Granger Forson discusses the impact of the pandemic on business practices and the best ways to future-proof our franchises from further shocks
The COVID-19 pandemic taught franchisees some very difficult lessons about how quickly things can change, regardless of how successful they were previously.
Most businesses were impacted negatively in some way, with some forced to close, but there were others that survived and even thrived.
But as life steadily returns to normal, now is a good opportunity to reflect on the lessons learnt during the pandemic and craft a better approach to building back even stronger. Here are my five biggest business takeaways from COVID-19, and advice to help other franchisees position their businesses for future success.
1. Cash in the bank is safety
Having a cash reserve is something that many successful businesses have in common and a crucial aspect of the financial wellbeing of your company, especially in times of uncertainty.
Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, always insisted that his business must run with a cash reserve of one year’s expenses in the bank, and there is a good reason why.
Having this cash reserve to cover the cost of operations will allow you the chance to experiment and find solutions to maintain the business and help it scale, no matter what the market – or the world – throws at you.
Make sure you always run your business with at least six months’ worth of operating cash in the bank.
2. Your people are your greatest assets
The rise of human capital as a company’s single-most important asset for value creation has been happening for decades, but the pandemic has helped us to see that putting human capital first is just good business.
Franchisees who treat their employees as important assets and nurture their talent increase their chances of success. Making employees feel valued and developing their talents not only maximises their potential but also ensures they’re more engaged, productive and loyal.
If you invest in your people by developing their skills, inspiring them and leading them – not just managing them – you’ll build a company culture where your employees will help you through difficult times.
3. Innovate your product or service
Our customers’ needs are continually changing and, as a franchisee, you’ll always be thinking of new ideas that could help them.
However, we don’t always have time to implement our ideas, or experiment to find out if they truly work.
So, as your ideas are generated, put them in your ideas bank. If difficult market situations arise, you’ll have a list to turn to, allowing you to find the innovations that you need to drive through.
If you’re not always thinking innovatively, you’ll find it hard to create new solutions as the market is toughening around you.
4. Evolve your marketing approach
The pandemic showed us that, in times of crisis, a customer’s interaction with a company can leave a lasting impression on their attitude towards that business, lingering long after the crisis has passed.
As well as continually innovating your products and services, you should be looking for ways to evolve your approach to marketing and create new ideas on how to reach your audience.
Ask yourself: where are your customers now? What are they now doing? Who and what are they listening to and reading? Store all the ideas these questions generate into your ideas bank. Then, when the market changes, you will be armed with a wealth of new concepts to incorporate into your marketing strategy.
5. Create a culture of business joy
As The Great Resignation has revealed, people value their work life enjoyment as much as their salary. We need to ensure that our people feel connected and valued if we want them to join us in working towards business growth, and we can do this by creating a culture of business joy.
There are three elements to achieving this: grow your people, deliver excellence, and scale your business.
You can grow your people through training, coaching (not telling), challenging them constructively to improve, and guiding them to become better.
Deliver excellence by guiding your people to constantly improve the customer experience so your customers become raving fans, and scale your business by designing it to function at its next pillar of growth.
As a business grows, the complexity of leading it changes, so we need to clearly map out what the next stage looks like, develop our existing people for future roles, and find new people that meet our values to fill the rest.
These lessons can be hard to learn and, in some cases, even harder to implement, but one positive to take from the pandemic is the wake-up call it provided to all business owners, including franchisees.
By reflecting on lessons learned from this period of great uncertainty, franchisees can be better equipped to deal with future scenarios and position themselves for the greatest chances of success.
Granger Forson is the owner of BizSmart Gloucestershire.