Business owners are concerned about what to expect with the lingering of the COVID-19 pandemic. MaryFash, a business consultant in the United Kingdom, sheds more light on how businesses can take advantage of this period.
What should business owners do at this time, during the pandemic?
It depends on what business you have. Either way, whatever business you have as a business owner defines what you should be doing right now.
For some businesses, the pandemic could mean the silent season. What does this season mean to you?
I was saying, you should try to identify if your business is the necessity right now. Things that are necessary are things like food. People will pay for food and things that people can develop themselves with because people have a lot of time, staying at home. For my business, for example, being able to get clients that want to develop their business at this moment now that they're at home. So, I help them and say this situation what you can do as a small business owner, think of what people are looking for at the moment.
Can your business supply or provide this service? If not, that doesn't mean you should sit on both of your hands. Go back to your books, look inwards on how you can improve your business. How can you prepare so that when the lockdown is lifted we can come back and grow?
So, a lot of businesses I have been working with are event planing businesses. So, for example nobody is doing events at the moment, but what you can do is keep making awareness of what you can do. Clients can't hold weddings or events because of the lockdown or social distancing.
Put yourself out there and say we can support you, contact us today so we can help you. You can speak to your vendors, facilitate the moves. Like I have a client whose wedding was supposed to have been in March. So, we had to work together to move their wedding. I had to call the vendors. Now a lot of people are doing events over zoom.
But now they told us only 10 people in the service can be there. So people can cover and share with their relatives or family friends and things like that. So, to me it just seems like God wants us to improve in every area of our lives personally, business wise, spiritually, physically everything.
To me, this is an opportunity to build yourself. If what your are selling or the service you have is not a necessity, it doesn't mean you relax. Cause guess what? This lockdown is going to be lifted. It's not going to be forever. So you don't want the lockdown to be over and you're still behind where you were before the lockdown happened.
What changed?. You need to grow. Just because you are silent at the moment and your business is silent doesn't mean your business will remain silent. Keep doing something. And other businesses, educate us. Let us even know more about what you do. So, that when the lockdown is over, we will remember who we saw on Instagram or who we saw making noise. We will come back to you. Another thing you can do is, communicate with your customers. Check on them genuinely not because you want to make money out of them.
I send mails to people on my mail list to just check on them and see how they are doing and I was shocked that people actually responded to me and it is good to actually know. Don't make your relationship transactional all the time. Genuinely check on them.
After this lockdown people will remember who checked on them. People will remember who actually looked out for them, giving them tips on how to overcome this situation. When it comes to business, it is more than just selling and selling. It is time to make yourself an authority in your Industry. What can you do so we can get to know more about what you do? Educate us.
This can happen by you blogging for us, giving tips on how to do things. I was talking to my client, she's a makeup artist and I told her, we are supposed to have a master class in May, physical class. So, I said what can we do? Bring your class online. And I'm so happy that most of my clients listen and act on what I advise them. Now she's having a master class on makeup every day. Because I said, look, I do things like this, interviews online, speaking engagements online and I want to look good but guess what? I don't know how to do that cause I'm not a makeup artist. So, you should come and teach us, the basic fundamentals, the tools that we need to do what we do and still look good. We need it. Because we are still going to work. We are working form home. We have conferences all the time.
But she's doing it and she's having people pay for it. So, she's still making money in this pandemic. It might not be the same amount she would charge in a physical class but she's making money. People that are looking for jobs, for example.
I have a business partner and she's a career coach. So, when everybody says there's no money, nobody is hiring you for jobs, there's no job. It's okay, but what can you do to get to that point where you will be hireable? Prepare your CV, get to know what jobs you are going to prepare yourself for. I took a course with her recently but she trained me because I want to have more skills. If people are not hiring you now doesn't mean. When the lockdown is over people are going to be looking staff. After lockdown is not when you start looking for how to do your CV or how to prepare for interviews. So, career coaches need to be booming right now.
To me it is about assessing the situation. My product or service line, is it a necessity in this pandemic period? If it is, then let us know why we need to come and spend our money on you. Show your value. It is not about just selling. When you share your value, people will drop money because it is value that sells. And if you think your business is not a necessity right now, be building inward. Look inward, what can you do better? I was telling my friend that I'm cutting off some costs on operational ads. I've looked through my business finances and I'm cutting some things off. Before, I didn't actually have that time to look into my business.
All the money just keeps going. But I've had time to check and ask, this cost do I really need it? Is there an alternative and I cut them out. Before, I didn't have such. Now I've created more programs than when we didn't have a lockdown. I always tell my followers and clients. The problem is not the problem, the problem is how you react to the problem.
That's it. Yes, pandemic has happened, get over it. What can you do to leverage? Don't keep crying. There's no point crying over spilled milk. The thing is, what can you do basically? Yes, coronavirus is here, it is bad, but we have to keep living. Just because this happened doesn't mean your life or business has to end that way. So whatever it is that you do as a business, this is the time to start improving your process, your system and building on it
Is this a good time to go into business? And secondly what kind of business should people go into at this particular time?
Basically, people are looking for things. For example someone sent me a mail and she broke down how I can make a face mask and I'm not a tailor. She literally broke it down. So, I don't have to be a tailor. All you have to do is know the right thing you need for a mask. Give a tailor the right requirements and they will make it for you and you'll see that. That's a necessity. This is just an instance.
Now the question about if this is the right time to go into business. Again, it depends on the business. There's something I'll be launching which is called monetize your skill. Something you have that people don't have at the moment. So, one of my clients came complaining to me that there's no money and her boss isn't paying her because business is not open and there's no money coming in. And I got frustrated of her complaint and I know this person because she has accumulated a lot of skills that she paid for to learn and here you are crying. And I was like, do you know what you can do? All this experience you've gathered, all the skills you paid for, this is the time for them to work.
For example, she knows how to make soap, washing liquid soap. So, I told to have a WhatsApp class because in Nigeria WhatsApp class sells. Have a WhatsApp class and give it a price and tell them you want to teach them how to make soap. So, they can make money as well. Because guess what, we are living at home and we keep washing and we will run out of soap. We still need to buy new soap. If you are supplying for 10 hours on your streets that's an income for you in this pandemic. This is just an example.
Another example is you are working and you know how to write a CV and by the time the lockdown is lover, companies are going to be looking for people to hire again. If you are good at developing CV's, create a WhatsApp class for CV making.
You can charge 500 naira and gather 15-20 people. Before you know it, that's 50 thousand naira in just 2 hours.
Do you know how to design? Then train people how to use Canva because some of this small business owners don’t have the funds for big graphic designers and they charge a lot. Canva is free but if you hold a class to teach us how we can use canva and create our own business templates that's money. The thing is, just look for what people are looking for. Now, people are idle. People are at home doing nothing. So, what can they gain while at home? I always say monetize your skills. This was how I started.
Last year, I was going on maternity leave then I found out I wasn't entitled to my company's statutory pay for maternity leave. So, I had to apply for government maternity leave. And I realized the money was five hundred and ninety pounds per month. And that's crap. And as a business analyst, you get much more money a month. So, I started worrying.
The unborn child and the one I already had. How can I help my home and support my husband? I was having sleepless nights. Then it came to me, all the experience I've had back in Nigeria as an executive assistant in the ministry of agriculture, I have done secretary job before, operational manager job. So, I have all this experiences, how can I put them to use? Then it came to me, use what you have to get what you want. I'm sure Nigerians are familiar with that statement. And that was how I started my virtual assistant business.
And in that month, I was able to have more clients and I even had people that put me on retainer, which means they are paying me every month. Month in month out, I was getting paid. Because I used the skills that I have. I have to go and learn anything else. It's just all about putting myself out there. So, if you look around you, you'll find what people are looking for. If you are good with admin, you can do a virtual assistant job.
A lot of people are doing it across nations. You can see a virtual assistant in China helping someone in America. If you are a graphic artist, you can be a virtual graphic artist. There's a website called fiverr.com. If you are good at English, you can proof read for people and edit for people. This pandemic has shown a lot of people that they are not as good as they claim they are . Businesses are looking for data. You can collect data for businesses and you charge per hour. There are so many things. My friends ask, Mary can you do this and I'll tell them I charge oh. I may not charge you full price but my time is money. I love Nigerians because WhatsApp is their house.
You can learn and teach anything on WhatsApp. So, look for what people are looking for at the moment. And a lot of Nigerians like asking for acquisition of skills. So, what can you teach? What can you learn yourself that you can now teach people? So people have to develop themselves this period and another issue is they say they don't have funds and jobs are not coming in but I bet you, if someone sees value in what you are saying or giving out, they will pay.
I know of a client that booked me recently and talked about getting affordable this and that. And I said it is because you've not heard me speak before. So I gave her the price and she didn't negotiate and that was it . So if you are giving value and value is about identifying your clients, the problems they are facing and you being able to provide solution to that problem, that is valid.
People will see it and they will pay for it. If people say there's no money, give them an offer to pay in installments but make sure there are guidelines in place to ensure payment. To me not every one can do business and not all businesses will survive this pandemic but what I can advise is identify the problems around you and solve them. And people will pay for it. Your product or service may have value but because you have not communicated the value to them, they are not willing to pay. So, you have to learn to communicate that value to your audience and know your audience. When you talk to the right audience and communicate the values, they will definitely pay.