3 April 2021|Business Growth, Crisis Management, Latest Posts
By Tania Zahoor Rashid. It would be an understatement to say that the last 12 months have been difficult for most businesses. While some businesses have benefited and grown, those operating in the service, hospitality and retail sectors have all been heavily impacted. Aesthetics Lab, the cosmetic clinic I run alongside my two business partners Marsha and Kristina, has been able to survive over the last 12 months, but sadly many other business owners up and down the UK have been forced to close permanently.
I have found over my career in business that good owners and managers can adapt and learn from challenges put in front of them. There is no doubt that Covid-19 will be the biggest challenge many business owners will face during their career. With that being said, the last 12 months has allowed us to learn new things about our businesses and will have hopefully taught us lessons that we will use positively for many years to come.
Below are some of the lessons we have learned, and I would invite all business owners and managers to look back over the last year and try to identify the lessons you have learned. You may come to rely on these lessons in the future, and while it may seem difficult now, we need to try and focus on the positives from the last 12 months and look forward to what’s to come.
1. Having a strong online presence is vital
For years businesses on high streets worldwide have seen the advance of online shopping and worried about how this would impact traditional retail. The last 12 months has seen a massive surge in online shopping, but a lesson for businesses in all sectors from the previous year is the crucial importance of a strong online presence.
Businesses that could take themselves online did well over the last year and flourished during the pandemic. Unfortunately for us, we are a very hands-on business, and it was tricky for us to take anything online. We did build an online shop for skincare products and devices available at the clinic for our customers to purchase online. Before that we made sure we could help clients buy their products through us even without the shop, just by picking up the phone or taking orders through email.
Unfortunately, as advanced as the internet is, there is obviously no way to carry out any of our in-clinic treatments online. Service and hospitality businesses all faced this problem, but they could still stay connected to their clients. In the past, your online presence simply meant your website, and while this is still crucial, social media now plays an equally important role in attracting and retaining clients. Keeping clients updated regularly through social media about what businesses are doing while closed and their reopening plans has allowed businesses to stay connected to their clients. Also, it reassures clients that the business is still going strong and that they shouldn’t be afraid of spending when the business reopens. With businesses like ours, where we take large sums in advance for a course of treatments performed over 3-6 months, trust is vital.
2. Remote working
Over the last year, we have all become conscious of having a space at home where we can work remotely. Many businesses have been able to carry on without significant disruption to their service, but it wasn’t quite as simple for service industry businesses like ours. As mentioned, we obviously couldn’t provide treatments, but we could still carry out consultations and meetings with our clients.
Clinic phone lines could be diverted to our mobiles, emails can be checked from anywhere in the world, and Zoom and video calls allowed us to “see” our clients and advise on their skin and body issues and keep in touch with our team. Moving forward, even when it’s safe to have everyone back at work, businesses can reduce the number of people in offices and give staff more flexibility about their workplace while still providing excellent service. In the short term, this will also allow us to minimise the risk as some staff return to businesses in the summer.
3. Saving and borrowing
We have always believed in having some money saved up for a rainy day, and it did help us a lot during this pandemic. If they didn’t before, I’m sure many other businesses will now start to hold a reserve for emergency purposes. However, businesses should take financial help and research what they are eligible for.
The UK government has been quite good to small businesses and their employees. However, it is not always apparent what grant or scheme you are eligible for. Make sure you do your research and take help available, as this is what pulled us through.
It is also a good idea to borrow money from the bank, especially with government-backed loan schemes right now. However, make sure you borrow what you can afford to repay. It seems self-explanatory, but over-borrowing has been a common reason for businesses going bust.
Finally, from a financial point of view, it’s vital to look after your staff in difficult times, don’t rush to let go of them. Minimise every other expense before you consider letting anyone go. Your team is what will make business money again when you overcome challenging times such as this one.
About the author
Tania Zahoor Rashid is one of the co-founders and directors of Aesthetics Lab, an award-winning cosmetic clinic based in Primrose Hill, London. Tania set up Aesthetics Lab with her business partners Marsha Starcevic and Kristina Hutchins. Before her current job, Tania studied economics and accountancy at City, University of London and went on to run multiple companies in several different industries.