Coronavirus has demanded a level of introspection from businesses that might, in turn, have uncovered some uncomfortable truths.

  • Are we properly set up for remote working?
  • Has the lockdown shown our business to be under or over staffed? 
  • How can we adapt our offering, so it remains relevant during lockdown?
  • Are we doing enough to look after the mental and physical health of employees?
  • Do we have an adequate ‘rainy day fund’ so we can ride out the storm?

These are common questions during this unique, challenging period. Aspects of your company’s structure that are easy to take for granted – everything from the communications software you use through to nurturing a culture that is supportive and open – are now proving essential as firms look to navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

To put a more positive spin on it, complacency is being vigorously shaken out of businesses. And this certainly extends to a business’s customer-base, which might have changed significantly since the start of 2020.

To explore this issue in more depth, One World Express recently commissioned an independent survey of more than 900 decision-makers within UK businesses to find out how they are responding to the challenges coronavirus has presented.

This timely research, which was published in Yahoo News this week, found that 42% of UK businesses have closed temporarily due to the pandemic (as of the start of May). Moreover, 48% have furloughed staff and 26% have made redundancies.

Perhaps more striking was the admission from 45% of companies that the current crisis has made them realise they are too reliant on one particular marketplace for the majority of their revenue.

Positively, businesses are taking action. Over two fifths (43%) of the companies we surveyed said they had made changes to their product or service to make it better fit into the way people are working and living during lockdown.

Furthermore, business leaders are evidently taking bold steps to expand their customer-base at present; 24% said they are now selling to a different demographic of customer (for example, pivoting from a B2B to a B2C model). What’s more, 57% of companies are considering expansion into new territories outside the UK as a means of minimising the negative impact of the COVID-19 on their cashflow.

This raises some interesting challenges. After all, expanding into new global markets might appear counterintuitive at a time of global lockdowns and increasing barriers to trade.

However, the ability to sell goods to a wider, more varied customer-base is also rightly seen to be a huge differentiator at present – those who can sell outside of the UK are giving themselves far greater opportunity to protect or increase their cashflow.

In the weeks and months to come, many UK businesses will be taking brave action to put themselves in a stronger, more robust position to weather the COVID-19 storm. And, more generally, private sector organisations are likely to emerge from the pandemic having answered some very tough questions about themselves, which may also pave the way to brighter futures once this crisis has passed.