We held our first MEG meetup since the coronavirus lockdown remotely, using Zoom.
Obviously, for our regular networking group, this has felt a bit different, but it’s vitally important that people continue to feel connected in a meaningful way during these challenging times.
Settling into our new format, we discussed the impact the lockdown is having on us all, but also what strategies we might adopt to see us through to the other side.
Immediate Cash Flow Concerns
One of the immediate impacts many of us will feel during the current crisis is cash flow drying up.
The Government is in the process of putting together various kinds of assistance to different businesses, from employers and VAT registered companies to sole traders and partnerships.
HMRC is offering grants to pay 80% of salaries of retained workers, and will waive penalties for late payments due to businesses having administrative problems. Self-employed people will be able to defer payment of self-assessment tax returns until January 2021.
Companies can also defer their VAT payments.
There is a special HMRC helpline for businesses dealing with issues arising from COVID-19.
These forms of assistance are well worth considering, since none of us knows how long the lockdown will last, and what sort of extended economic impact it might have.
Grace Under Pressure
How businesses behave during this time may have far-reaching consequences for them.
Change brings opportunities, but attempting to cash in on the misfortune of others is likely to be counterproductive in the longer term.
Marketing ourselves and what we do, therefore, is going to need a stronger element of support and helpfulness attached to it.
Will coronavirus see businesses exploring their brand values more deeply, and finding ways to communicate how they can best serve the needs of their customers?
Commerce needs to continue, we all still need to sell, but we also must consider how this can work in the current climate, and what the best, most appropriate approach should be.
At the same time, maintaining composure is important. Attempting to stay positive is good for our psychological wellbeing, and it sends out strong signals to others.
As lockdown circumstances become the new norm for many businesses, there will be a need for us all to find ways of keeping the economy flowing.
Already remote working and digital communications are taking on a new, fundamental significance.
Where we can, we will need to adapt to these changes, but we also need a large helping of resilience to see us through.
Playing the Long Game
Advisers frequently tell investors that they should be playing the long game, especially when markets get jittery.
This approach applies to other aspects of business too, and is especially relevant now.
While it’s important to try and shore up what we can and secure some sort of cash-flow for the short-term, what will really make a difference is how we prepare now for the long-haul.
In fact, lockdown works actively against short-termism. It is itself a strategy that is looking at flattening the coronavirus infection curve over an extended period.
The other lesson is that if you need to switch your strategy you should do so. When the projected statistics suggested that the herd immunity approach wouldn’t work because of the sheer cost to life, the Government was quick to pivot and bring in lockdown measures.
These are the realities of strategic planning.
To play the long game successfully, you need to refine your approach, and modify it where necessary.
Visibility beyond a certain horizon is hard to see. That horizon is uncertain at present, but the relationships we build, and nurture now will be the ones that support us when we can see beyond it and start to put things back together.