Restarting business: How to wake from the lockdown sleep

Restarting business: How to wake from the lockdown sleep

The start of lockdown was immediate and brutal. One minute, businesses were fully staffed and operational as per usual, the next offices were deserted and workers were wrestling with home WiFi and Zoom passwords. Those were the lucky ones.

For companies where lockdown has put operations either on ice or reduced it to a small percentage of its usual volume, navigating day to day challenges is naturally taking up almost all of their energies.

They say a week is a long time in politics. Well, it’s even longer in a crisis. And no sooner have government ministers suggested lockdown measures might need to become even stricter, than the idea that some measures may be lifted starts to gain momentum.

Until we know for certain it’s all just so much speculation and that is what is most destabilising. We cannot control the decisions of others, we can only control ourselves. It’s something I tell my 12 year-old as he comes off the football pitch railing at an unfair decision by the ref, and it’s something I have to tell my 46 year-old self regularly.

But the realisation that we have at least some control is empowering and one of the things we as both individuals and companies have control over is preparedness. While Covid-19 looks set to send shockwaves through our lifestyles and livelihoods for months, if not years, changes are afoot that may happen in a matter of weeks. They could require a response as immediate as lockdown itself.

Speaking to Catalyst, Royal Mail’s group marketing director, Ben Rhodes, says: “We need to be doing things right now to make sure everything lands properly when the economy is unlocked because you can’t just instantly turn stuff back on. Different businesses will be in different predicaments. There are unique challenges around maintaining momentum, particularly if you’re a business with no competition right now but potentially huge competition when the market wakes up.”

We can’t expect companies paddling like fury just to stay afloat to engage in days-long planning meetings, or those whose cashflow is stretched to breaking point to begin investing in ‘back to business’ media campaigns. But devoting some energy to envisaging how and what to do when doors start opening again is a worthwhile exercise, if not also one to help us focus on more optimistic matters. And taking our experience of weeks in lockdown will be a valuable resource.

For the individual taking the time to learn a skill from an online masterclass, update their CPD, find new efficiencies in home working or even taking on a charity role while on furlough, there are insights they can take back with them (literally) to the office or in furthering their career. For companies, pivoting events online, increasing their digital distribution channels or prioritising lines of business will all provide important learnings for their business going forward.

We will be looking at ‘The New Normal’ in more detail in the upcoming Issue 3 of Catalyst, speaking to Rhodes, as well as Adobe, Aviva and others. Meanwhile, you can explore how companies can react to this crisis, particularly the Olympic sponsors’ whose plans were turned dramatically on their head in March, by listening to the most recent CIM Marketing Podcast: How to scale in strife.

Morag Cuddeford-Jones Editor, Catalyst magazine CIM
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