These are unprecedented times for business in the UK. We have purposely kept our blog quiet during these past few weeks for fear of creating “just another coronavirus post”, but as the government moves to ease the lockdown somewhat, it’s time for businesses to take stock.

Working from home has become the new normal for many people, and you’re probably already well versed in applications that help you do that.

Zoom as come under the spotlight for many reasons, with people hailing it as the perfect way for businesses to stay in touch. However, there’s also been scrutiny over its security credentials with many suffering from “Zoombombing” where people would join calls uninvited.

The system had gained widespread use because it was so easy to use, but this ease of use was to be its downfall. A link to someone’s account meant anyone with it could join in and start chatting.

They’ve now made it much more secure with passwords (yes, can you believe you didn’t need one to join?!) and a “waiting room” where you can vet people before letting them in.

Zoom suddenly became worth more than American Airlines. Strange times indeed.

Google and Microsoft upped their game

Zoom was the new kid on the block, leaving Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, two extremely mature bit woefully under-featured systems in the dust, but then it changed.

Suddenly, Teams became easier to use. Not as easy as Zoom, but they’re getting there.

I’ve always admired Microsoft for its ability to turn on a penny, and here it did exactly that.

Why spend more on a system like Zoom when Teams was built into many people’s Microsoft 365 account?

Well, the obvious answer was that Teams was a faff, but then it suddenly got a heck of a lot easier.

The same with Google Hangouts, now renamed “Meet” and appearing with a big arrow pointing to it within Gmail.

Google Meet is suddenly easy to use

I used this the other day. It worked.

To be honest, I’m tempted to get rid of Zoom and save myself ten quid a month.

Tough times bring innovation

Just like Microsoft and Google, small businesses have had to innovate.

All the cafes shut overnight, so what do they do?

The small business grant helped a few thousand companies, and they could always furlough their staff and save money that way, but it’s likely rents will still have to be paid. Money is still falling out of the business.

So, many have become take-aways and delivery-based, providing the food and drink they always did, but bringing it straight to your door.

Other businesses have taken advantage of the situation in other ways.

Wholesalers, who would normally sell to the restaurant and catering trade, are now selling directly to a hungry public who are now buying and cooking in bulk.

It’s a small pond, at the moment…

At the moment, not everyone is doing it, and so there’s room for more, but eventually, it’s going to change as even more businesses cotton on to this new way of working.

Of course, we could all end up coming out of lockdown in a month or two, everything gets back to normal, and pubs (well, those that are left) open up and resume business.

But what’s more likely is that people won’t swarm out again, and will instead get used to this new way of living and cook more at home, have more deliveries and maybe not go out as much.

Restaurants, pubs and cafes are going to have to adjust, and that means being more online.

The new wave of online business

There is no end to the methods of getting your business online and no end of companies willing to help you to do it (for a fee), but there’s every likelihood you’ve already got some sort of presence on the Internet.

It might be just through a Facebook page, or you might have a very simple website.

Let’s face it, for small businesses that serve a local area, all you really need is a brochure page telling everyone where you are.

But things have changed, and if you want to deal with people now and into the future, you’re probably going to have to up your online game.

To do this, you’ll need:

  • A website that can handle requests and orders
  • A back-end system to manage those orders
  • A website that is found when people are searching for products

In many cases, this is the same as it’s always been, however, now there’s more competition because you can’t rely on footfall.

If your entire business was based on people coming into your premises, that’s 100% of them gone overnight.

“It’ll never work for me!”

Of course, I’m not going to say that it’ll work for everyone, it just won’t, but for many businesses, it could be the making of a brand-new future.

Over the past few weeks, you may have had time to reconsider how your business works and whether you can run it differently. You may decide to do something completely different.

Whatever your thoughts, we want to help, so very soon we’ll be setting up an entirely new section on our website to help people make the most of the economy as we emerge from this crisis and face an unsure future.