If there’s one thing about business life, it’s to expect the unexpected. Situations can arise which are out of your control and learning to problem solve and adapt are skills that define entrepreneurs.
While COVID-19 has brought many changes and challenges to everyday life, these same changes and challenges might just represent unexpected opportunities for those newly interested in starting a business.
Remarkably, they may actually mean that the challenges of starting a new business are more easy to overcome than they might have been in the past, because customers have different needs than in their pre-virus lives, or different and more flexible expectations of how they want to access a product or service.
Home working – in some shape or form – is likely to be with most of us for many months to come; in fact some are predicting that there will never really be a return to full-time office life for a great many businesses, large and small. Many well known big businesses are already stating that they will reduce their reliance on having ‘bricks and mortar’ premises and allow their staff to work more and more from home even after restrictions are lifted, so it’s unlikely that we will go back to the old ways of doing business. This new world of business could be ideal timing to take advantage of home working and progress your business idea.
It’s not just home working that’s on the rise. More people are now engaging with online services from ordering food, to making payments and ‘attending’ consultations. It’s no longer essential to have premises in a town or city centre as many products or services can be purchased online. Perhaps this could be a good time to implement your business idea or turn that skill or hobby into a business.
Lockdown living has also radically changed our attitudes to how we look, and how we fit health and fitness into our lives: sales of exercise bikes and cycles rocketed, people swapped their daily makeup for investments in skincare to rock the more natural look, and online orders of fitness equipment spiked. Alex Feechan of Findra Clothing (pictured) observed that many of us took advantage of the focus on exercise and a new appreciation of the outdoors to change up their performance fitness gear; conversely more sitting around at home has also meant more comfort-seeking – loungewear has become the new buzzword from those high street fashion retailers, and elastic waists are our friends! These changes of attitude all represent new opportunities for people seeking the next big idea.
Another big change is how we have learned to access leisure and entertainment services in new ways – hello, online quizzing and Zoom exercise classes! If you were tempted to consider starting a personal training business but thought you needed to operate from a fancy fitness suite, there’s now lots of evidence to show that your potential customers have become very comfortable accessing online sessions instead.
And if the cost of office premises has put you off in the past, then the new working from home could be the opportunity you need for a low-cost start-up. Technology means that its possible to run a business from home and with video technology you can even hold your meetings online too, cutting down every-day commutes or longer distance travel to meet with clients. And where in the past, ‘traditional’ expectations of business included an office, a landline and staff, today’s customers are more comfortable than ever communicating with businesses online or by mobile phone.
Another way customers’ expectations have changed is around ‘office hours’ – those of us with children may have had to change when – as well as how and where – we work, in order to also provide them with support as they access different types of home-schooling. In turn this means a more open and accommodating attitude to others who are in the same boat. We all want to present ourselves in the most professional and business-like way – but even so we are also more willing than ever to accept the blurring of the lines between home and work: we can all be a bit more forgiving of the occasional ‘little intruders’ on our zoom meetings or understand that an appointment time has to be scheduled to avoid a clash with a schooling commitment.
It’s not just the location of where we work which has seen huge change. The health impacts of the pandemic have been severe leading to significant loss of life and changes in the ways our healthcare services are delivered. These changes have seen new processes and requirements implemented in areas such as deep cleaning and personal protective equipment. In addition to placing a greater value on the ability to source necessary supplies locally, as overseas businesses are facing considerable disruption to their delivery routes.
Undoubtedly the virus is having an effect on the way we live and work, but it could also be your opportunity to seize the day and start to move those business aspirations into reality.
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