Keep calm and carry on

What are the lessons learned from the impact Covid-19 has had on business, and how should we change?

Google tracks interest in search terms over time giving them a score of anywhere between zero and 100. These scores have no quantitative meaning; a score of 70 on a particular day doesn’t mean that only 70 people searched for a term, it might be 100,000 or 100 million – Google is simply tracking the popularity of a search term over a defined period.

The term ‘business continuity’ scored a steady but decidedly unremarkable 25 for the past 12 months. That was until February 23-29 when the trajectory moved to 32. Jump forward to March 8-14 and it was charting 74. Then, at March 15-21 ‘business continuity’ hits a Google ranking of 100.

Track Google Trends for ‘coronavirus’ and the line follows almost exactly the same trajectory. The difference is that it and Covid-19 start to trend a week earlier, jumping up in Google’s rankings one week ahead, but ultimately ending up at the same point – at 100 – on March 15-21.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to chart society and businesses’ reaction to a major pandemic in quite this way,” Elton Boocock, managing director of cloud-based business management tool Business Pilot, said. “And it’s quite staggering. You can see public concern growing and business confidence falling away.

“You can also see that business continuity planning is an afterthought for far too many businesses. If you’re googling it a few days before a crisis, you aren’t going to be prepared. It’s caught far too many companies in this sector cold.”

The impact that Covid-19, and the ensuing lockdown, has had on window and door retail sales was also tracked by Business Pilot.

Its industry barometer charted a positive start to the year with a post-election return of consumer confidence. It was clear, however, that Covid-19 was hanging menacingly over the industry by the end of February with leads tailing off towards the end of the month and contributing to a month-on-month fall on January of 16%.

“There was evidence to suggest that tougher times were coming but not everyone was paying attention – and that meant that they didn’t act until it was in a sense too late,” Elton said.

“Things were always going to be exceptionally difficult. There are, however, businesses out there that reduced the impact of restrictions through planning and building-in increased agility within their operations.”

The challenges for installers during the downturn have been clear from the start. This includes concern about the integrity of their supply chains and the complexities of delivering work within the limitations of restrictions on movement.

“It was interesting to see how consumers reacted,” Elton said. “Some were ‘you are still coming aren’t you?’ while others were, ‘we don’t want you on site’.

“Those aren’t things that are easy for anyone to manage.

“It is, however, less difficult if you have an agile operational set up and the flexibility to access and manage your systems from wherever you may end up being.”

Business Pilot allows installers to do this. It’s been designed to give installers complete visibility of each and every aspect of their operation from lead through to aftercare and everything in between, including installation scheduling.

Drag-and-drop capability, links to drawings, specifications and images, site video, supplier orders, cost of install, helicopter and detailed analysis of your profitability – anything is accessible from anywhere.

Every change is tracked and duplicated throughout the system making day-to-day management of your operation simpler but also delivering new insight into your business, the company said. This includes a ‘true’ indication of profitability per job with the factors that have contributed to it, for example pricing, time on site or call backs.

“The really important thing is that Business Pilot is natively ‘cloud’,” Elton said. “It’s unique in that it’s the only dedicated installer business management tool that has been designed for the cloud. There’s no requirement to VPN in to prove who you are – just a single secure log-in.

“We’re using the same technologies as your accountancy software probably is, if you’re running Xero or Quick Books or email and office programmes (Office 365).

“Your business is there on multiple servers, each mirroring the other, backed up over and over again and synchronised in the cloud. This not only offers incredible business resilience but also speed and almost limitless accessibility. Imagine you’re on a motorway and the minute the traffic builds up a new road opens out in front of you.

“With a VPN connection it’s the opposite: everything is converging into a single line. If you and your team are trying to get onto your system at the same time it becomes slow, a sort of virtual traffic jam.

“If it breaks you have very limited resilience as you’re accessing a single iteration of a single programme, even if you’re accessing it remotely.

“You’ve seen what a broken-down caravan on the hard shoulder does to a motorway on a bank holiday. Well, it’s the same: everything grinds to a halt.

“On a natively cloud platform, you seamlessly switch to another server. That lane opens out in front of you and no one else is on it; however busy the motorway gets, everyone has their own lane.”

There are other reasons why the flexibility to run your installation business from anywhere makes a lot of sense. For example, there were for more than 15,000 business fires between April 2018 and 2019.

If it’s not fire, it’s flood. Insurance analysts at PwC have estimated that damage caused by Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara in February this year could cost up to £425 million in business claims.

“It could be something much smaller or less significant but still highly disruptive,” Elton said. “Your broadband or phones may be down for a day, your server crashes, or power could be out.

“If your business is there in the cloud, your business carries on regardless because it’s there, backed up, secure and accessible by your team from wherever they are.”

Business Pilot at a glance:

  • Cloud-based – access it on your desktop, laptop, or phone.
  • Access powerful management information – understand employee performance, costs of installation, and your profitability on each and every job.
  • Web-to-lead integration/lead management.
  • Sales appointment setting.
  • Link documents to jobs including drawings, site surveys, video and photos.
  • Step-by-step lead-to-contract management, including follow-ups and user and system notes.
  • Link purchase orders to deliveries and schedule boards. Guaranteeing that product is always in for the start of the job.
  • Log guarantees and manage service calls.
  • Financial reporting with export to multiple platforms.