By Sofiya Merenych
The 2020 coronavirus crisis is now global. And it’s practically impossible to find an industry that hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Most airlines have had to adjust their schedules or even cancel some, if not all, flights. The film and entertainment industry is in danger because of the cancellation of major events worldwide. Local hospitality businesses all over the world have been forced to close their doors due to the quarantine measures implemented in many countries throughout the world.
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed many business bottlenecks that were not so obvious before. And while it may be too late to make a difference in the current situation, coming up with solutions now will ready your company for the next time there is a crisis. Here are problems the outbreak has highlighted and lessons your business can learn:
1. Your company is too dependent on manual work
Automation in business has been a hot topic for the last two decades. Gartner identifies hyperautomation as a top strategic technology trend for 2020. There are many small businesses that have not automated key jobs and are doing tasks manually.
What are the downsides of manual work?
First of all, it is slow and not always exact. The human factor is hard to avoid, so mistakes happen which can lead to losses. This is also true for manufacturing, logistics, accounting—but almost any department in your company can be modernized for the sake of clear processes and exact calculations.
But it’s not just about money and business. The main question of the 2020 crisis is: Can you ensure healthy conditions for all your employees? The coronavirus spreads from person to person, and direct contact is unsafe. Putting many workers in one room risks turning a workspace into a potential virus incubator. This creates a situation that’s not only dangerous for employees, but also for their families, neighbors, and even random people who shop for milk at the same grocery store.
Being too dependent on manual work is a huge business risk; a quarantine automatically means all business processes stop.
How can automation help?
Business automation allows you to replace manual work with software algorithms. Smart automation will lessen the workload of your logistics office and help sales managers and accountants. But what’s even more important is your manufacturing department won’t be as dependent on a certain number of workers. A quarantine won’t have as much of an impact on an automated factory; production can go on even when 90% of your employees have to stay at home.
What you can do right now
Most likely, your company is already quarantined, so you can take your time to work on mistakes, preventing such a crisis in the future. First of all, analyze your current company structure. Which tasks involve the most manual work? These will be your first candidates for optimization. Then, find a contractor who can do the automation for you.
Outsourcing a task has two major benefits: First, the contractor has experience in business automation, and can counsel you concerning your specific case. Next, unlike hiring an in-house tech team, which can take a lot of time and effort, a contractor already has a team that is ready to start working on your case immediately. Also, don’t limit your search to your country. Outsourcing gives you access to thousands of professionals all over the world.
If you don’t feel comfortable working with remote teams, then the next two lessons are also for you.
2. You are too dependent on personal, face-to-face meetings
When you first heard about the COVID-19 quarantine, you probably thought, “No way, we can’t do this. We have dozens of meetings scheduled for this week.” And then it turned out that something was more important than the meetings.
What are the downsides of in-person meetings?
First of all, you can’t have any meetings during a pandemic. However, personal meetings can be toxic, even during much less dark times. The main reason: they limit your team. The fact is you don’t have to sit next to another person to have an efficient discussion. Replacing meetings with online calls can help.
Why are calls more effective?
You can schedule an urgent call anytime, anywhere, and solve problems without needing to head to the office. It also gives you the opportunity to work directly with contractors located in other regions or continents who may be the best professionals in the world.
What you can do right now
Explore online conferencing tools. First of all, there is Zoom. This tool was created specifically for video calls and conferences, and with it you can do video and audio calls, screen sharing, chat, recording, and automatic transcription—even encryption is available if you are sharing sensitive data.
Other major tools to consider are Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, or Google Meet for corporate users, and many more. Some of these tools have specific features that make a video conference even more effective than a personal meeting. Just choose the one that best fits your needs.
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3. You don’t trust remote work (or workers)
How could this even happen in the 21st century? Of course, there are specific professions that can’t work remotely (surgeons, cooks and waiters, home-service workers, etc.). But what’s wrong with remote work for programmers, accountants, journalists, lawyers, and writers?
Your main argument against remote work is likely the inability to control your employees. But ask yourself what is more valuable: the process or the outcome? Many employees claim they are more productive when working from home compared to the usual 9-to-5 office hours. Dozens of companies have adopted an all-remote approach:
GitLab is the world’s largest all-remote organization with 1200+ employees.
Toptal successfully manages 500+ employees in over 100 countries.
InVision spreads the idea of maximum focus and productivity outside of the office.
What you can do right now
If you make remote work a part of your company policy now, the next crisis won’t be as painful for your team.
4. Your focus is too narrow
You have a clear company development plan for the next few years and you strictly adhere to it. You’re not leaving any room for improvisation and fresh ideas. This doesn’t sound like a solid plan.
Why is narrow focus a problem?
It’s a risk. Even if your company shows great results in the current situation, circumstances may dramatically change tomorrow. You have to be ready to adjust to those circumstances to keep your business alive.
What you can do right now
Be flexible! You have to be ready to react instantly to any changes in the world. Restaurants and cafes were hit hardest by the lockdown in many countries, but a few of them have managed to survive because they quickly adapted their business model and switched to food delivery. Language schools were forced to pause all learning programs, but some have employed online tools and are accessible to a wider audience, overcoming any location limits.
Always think of additional services your business can offer. Sometimes, solutions are not that obvious, but new ideas will help you in two ways: outplaying your competitors and surviving in a crisis.
5. You’re working with one big client
Having one client that covers more than 50% of your working capacity is like putting all your eggs in one basket.
Why is relying on one client a problem?
Imagine an unpredictable local crisis in the region where your principal client is located. This may be thousands of miles away from you, but it affects your business directly: supplies that can’t be sold, employees who have no work to do, and high bills at a time when your income drastically drops. The same thing happens when the crisis hits a single industry your client belongs to.
What you can do right now
Never stop looking for new clients. It is always safer to have 10 small clients than one huge customer. Sell your goods or services to a variety of clients in different industries and regions. This can save your business in the next crisis.
You don’t have a risk management plan
How much time did it take for you to develop a crisis management plan for the current situation? Maybe you are still working on it. Meanwhile, your company is losing money every single day.
Having a risk management plan could save you hours of non-stop work and thousands of dollars. A risk management plan will allow you to:
Identify possible risks for your company
Brainstorm ideas and solutions for every risk
Create a detailed action plan in case the risk reoccurs
Create such a plan and be ready to react quickly to all possible changes in your industry, in the global market, and in the world in general.
Take a big leap forward
COVID-19 is a global crisis that has affected all industries. And most companies are experiencing negative growth. You are in the same situation as all your competitors. Many of you had to pause business and simply hope to recover after the pandemic. But this is actually a time for opportunity. The global quarantine is your chance take a big leap forward.
Use this time to upgrade your company by following the lessons outlined in this article. Businesses will suffer during this crisis, but smart entrepreneurs will use this unique opportunity to build new or better companies.
About the Author
Post by: Sofiya Merenych
Sofiya Merenych is a business and tech writer at Clockwise Software, a web and mobile app development company. For over five years she researches how technologies can empower various businesses regardless of the industry. In cooperation with a few writers, Sofiya runs a tech expert blog.
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