Every small business in Australia is now feeling the impact of the lockdown and social distancing rules.
I definitely do myself and I believe it's OK to accept the change that is happening right now and actually grief our losses (of whatever nature they may be). We shouldn't try to solve all problems - past, present and future - in just a few weeks. It's OK to take things slowly and put health and safety first - ours, our families' and our employees'.
It's a perfect time to learn and plan our next steps, to be prepared for the next crisis, as we do not have many precedents that live up to the current landscape.
We'll need to do more than adapt, we'll need to innovate our way out of this.
I believe the best thing for all businesses now, whether temporarily closed or operating under a different model for a while, is to take the pulse of the market, to watch how the consumer behaviour changes and to keep in touch with customers (website, social media, email etc.) and try to address their needs and pain points in any way possible, even if that means simply communicating and educating without actually making a sale. You'll be rewarded with their loyalty when your business resumes its normal trading. (Although, the longevity of this strategy depends largely on the efficiency of the government support).
There are lots of free resources and tools out there at the moment that can help your business plan better for the different future ahead. They can also help you maintain your customer relationship and/or service providing or event management free of charge for a few months, so here's just a snapshot of some of these tools below.
Whether you need to communicating with customers or your employees need to work from home and team collaboration is required, there is a big array of software to help you achieve that. This is a small list of major tech companies offering free access to their solutions for a limited time.
Zoho Remotely enables you to take your work remotely by offering a complete suite of web and mobile apps that will help you communicate, collaborate and be productive. Remotely will remain free till July 1, 2020 and includes 10 apps that help their users meet online and communicate and collaborate from anywhere.
Microsoft is offering a free 6-month Office 365 E1 Trial, including Microsoft Teams chat app, in response to the increased need for employees to work from home (WFH) since the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. To learn what's available with an E1 license, read Office 365 E1. That trial will allow users to record meetings and take advantage of 1TB of storage, neither of which are available on the normal free version. Details on how to obtain the licence here.
Google will allow free access to the enterprise version of Hangouts Meet to all G Suite and G Suite for Education users. That plan includes up to 250 users per call, the ability to record meetings, and livestream capabilities for up to 100,000 viewers until July 1, 2020.
LogMeIn is making "Emergency Remote Work Kits" available for free for three months. Those kits are designed for nonprofits, schools, and health care organizations that aren't already customers. The company also says it will work with existing small-business customers to provide access during the same time period. The kits include GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar--where users can host presentations for up to 3,000 users--and LogMeIn, which provides remote desktop access from numerous devices.
Cisco is offering the free version of its Webex service with no time restrictions. In addition, it will allow up to 100 meeting participants and has added toll-free dial-in features with a 90-day license for businesses that are not already customers.
Zoom already offers a free version of its videoconferencing software, but the company is currently working to test its network to "ensure maximum reliability amid any capacity increases, as uptime is paramount," according to a blog post from the company's CEO. Additionally, the company has created resources and is hosting information sessions to help small businesses use Zoom. It has also extended its free plan in China to allow unlimited meeting times and breakout rooms, and removed restrictions on participant limits.
How Businesses Around The World Are Adapting And Evolving
As I've mentioned at the beginning on the need to innovation under current circumstances, here are some examples of how the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing businesses around the world to think on their feet.
'Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.' (Sholem Asch).