5 steps to Get Your Business Ready to Re-open.

The COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for entrepreneurs, most of whom have been forced to slow down, or stop entirely, their activities in response to the public health crisis.

Many of us are feeling cautious optimism towards the recovery that is beginning to take shape.

But that recovery will require preparation and needs to be managed carefully.

To help you successfully navigate the recovery, we have put together a five-step framework to help you think about the steps required and keys to success.

1. Health and safety: Go beyond social distancing

Now more than ever, providing a safe workplace is foundational to being able to serve our customers.

At this point we have all seen the tape on the floor, and the plexiglass in front of cashiers, at grocery stores.

It’s important to recognize that health and safety goes beyond these obvious efforts. It will affect every part of your business, for example:

  • How will you ensure social distancing in common spaces? What about when employees arrive for work?
  • How will you ensure that the fridge and microwave are sanitized between use?
  • How will you deal with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID in your workplace?
  • How will you communicate this information to your employees?

All of this needs to be determined before you can safely resume operations.

We have prepared a best practice document to help you get started with health and safety. You can download it by clicking here.

We would also encourage you to visit your provincial public health agency’s website to review region and industry specific recommendations.

2. Make production decisions

One of the main challenges for businesses in a crisis is to realign offerings to client needs.

Goods or services that may have sold before the pandemic, may no longer be top of mind, or customers may not need them in the quantity they did in the past.

As a result, your first priority is to try to understand customer demand over the short- and medium-term.

Once you estimate the market for various products, the next step is to prioritize products that you can deliver and that will most positively impact cash flow.

Ask yourself:

  • Which of your customers will pay most quickly?
  • What can be sold utilizing existing inventory?
  • What product mix makes sense given the current environment?

You will likely want to limit your offering, at first, to ensure your cash doesn’t get tied up in unneeded inventory, finished goods or activities that may be slow to convert to cash.

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3. Assess risks and develop contingencies

With a clear idea of what products or services you want to offer, your next step is to complete a risk assessment to identify any issues that could impact your delivery.

We suggest you make a list of the key resources you need, then determine the risks that could endanger your production or delivery of services.

For example:

  • Are you dependent on a supplier that is in danger of closing?
  • Do certain employees have skills that are essential to delivery?
  • Do you have a piece of equipment that is required to service your customers?

The idea is to identify your risks, then, look for ways to mitigate them.

If you’re worried about supplies, consider identifying alternate suppliers who could be used in case of disruption.

Crosstrain employees so that operations will not be impacted if certain individuals can’t come in to work.

Having a plan in place for breakdown of essential equipment and technology is critical. It might be as simple as knowing who to call.

4. Restart your operations

When restarting your operations, as mentioned before, your priority should be implementing strong health and safety protocols. In addition to making sure employees are safe and comfortable coming in to work, they minimize chance of an outbreak that can further impact operations.

From there, you’ll be able to outline your operational plan.

  • What will you produce/offer?
  • What material and labour are required?
  • What training is required to be able to operate and minimize risk due to absenteeism?

We’ve created several free tools to help you create your operational plan.

Finally, you’ll want to align your operational and financial plan. There is no sense having an operational plan that you can’t afford.

Aligning your operational and cash flow plans is likely to be an iterative process as you adjust your operating plan to reflect your financial constraints.

The key is to restart operations carefully with a focus on preserving cash wherever possible.

5. Execute, monitor and refine

A plan has no value unless it is properly implemented. To ensure proper execution, we suggest holding two types of meetings.

The first is a daily problem-solving meeting, that’s focused on fulfillment.

This meeting will answer questions such as:

  • How did we do yesterday vs. plan?
  • What actions are required to close gaps?
  • What do we need to do today to be successful? (e.g., materials, logistics, etc.)

The second meeting, which would be held weekly, is to review results, identify improvement actions and update your operational and financial plans.

  • How did we do this week vs. plan?
  • What were the biggest issues impacting performance this week?
    • Did we have repetitive downtime due to lack of materials?
    • Did we have issues with customers waiting because we had problems finding stock in the back?
    • Did we waste time because our installation team had to return from the field when they didn’t have the right materials?

The goal is to find solutions to these problems, so they don’t recur, and performance improves week over week.

We also want to take this opportunity to validate and update our plans as necessary.

  • Do we need to update our forecast based on changes in demand or government announcements over what can open?
  • Is our risk assessment still valid? Do we have additional suppliers or employee skills for which we should develop contingencies?

With strong follow up you’ll be able to ensure that you are executing to your plan and that your plan remains appropriate, as the situation gradually recovers to the new normal.

Original article – https://www.bdc.ca/en/blog/pages/steps-manage-operations-covid19-recovery.aspx?utm_campaign=Covid19-In-Business–2020-06-17–EN%20&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua&elqcst=272&elqcsid=10159

google-search-tablet-mobile

How the Rise of the Local SEO Pack is Changing Digital Marketing

The local SEO pack, something that was once referred to as the local 7-pack and now the local 3-pack, is Google’s way of listing local businesses in search results. For a short time, Google listed 7 businesses for searches that implied the user was looking for a local result. Now, Google has trimmed this to just 3 listings and since the change, there have been advocates for and against the changes and lots of discussions about how these changes will influence local visibility and website traffic.

What has actually changed in the local SEO pack?

The actual changes in the local SEO pack are relatively straightforward. There is now only three businesses displayed, while there was once as many as seven. Prior to the changes, Google would sometimes display 3, 5, or 7, and there was no concrete answer as it differed depending on the search. Today, with just three listings being visible, there’s more competition than ever in local SEO.

Additionally, there are no business addresses or phone numbers displayed within the listings. There is only the name of the street where the business is located and in order to uncover more, the user will have to click on the listing. However, when they do so, this will also open up a page with a list of more than 20 competitors.

These changes ultimately affect all types of digital marketing. For instance, email marketing campaigns that reference local businesses and expect the searcher to easily be able to find that business through a Google search might have to rethink their approach. A business that was once ranked at the top of the local SEO pack might not be there today. Whether you’re using an email marketing agency or writing your emails yourself, the rise of the local SEO pack is changing the way we approach all types of digital marketing.

Digital marketing is starting to be centered around voice command

The rise of the local SEO pack is changing digital marketing but many are arguing it’s for the better. One of the changes is that it’s starting to be centered around voice commands. This is due to the rise of voice searches, which has become popularized by mobile devices.

Voice searches are when a user speaks a voice command, typically into a cell phone or tablet, and that voice search is automatically conducted by the device through the web browser. It’s one of the biggest trends of the modern age and how we optimize content for searchers who are using voice commands can differ.

This means that search engines and local businesses need to take natural speaking language into account what their site content and tags. How we say something out loud is different from how we would type it.

The rise of Chatbots

A chatbot is a relatively new thing but search engines like Microsoft Bing have already begun investing in this new trend. The way it works is that participating businesses will have a chat button next to their search engine listing. Should a user click on this button, a chat box will pop up where the user can begin asking questions to a chatbot.

At the moment, it’s used for basic questions such as whether a business accepts credit cards, if a reservation is available, and various other questions that can be answered through automated responses. This allows users to find answers faster than they would be able to if they had to read reviews, call, or email the company.

Proximity to the searcher

Another way that the local SEO pack is changing digital marketing is that proximity to the searcher is becoming a bigger factor in the local search algorithm. With GPS technology, devices can be tracked to an approximate location with better accuracy than ever before. These geo-targeted results allow search engines to estimate proximity with great accuracy and they have already begun utilizing this as a rank factor. In fact, in 2017, Moz found that a searcher’s proximity to a business is the number one ranking factor for the local SEO pack. This means that you can see different results based off your location within a city.

This feature alone can be great for businesses that are focused primarily on dragging foot traffic in their immediate area, but not so great for businesses that rely on attracting customers from a wider geographical area.

Conclusion

The rise of the local SEO pack is changing search engine optimization and digital marketing altogether. As local businesses compete to drive more customers and outrank their competitors in search engines, the ranking factors of local SEO become a bigger priority. The changes that Google, Bing, and other search engines are making to make local search engine results more effective have an impact across the array of digital marketing strategies.

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Impact of Cyber Security Threats on Small Businesses

There was a drastic rise in the volume and creativity of hacks with large enterprises such as Tesco Bank, Yahoo, and LinkedIn hitting the headlines as victims of cyber attacks. However, small businesses were not immune to these cyber attacks as well. While the likelihood of some types of cyber attacks is slim, the chances of a small enterprise recovering from an attack are much lower as opposed to large enterprises.

Security breaches can have unique impact on each company. Much depends on the industry in which an enterprise operates and the duration of the attack. For example, a data breach may have more dire consequences for the banking sector than the manufacturing industry. Here are the impacts of a security breach on small business.

Financial Losses

Cybercrime can have pronounced financial impact on small businesses than large enterprises. The economic impact of a breach on large enterprises can result in loss of millions. However, the monetary implications of a security breach on a large corporation are a blip on the radar due to their scale. It can cost a small business approximately $38,000 to recover from a single cyber attack. A single security breach could put you out of business.

Operational Disruption

Besides economic costs of a security breach, there are several intangible costs that a business can accrue after the occurrence of an attack. Businesses that rarely have resilience and continuity strategies often tend to underestimate the impact of operational disruption. An enterprise that already struggles to sustain itself may experience hardship in re-paying its debts. It is essential that smaller firms are protected with sufficient small business insurance to keep afloat in the event of an breach.

Fines

Financial losses may not be enough punishment. In fact, there is the likelihood of fines for enterprises that fail to adhere to the data protection legislation. Global authorities are considering strict adherence to data protection legislation. The European Parliament has proposed one of the most draconian measures for a privacy breach that will become effective from May 2018. Small enterprises will have to pay a fine of 20 million Euros for a privacy breach. That will threaten many budding enterprises with insolvency.

Data protection laws require businesses to secure all its confidential data. You may face regulatory sanctions if this data gets comprised either deliberately or accidentally. Therefore, it is crucial for every entrepreneur to deploy appropriate security measures to mitigate cyber attacks.

Theft

While a large financial institution may mitigate a cyber raid, defenses of budding enterprises are less sophisticated and easier to penetrate. As a result, small businesses have become a softer target for cyber attackers. While cyber attacks can result in monetary losses, stolen data can be a blow to a company, especially if the attacker shares your login credentials with the neighbors. For example, the value of stolen online auction accounts and login credentials in 2015 was approximately $1,400. The impact of data theft can be equally damaging. In fact, companies can lose their competitive advantage, years of effort, and copyrighted material.

Damaged Reputation

One of the most harmful impacts of a security breach can be the loss of stakeholder and customer trust. Many people are not willing to transact with a company that has been raided by hackers, especially if it failed to protect confidential customer data. That can result in devaluation of the brand that you took years to build. It could also translate into a loss of business. Damaged reputation may also make it hard for an enterprise to attract suppliers, investors, and top talent.

Cyber raids can be devastating even to the most resilient businesses. As such, it is critical for companies to mitigate potential security breaches accordingly. You can deploy security incident plan after an attack to manage the risks. It can help you clean up the compromised systems and reduce the impact of the attack. An incident response plan also helps restore your business in the shortest time possible. You can also mitigate the risks by investing in ongoing user training and awareness in your organization.

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How to Better Manage Your Small Business

When you are faced daily with a list of minor and major tasks to complete, it’s hard to find enough the hours in the day to get through it all. Don’t let the terrifying lists discourage your growth. What you need to do is step back and analyze your day to day activities and build a growth strategy. Start separating your daily tasks into these three categories.