How to get your business ready for the restart

Evening Workshop

In this article: The COVID-19 pandemic has meant a lot of businesses haven’t been open, but now’s the time to start getting ready for the restart. The Garage Inspector, Andy Savva explains how

Times have been challenging, every business has felt the pinch of either not being able to open or seeing business shrink hugely during the restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But those restrictions are going to be lifted at some point, and when they are you need to be ready to restart your business and start attracting customers back. It won’t necessarily be easy and the market may have changed considerably compared to pre-lockdown, but there’s a lot businesses owners can do. The Garage Inspector Andy Savva has five simple pieces of advice that could help you jump start your return to work.

Get the simply things sorted

Closing your business temporarily is always painful, you’re going to lose your revenue stream but still have costs that need to be paid, although there is some help out there for most in the short-term. But you can use this period as strategic time to plan for the future.

Spruce up your business, either by making changes to the exterior of the garage, reception or even the workshop. Refreshing your business will keep you focused, hopefully make you feel better but also it will be a great way to welcome back your customers and team members to a new, far more impressive garage for the re-opening.

Take advantage of the time by planning your comeback, and strategies that will help you get your business back on its feet.

Think about your premises; the signage, the corporate image, the look of the reception and workshop. Try and work on a small business plan, a marketing plan, things that you don’t usually think you have time for. It's important to show leadership and get on with it. You aren’t isolated, you're not alone, the whole world's in the same boat, so it’s important to get the basics right.

Start communicating

Here’s a quick word of advice – if you’re not actively staying in touch with your customers, then sadly, they might not have that strong a bond with your business. So, what happens when you re-open, are you certain these customers will come flocking back? Staying in touch will make communication much more natural when you’re ready to re-open.

Look at the MOTs

Manually send out reminders and even pick up the phone, and make customers aware that, yes, they have a six-month MOT extension, but are they comfortable with the road worthiness of their car. There's going to be a lot of cars out there that are probably not road worthy, so you've got to be proactive and bring the business in.

Focus your business

It might be time to start thinking about specialising in a specific area where you can generate greater profits.

If you become efficient at what you're doing, it takes you half the time to complete jobs, creating capacity, while at the same time you've more chance of a first time fix because you have an intricate knowledge of what you’re dealing with. That can also help elevate your name in the industry and attract more customers.

Some people may argue that you should, diversify and offer more services, but the problem with that is you could end up offering only an average service to customers because you don't have the skillset, training or equipment, while someone else down the road is going to be doing it better than you.

You might also want to consider drawing up a business plan, a loyalty programme, a new website, a corporate brochure and investing in a modern garage management system.

Be prepared for a different market

Before COVID-19 made its debut, the chances are you had your hands full running the day-to-day activities of your business and didn’t have time to sit down and think about improving it. Then your regular customers would book their vehicles for servicing, repairs and MOT’s, but things may be very different for many of us when we eventually get back to work, and previously loyal-regulars may start looking elsewhere.

I don’t believe demand will be as high in the next 12-18 months and the new norm will be very different. So, if business isn’t as busy as it was before the coronavirus the answer could be to to look at increasing your charges otherwise you may find things difficult as your fixed costs will still remain the same.

So, what will you do then? In order to bounce back, you should consider trying to work on new marketing strategies that will help you to bring back your loyal clients and earn you new ones, even if you need to adjust your pricing structure.

For the latest information, advice and support please visit the IMI’s dedicated COVID-19 pages