COVID – Business as it should have been

Wherever you look nowadays there are people running webinars or zoom meetings, or writing articles about what we need to do for and in our businesses to survive the COVID-19 crisis and then bounce back, hoping to flourish where others flounder.

But most of what we need to do now is no different to what we should do in “normal” times. Business during Covid is like business on steroids.

We are being told that we need to communicate with our staff, our clients and our suppliers; we need to control our costs; we need to find opportunities for increasing revenue generation, we need to open up new, sustainable business lines; we need to pivot; we need to focus on cash collection; we need to allow more flexible working patterns including rethinking our remote working policies; we need to make positive changes to reduce the environmental impact of our businesses. The list goes on.

But these are all things we should have been doing in normal times. Business during COVID is Business as it should have always been. It should be Business as Usual. Everything is just more intense, but the stakes are higher. Much higher. For many businesses the Covid crisis presents an existential threat.  Some will not survive while others will have to downsize to a level that they may never have thought likely, in some cases, for generations.

And it is not about whether your company is in a business which is not impacted as heavily as other sectors may be. Let’s remember that your clients’ fortunes are dictated by their clients’ fortunes and this cascades throughout the economy.

Allow me to use as an example some steps that we took at Shireburn Software right at the start of the crisis.

Our infrastructure was very well prepared for 100% remote working so, apart from triggering our emergency procedure by running a test on the 5th March, that was not our area of focus. First step was to update our business risk assessment in the light of Covid and scenario projections of its impact. Although, as a software products company with mainly subscription or recurrent revenues, we were likely to be impacted less than many other sectors as well as less than other IT services companies, we identified risks of the probability of clients delaying or cancelling projects, the downsizing of our clients’ operations which would impact particularly our Indigo Payroll solution, stretched cash recovery as our clients sought to hold onto their cash, and the risk of bad debts, with some of the clients not making it through the crisis.

We reassessed our budgets for the remainder of 2020, trimming our revenue forecasts, but also taking a deep look at our costs. While at Shireburn staff costs and office rent/parking are our two biggest costs, it is amazing how many other costs you rack up in a buoyant economy that you should not carry. The point is, if you can trim these costs without hurting the business in a crisis, you should be trimming them in normal times.

We had servers and services running in the cloud (we have many servers) which could be streamlined and amalgamated; there had been a project to do this for months but Covid has proven to be the great accelerator.

We have switched certain dedicated services: separate subscriptions for systems to handle electronic signing of contracts on DocuSign, Surveys on Constant Contact etc have been shifted to the Zoho platform that we already use for our help desk system, cutting down on subscriptions and maximising the investment we have in the platform and in turn, we’re running online events to aid our clients maximise their investment in our products.

We have also accelerated a number of other projects and in fact created entirely new product/services that we will bring to market in an attempt to boost revenues.

But why did we need to wait for the Covid crisis to take these steps? Well, we did not need to wait. We should not have waited.

So take a long hard look at your business and see what steps that you can take now, in this moment of crisis, that you can ensure are part of your on-going processes and reviews post-Covid.


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John de Giorgio

John is the founder of Shireburn Software, a software products company based in Malta and a number of other businesses. Entrepreneurial in nature, he looks at a business process and identifies ways in which process improvement and technology can be married in a practical way to provide value. He is passionate about helping communities and individuals through his work with Rotary International. He is a keen sailor and loves travelling, food and wine.