Thursday, May 7, 2020

Bouncing Back to Business after the COVID-19 crisis

Business as usual may look very different for many people after the coronavirus pandemic. The opportunity to restart businesses is becoming a possibility for many, and hopefully for everyone else in the very near future. Some businesses have successfully managed to continue trading throughout the COVID-19 crisis, but certainly not in their usual way.

So what will become the 'new normal' for many small businesses?

Large events and gatherings will probably be the last thing to get the green light in most countries. To be honest, in these times of haziness, I believe that it will take time for the confidence both the organisers and attendee's to grow enough to stage and attend these events.

It is very likely that the new norm will centre on keeping yourself, employees and customers safe.The majority of companies will have to implement physical distancing, which includes keeping workers and customers more than two metres apart from each other. Wearing facemasks in certain indoor workplaces may also be compulsory. 
You may be encouraged to install plastic screens at checkouts, limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside your store, and add floor markings to keep shoppers apart.

For those who work from home, their businesses will likely focus heavily on balloon deliveries. In the UK, the Government implemented rules for social distancing for delivery services, and I am sure that every country will have something similar.

Deliveries: For retailers or restaurants running a delivery service, you should advise all delivery drivers that no goods or food should be physically handed over to the customer. There should instead be a set drop-off point agreed in advance. After ringing the doorbell, the driver should maintain a safe distance from the door and oversee the delivery of the goods. The goods should not be left unattended. You should introduce a way for customers to be able to notify your business that they are in self-isolation or are unwell in advance of the delivery, in which case these guidelines should be very strictly followed. The driver should not enter the customer’s property. To minimise the risk that a customer does not answer the door, sensible steps such as setting an approximate delivery time and gaining a contact number should be taken. You should encourage drivers to wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds as regularly as possible, and drivers should additionally be provided with hand-sanitiser to be carried at all times and used after each delivery. To protect your staff, daily remind colleagues and drivers to come into work if they are well, and no one in their household is self-isolating.

So what challenges are businesses going to encounter?

First, there has been a great deal of discussion about countries going into a recession, which I am sure is extremely likely. Luc Bertrand recently reminded me of an article that Lois Devlin, former Managing Director of Pioneer Europe wrote. The article was aptly named "Surviving what Downturn?" I just want to share with you the opening few paragraphs

"On September 15th, 2008 the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a crisis that many thought would plunge the world into financial anarchy and bring about another great depression.
Christmas was certainly a depressing affair commercially, with office parties cancelled, the corporate market in tatters and consumers hanging on to their money as if their lives depended on it.
Who would have thought with such a backdrop, that 2009 could turn out to be so positive? Sure enough, some sectors had a very tough time and our corporate market has still not recovered, but the party industry has proved its resilience yet again with most customers reporting healthy year on year growth and some outstanding seasonal sales."
I started my balloon business in the early 90's, which was another period of recession. You might think why would anyone start a business under those circumstances? However it has been proven that there are many good reasons why businesses can flourish during difficult times! And if I am honest, people want to party and celebrate when times are hard - how many of us have been dreaming about seeing our friends and family and having a huge party to celebrate all the events that we have missed over the past few months! Many brides have had to cancel their lovingly planned weddings, including my daughter, rather than getting upset, plans for the "new' wedding will be even bigger and better! 

It is time to revisit your Business Model

Hopefully, many of you will have already considered this and have or are putting changes into practise. 

What does "revisiting your business model" look like?
If your main income stream is event and corporate decor, it could be quite a while before the jobs start to roll in again. So how can you put your ballooning skills into practise to create a new income stream? 

It's time to review:
  • What you sell
  • Who are you selling it to
  • How you deliver it
Move as much of your business online as possible - if you have shied away from opening an online store, now is the time to create one, and devote time to making it amazing. I would  encourage you to do research, and look at how other likeminded businesses present their products and services. This will help you as you develop your site and provide ideas and inspiration on how you would like your online store to look and work. Don't forget to refresh your SEO keywords to reflect the types of products and services that you will be offering. 

I have been looking at different balloon companies around the world to see how they have adapted their businesses during these times, and the one thing that really stands out is that everyone is raising their delivery game! 

Balloon companies known for their large-scale decor have increased their delivery options significantly, from 'Balloons in a Box' deliveries to 'Yard Art' - outside balloon decor installations! 

Chris Adamo of Balloons Online in Sydney, Australia has introduced an ingenious 'Party in a Box' concept, and what better way to promote the idea than to have an exciting adverting video to go with it! 

I spoke to Chris to see how things are going for Balloons Online in Australia, and this was his response:
"We have seen our balloon gift sales triple over the past few weeks, as the bright and cheerful nature of our product is perfect to brighten these dark times.
I would like to offer a few thoughts regarding this current situation. Everyone should expect large events to be non-existent for the rest of this year... that unfortunately means no big budget organic decor that we have all relied on so much.
Delivered gifts will be strong but that is a saturated market, customers are looking for something different and something personalised. On top of the product itself, customers want to do business with a company they can trust to follow best practice hygiene and social distancing.
If you don't have a policy for this in your business, create one and share it with your customers. 
Now is the time to also develop and exercise best customer service practice. Call/email your customer with a delivery ETA, send them a photo of the gift before or on delivery.
Follow up with a customer feedback form, ask them to review or share the experience on social media. All of these steps can be streamlined into a workflow."
Yard Art - outdoor balloon installations is another growing balloon decor service that I have seen posted on different social media platforms. These are a great way to bring decor to a home to celebrate an event or occasion without any contact with the client.

Yard Numbers by Balloons Everyday, Texas, USA
Did you watch David and Amanda Mahoney's Q Corner Convention class - Framing and Selling of Deliverable Table Numbers? During the class David and Amanda showed how to work with pliable materials and different techniques to build enchanting 4ft-tall table number frames. These are not as big as David's Yard Numbers but they are both achievable and sellable for most balloon businesses.


If you missed this great, free, online class, just click on the video below.

There are many other business challenges to consider when you restart your business. I hope the few points that I have covered in this post will help. 

Here are the closing words from Lois's article all those years ago, and they are as applicable today as they were then! 
"What is important is to maintain a positive attitude and keep investing into the things that will help your business flourish and give you the return in investment that you need and deserve.
Work on your business everyday and seek help where you have gaps in your skills and knowledge. That doesn't necessarily mean big financial outlay as there are lots of courses that can help you with a range of things like financial planning, pricing and sales, as well as the more creative side of the business.
We are lucky; we work in a business that brings smiles and we may all need some of this in the months to come! We are also lucky in that what we do is not easy to do well so good businesses will find their niche and survive recession, competition and anything else that is thrown at them."
Keep safe, positive and keep smiling, we will survive this!

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

1 comment:

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