Atul Bhakta, CEO, One World Express, says that businesses must change to survive coronavirus and offers advice on how they can do it
Coronavirus is posing significant challenges for us all. As we adjust our daily lives to follow the Government’s guidelines around social distancing, many of us are encountering problems we’d never have dreamt of mere months ago.
In the face of such unprecedented events, it’s paramount to stay positive. Just as the famous Government-produced slogan of 1939 suggested, the best advice for someone struggling to cope may be to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
However, there’s one instance where this is far from sage advice: business.
When it comes to business owners and managers, an inability to act decisively coupled with a complacency that their organisation can simply continue as normal may spell disaster.
Some may be operating short-term contingency plans, such as restaurants and cafés re-organising as takeaway food services while they cannot accept customers. Others may be pivoting their businesses entirely to ensure they retain customers throughout the pandemic. Those that do nothing risk getting left behind.
It’s entirely likely that some of these new ways of operating may prove more profitable than previous models, even after the virus is contained. Given this, businesses would do well to keep on the lookout for new opportunities that could be seized – even in these difficult times.
The proactive approach
Those who take it upon themselves to start up a business tend to be the optimistic, positive-minded sort. Yet this mentality will be tested during the current crisis.
In my own experience, since founding One World Express in 1998 I’ve had to adapt my business to survive the dotcom crash, the global financial crisis and years of Brexit uncertainty. In every case, I’ve been sure to retain a positive and proactive mindset to ensure we would never be a passive victim of macroeconomic turbulence.
This has meant that, especially after the global financial crash, we have invested heavily in new technologies. Our in-house developed bespoke logistics software has seen great success and opened up entirely new international markets, especially when dealing with already established national vendors who were desperate for the additional IT support needed to deliver on a global scale.
Similarly, our German base of operations was established when it became evident that Brexit could harm the appeal of a UK-based global logistics company; given the unknown tariffs and trading regulations post-withdrawal.
Every crisis is different, and these two examples obviously won’t contain the panacea for any COVID-19 related economic woes being faced. But they illustrate the spirit and resilience business leaders should now be emulating in finding ways to continue getting their products into the hands of customers by any means.
A change of direction
As previously mentioned, pivoting is not only a smart tactic in the short-term, but it may in fact continue to be beneficial for years to come. Both YouTube and Instagram began life as products widely different to those we now know – originally being a video dating service and geo-tagged check-in tool respectively – but they changed their businesses to reflect the pressing needs of the consumers at the time and subsequently saw massive success.
COVID-19 presents a chance to do just that. Whether you’re a VC-backed Silicon Valley dynamo or an independent merchant selling hand-carved decorations online, the radically changing needs of the current market should incentivise you to change direction for the better.
The most obvious change to people’s spending habits is that they are now almost entirely done from home. With the Government guidance stating that trips outside the house are exclusively for food, exercise or work, businesses need to establish means of getting their services or products direct to customers’ doors.
The challenge of setting up order tracking software, online payments systems and entire delivery networks in a short space of time is considerable, but achievable if those involved are dedicated and innovative enough with their thinking.
Opening up to the world
After establishing a system for containing business operations in a deliver-to-door fashion, it’s a surprisingly small next step to begin offering your products worldwide.
At One World Express, we regularly speak with SMEs or independent traders who aren’t aware of just how easy it is to begin international distribution. During this COVID-19 outbreak, taking this deceptively simple step may help any company weather the current economic storm.
To help businesses with this task, One World Express is waiving all consulting fees for the months of April, May and June 2020. We’re eager to provide free advice to those looking to understand how to access the international market and maintain operations whilst observing social distancing rules.
We look forward to seeing shops that were flourishing before social distancing continue to do so through online sales. Businesses that can successfully take advantage of such opportunities are not just best positioned to survive until the end of the current virus outbreak – but also to enjoy new levels of success in later years.