper in the bathroom before you shop.
- We don’t take our business or jobs for granted; nothing is guaranteed.
- Queuing is normal and waiting outside is normal. When I visit my vet, my dog and I park out front, waive to the vet nurse and wait there. At times too, if it’s just a vaccination, my vet sees my dog in the back of my car, which is a hatch.
- We cough or sneeze and we are looked at like we might have the plague.
- We’ve kissed goodbye to kisses, hugs and handshakes, mostly. In business, some people still want to shake hands, but it’s no longer offensive to then pull out the hand sanitizer.
- Hygiene has improved; every store you enter has sanitizer and people mostly use it. I think this is positive. Accordingly, I suspect we’ve had less cases of general cold and flu this last winter.
- We’ve given away our liberties. Government says stay home, don’t do this, there is a curfew, don’t cross the borders and we (mostly) obey.
- Fundraising has especially struggled. Gone are the Bunnings BBQs, or charity fundraisers of trivial pursuit or gala ball.
- Meetings are now more via Zoom, even ASX listed companies now realise that they don’t have to force people from other states to travel to Sydney or Melbourne for an AGM. Clients who normally want to meet me in person are now more willing to meet me via Zoom.
- Businesses realise that staff can be as effective working from home – and even more effective.
- Seeing family (especially the elderly or those interstate) has become more difficult – so does that mean we forget them OR do we make more of an effort in other ways?
What does new norm mean for business – and how do we flourish in such times of uncertainty?
1. Have a plan – even if your State Government does not appear to have one.
Your plan might be in fact A, B and even C. If borders and business are closed, how will you manage? If business is open but borders still closed, then what is the plan? If everything opens, but could close at the drop of a hat, then what is the plan? Often known as ‘what if’ scenarios, we need to plan moving forward. If we have the plan, our team knows the plan, it’s documented and ready to go, then as each scenario plays out, we are prepared.
2. Change your business model.
Depending on your business, this might mean that you don’t niche so much, or perhaps offer additional services. It may mean that if you are a retailer, then you have an online store. If you are a restaurant, you may offer takeaway or delivery. It may mean that you have an excellent business idea, which will fit in well to this new norm and now is a great opportunity for you. New business opportunities are sprouting up all over the place; for those who think outside the box, see opportunity where others see only a challenge and who are quick to be resilient and entrepreneurial, then this may well be your best time to embark on a new venture. As an experienced business coach, I’m regularly asked if now is a bad time to start a new business – and it all comes back to what that business will be.
3. Accept change.
Yes, things are different and whilst most people don’t accept change well, we need to help our team adjust to the changes. I’ve known business owners who refused to allow staff to work from home. In my prior business, most of my staff worked very well from home. You just have to have systems, processes and yes, accountability with them. Those that abuse the privilege may well find they are the first to go if there are cutbacks. However, on the most part, without the interruption of the ‘water cooler chatter’ people get more work done and are more refreshed generally as they don’t have to travel for what can be 2-3 hours every day for some.
4. Be responsible.
As a business, you have a duty and responsibility to keep both your team and your clients safe. This will mean that pretty much every WH&S Plan will need to be updated to handle COVID. Whilst some businesses cannot be open without a COVID Safe Plan, others are operating but have they amended how they do business in a COVID world? Do your reception desks have screens? Do you wipe down chairs after a visitor has used them?
5. Review your pricing.
I’m very sure that Woolies did this in the early days. A tin of tuna has gone up 10c as had most other products. Ten cents here and there, do add up and for the extra cleaning, extra staff and extra precautions so that the business is not running at a loss. I’m not saying gouge your customers, but look at your pricing. Are you helping your clients more and not charging for that service? There is a fine line between goodwill and over-delivering and the latter is what causes a business to stumble. Some professionals are helping their clients with JobKeeper and charge nothing extra; others are well, profiting off the opportunity. I recommend finding that happy medium. If you’re overcharging, your customers will realise and may well move away from you – never to return.
6. Consider flexibility.
I was talking to a client very recently who services the events industry. We discussed having a ‘COVID friendly cancellation policy’ as traditionally once you pay your deposit, then if you cancel you lose your money. Just as some caravan parks are saying that if you cancel your booking due to government policy or border closure, then they will provide a full refund. This gives the buyer peace of mind to make a booking in a time when you just don’t know that the next few months will bring. An alternative is a voucher which has a reasonable period on it, say 2 years. Make your ‘COVID-friendly cancellation policy’ part of your marketing; this is now something which will be very appealing for customers and stand you apart from your competitors who are sticking to their no-refund policies.
Even if COVID disappeared tomorrow, our world has changed and not everything would (in my opinion) change back. New habits have been formed and things tested that perhaps people were afraid to do before. As a business owner, you can either lament on ‘the good old days’ or move forward and make good days to come. If you are seeking support, guidance, accountability and business expertise, then give me a call on 0411 622 666 – my passion is your potential.