Rachel Eade MBE, FRSA, Supply Chain Lead for BCRRE and Senior Technical Officer with the Digi-Rail project, continues sharing her thoughts on some of the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown on the SME community.
How to use the power of your networks during the Covid 19 period
Most of us are social beings and welcome the opportunity to meet people, share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and talk. And we love to do this especially if it’s about something we are passionate about, be it our hobbies, beliefs, our businesses, or our products and services. During this period of lockdown and self-isolation it’s one of the key activities the vast majority of us is missing. So how can we utilise our business networks to help us get through the period of lock down and to keep engaged, working and aware of the emerging opportunities?
- Log in with your trade member organisations and regular networks, most have established an on line community and offer e-news, chat, webinars and dial-in opportunities. LinkedIn is by far the most well-known and widely used professional network where you can follow and contribute to conversations across your direct network and through companies’ pages.
- Sign up to organisations you haven’t used before to receive their new and often free business alerts. These include The BCRRE Rail Alliance (railalliance.co.uk), many local Chambers of Commerce and the regional Growth Hubs, as well as trade associations for sectors you may not currently operate within. Close to home, here at Birmingham, the BCRRE Rail Alliance has opened its membership for free to its Silver level, offering online resources, events and community opportunities (check out www.railalliance.co.uk for details).
- Develop your short introduction – to your business and key offer/needs. This is your elevator pitch of 10-20 words about your company, services and products; what you might be looking for or how you wish to deal with the current situation. You can use this in any introduction to yourself when you’re contributing to an online forum or event. Don’t forget to include your website or a social media address, e.g. your Twitter name.
- Keep up your social media presence. Here at BCRRE we’re using Twitter, LinkedIn and these blogs to maintain the “drumbeat” of communications to our audiences. If you keep yourself in the mind’s eye of your customers, they will remember you when we come out of this lockdown and you’re more likely to get the first enquiries. Similarly if there are supply chain opportunities opening up for you, your new customers will have greater confidence in a company which appears to be continuing and open for business despite the lockdown restrictions.
Take part in webinars/webchats/ask questions – you will be surprised how many people respond and follow up with you. Many of the trade associations and organisations which exist to network have developed online resources. The BCRRE Rail Alliance is continuing to provide its events online, with a programme of ONferences (online conferences) to provide valuable, relevant content and the opportunity to network remotely. Here at BCRRE we have started a regular, Friday morning Rail Research Café on this blog and on Twitter at @bcrre using the hashtag #BCRRERailResearchCafe where we invite comment on and questions about the theme of the blog or blogs published that week.
- In a sensitive way reach out to your contacts, check they are OK, listen and be there to support as and when they are need your business offer.
- Look for ways in which you can enlarge your network. Check out business support initiatives, projects and other networks available to you and your business. This is when the network available to you from innovation projects such as our own Digi-Rail project can be useful: we can connect you to ideas, advice and, most relevant to this blog, new connections. Contact us as firstname.lastname@example.org and read about the project on www.digirail.co.uk.
- And finally ask for help if you need it – be that emotional help, how to access the range of Gov.UK financial support and even free resources for your new role as a teacher. The government portal, https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus, has all the information you need on access to finance and the rules around the lockdown. We also found a wealth of mental and emotional help via a quick internet search.
Using some of these tips to reach out to your network, your customers and suppliers – all of your supply chain will help keep you engaged, remind people you are still open for business whilst offering support. Even if this doesn’t result in business enquires in the here-and-now it will be beneficial in the longer term.
Everyone here in BCRRE, BCRRE Rail Alliance and the Digi-Rail project wish you a safe, healthy period of lockdown. We encourage you to sign up to the regular BCRRE Rail Alliance news alert by joining the community at www.railalliance/join and join us for BCRRE Rail Research (and innovation) café each Friday morning on this blog and Twitter at @bcrre using the hashtage #BCRRERailResearchCafe.