With precautionary measures now in place to contain the coronavirus, large events have been cancelled across the globe such as the Geneva Motor Show and the London Book Fair. Here in the UAE, schools have been closed, sports fixtures put on hold and UAE citizens and residents have been advised not to travel.
As a result the negative impact of the Covid-19 outbreak spread is being felt across numerous industries. The drop in global passenger numbers is set to hit the aviation sector with losses of between $63 billion and US$113bn depending on how the virus is contained, according to the International Air Transport Association. A separate study found the virus outbreak could cost the business travel industry $46.6bn a month, according to a February poll of 401 companies conducted by the Global Business Travel Association.
Like many in my business network, I have seen my full calendar of events, travel plans and speaking engagements dwindle to almost nothing. Though the outbreak could be discouraging for business owners, especially those in the event and travel industries, this is actually a time entrepreneurs can take advantage of to enhance and develop their businesses. Here's how:
Change your strategy
The Covid-19 outbreak is an eye-opener for many business owners, shedding a light on areas of weakness as well as opportunities they could be missing out on. Use this slower period to gather your team together, either over email or through video conferencing calls, to evaluate your business performance so far, Next decide how to enhance your product or service to help protect it from any future crises.
Develop your skills
With the sudden cancellation of so many meetings and events, I find myself with a few more hours to myself during the working day. While you might be tempted to spend this extra time catching up on your favourite TV shows, I suggest using the extra hours to acquire new skills. Learn more about the industry you are in or seek inspiration from other sectors. Webinars and online classes are a great option for you and your team to learn and develop without jeopardising your health. Alternatively, catch up on your reading and explore new genres related to your business that could expand your horizon and introduce you to new perspectives.
Clean up your office
We usually wait for the slow summer period to declutter our offices but this year we've started the process sooner. This is a great time to free up storage space, reorganise your files, manage subscriptions and evaluate your equipment.
Enhance your customer experience
Slow periods provide an opportunity to evaluate how your company interacts with its clients and how you could step up your service. Consider ways to reach them faster, effectively and more conveniently. It may be a good time to seek their feedback on ways to improve your business through online surveys and focus groups.
Relax and recover
If you’ve had a busy period and have not had a chance to unwind, then do so now. Several medical studies reveal how stress and creativity are correlated. From personal experience, I can never be creative when I’m overwhelmed with work. Use this period to meditate, practice your hobbies, read and, most importantly, catch up on sleep. A recovered mind is a creative mind.
If you haven’t ramped up your online presence, now is the time to do so. If applicable, shift your marketing efforts online and consider offering your product or service digitally. A friend recently started offering her seminars online. By doing so she not only avoided financial disruption from cancellations over coronavirus fears, she also managed to grow her audience as people from other countries were able to join her online seminars, in turn expanding her network and boosting her revenue.
The Covid-19 outbreak has led to dented profits, cancelled events and disrupted business performance. Don’t let the slow period daunt you, instead make the most of it.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi