Coronavirus, Member Ideas

Forum Member Ideas

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Forum members, as you would expect have been using our resources in order to get practical advice and help. We have done our best to keep them up to speed with what is going on as well as telling them what it means to them and what action they need to take themselves.

But it’s not just a one-way street and they also come to us with their ideas and suggestions and I have pulled some of these together, as they may be of use to the local and national government as well as other members. As I always say when reading a book or attending a course, not all of the ideas expressed may be practical or useful to you, but if you pick up one or two good ideas that can make your life and business better, then its usually worth the cost of attending or reading!

The nation’s network of public houses represents a significant asset, this is especially the case in communities where other local facilities are limited.  The skills of our publicans and their staff could be used to help to provide several emergency community services.

These might include “meals on wheels” to the local elderly, vulnerable and self-isolating; acting as a distribution centre for medicines, foodstuffs and sanitary products; becoming a temporary post office and cash point; a support hub for vulnerable persons; a key worker creche; a local support centre for the emergency services; a billet for members of the armed forces; a makeshift local surgery and in due course vaccination centres. By paying for each of these functions, the Government could help keep already struggling pub businesses afloat.

A few local businesses have suggested hiring a van and delivering to people’s homes if social distancing is practised, so we have seen everything from sweetshops to pharmacies, putting their services on the road locally.

My hometown of Knutsford has set up a digital high street with all the local businesses who are offering an online service and delivery listed and people can go on the Facebook page and continue to support their local suppliers. This was set up by one of our members a local marketing company Boxed Red.

Some businesses are selling their product/services at a discounted rate, taking payment now and then will honour the booking or arrange delivery once lockdown is lifted. This can work for independent hotels, wedding venues and training companies. It helps your cash flow now, but offers a significant discount to customers of the future service.

The hospitality industry is hit very hard in the lockdown, but some are selling post coronavirus events and parties now with the date to be agreed once the lockdown is lifted.

Many members have told us they are using the time to think and reflect on their business. Looking at their business in a detailed way but doing it with a bit of structure, so perhaps a simple swot analysis looking at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for the business. Once you have all those listed you can then start to look at the action you can take to address or take advantage of these issues. It could be as simple as giving your premises a good spring clean and a fresh coat of paint. New signage, set up a more efficient stock control system, run a mailshot or digital marketing campaign with existing customers, keeping them informed and giving them a reason to visit you when you reopen. The jobs that very often are needed, but you don’t get around to them because you are so busy, well now is your chance.

Some members have talked about planning for the end of lockdown, so when it happens who are the customers you want to reach, why and how are you going to communicate with them, phone, advertising, mailshot, email, face to face or a combination of some or all of these. Plan now and be ready to go once business restarts.

Many businesses have been forced into a situation where they have had to have staff working from home and have had to rely way more on technology to do business. Some members say it has drastically changed the way they see themselves doing business in the future and many will not go back to the old way of working.

Some of our members have said they will downsize or completely get rid of their office space.

Some will let staff work from home, either all of the time or a few days a week, if that works for the employees as well as the business. Many will also look at more flexible hours.

We have a number of Forum members who say they will cut down on travel, preferring to use the virtual meeting tools that they have had to use during the lockdown. The Forum was aware of Skype and Microsoft Teams, but not, GoToMeeting, Zoom, BlueJeans and many others, there are many options open to micro and small businesses.

That said many of our more rural members have pointed out that all the reliance on digital connectivity leaves them at a disadvantage where their digital access is limited, patchy or simply not available. This impacts on their ability to trade and do business, but also to keep in touch with loved ones and carry out home-schooling in an effective manner. So true nationwide digital connectivity must be a priority for Government after the lockdown is over!

One idea from a member related to schools and getting them back to normal, she pointed out that in the same way as final year student nurses were being asked to help the NHS, final year teaching students could be used to help in the schools where staff may be off ill, or older teachers and teachers with underlying health problems may not be able to work.

In a similar vein another member talked about the universities being closed and the number of students who are now at home, could they not be encouraged to take part and help in community projects and perhaps be paid to do so, provided social distancing was kept and the work was suitable and in the local area, working for town councils on the things that need doing in a community. She suggested that many are very computer literate and they could help keep local community social media and communication channels to keep up to date with content and information.

One of our members in Manchester suggested going through your contact lists on phones, computers, address books and we all have them, those big books full of business cards, removing all the out of date, defunct, or just irrelevant contacts from these lists, keeping the relevant ones and picking out the key ones and start calling them to renew relationships, update information and in some cases just have a chat.

The same can be said for a member in Exeter who is slowly going through all his filing cabinets and getting rid of the out of date and no longer useful paper that he’s collected over the years, the same approach can be applied to stock rooms and computers, something I can agree with, having just deleted 17 out of date and no longer useful files from my desktop computer.

It looks like we have at least another month of lockdown, so use your time wisely and if you have any innovative ideas or thoughts please share them with us on