Why honesty is the best policy for business owners during COVID-19

Covid-19 | Covid-19 Advice | Employment & Skills | Reports

Written by Juliet Barratt, Co-Founder and Former CMO of healthy snacking FMCG brand Grenade and NED for multiple businesses spanning Technology and Food & Drink.

Within a matter of weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has completely transformed how society lives, works and operates.

Where many business owners have had no choice but to close their doors, others have adapted to new ways of working in a bid to maintain some form of ‘business as usual’, whether setting up shop from their kitchen table or refocusing sales efforts online.

As rumours start to circulate about how and when the Government will ease lockdown measures, business owners are starting to think about how they can get back to work and what they need to do to overcome this period of adversity.

The best place to start is with honesty:

Be honest with your Staff

Authenticity drives engagement and this is certainly the case in business.

Over the last few months, millions of businesses will have lost vital revenue, forcing them to cut overheads and reduce staff numbers. However, the business owners able to hold their hands up and be transparent with their staff about their current situation, are those more likely to win respect in the long-term.

There is absolutely no shame in asking your team to work hard and to offer additional support to ensure the business maintains strong service delivery. In fact, telling your team that they are fundamental to the survival of the business, will not only implement a sense of trust, but will also encourage pride and loyalty as realise the part they have to play in pushing the business back on top.

Be honest with your Suppliers

We all know that having strong cashflow is vital to the survival of a business, regardless of whether you are working through a global pandemic. However, less businesses will be able to pay their suppliers on time during this period, causing a knock-on effect to others.

The worst thing you can do here is avoid conversations and simply not pay. Again, be honest and realistic about what you can pay within a given timeframe and ensure you stick to it. Not only will you maintain a good working relationship with your suppliers, but you will also uphold a positive reputation for you and your brand for the long-term.

Be realistic with growth

The start of a new year always comes with a sense of new aspiration, as millions of business owners strive for accelerated growth. The truth is, unless you manufacture PPE, toilet paper or hand sanitizer, you are likely to struggle to achieve the growth objectives that you set at the start of 2020 but there is little point in worrying about it.

Be honest with yourself and re-forecast your budget for the year, focusing on maintaining the customers you do have with exemplary product or service delivery and, from here, thinking about how you could drive additional revenue.

Utilise this period of change

The coronavirus pandemic has been described as the ‘greatest challenge’ for this generation and despite the hardship, it has also presented an opportunity for change.

In business, it has eliminated any sense of complacency and forced business owners to stand back and evaluate what does and doesn’t work, be that operationally, with team members or in sales activity.

The message here, is don’t waste this opportunity to implement real and meaningful change that could have a long-term and positive impact on your business, be that your brand positioning, company culture or marketing strategy.

Be honest about your feelings

At the moment, there is a huge responsibility for business owners to motivate staff, manage cashflow, adapt to new operations and drive new revenue all under ‘lockdown’. This is no easy task and isn’t something that should be taken lightly. If you are finding it difficult, be honest about it and talk to family, friends or business mentors.

If you’re having a ‘down day’ and struggling to get through your workload, don’t beat yourself about it, go for a walk, clear your head and come back to it later. The worst thing you can do is make yourself work incredibly long, but unproductive hours just because you feel like you “should”. It’s fine to do something alternative like an online yoga session during work hours – it doesn’t mean you are bad at business.

Be honest with yourself at all times and if you need some support, ask.

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