How do you try and grow your business during lockdown?

That’s the question that has been vexing lots of business owners like me during Covid-19.

The first thing to say is no two businesses are the same so what works for one might not work for another.

Until recently I was the only employee of Street Solutions UK, which sells traffic products online.

I launched the business in 2018 and we’re on track to hit £1m turnover this year.

Clearly our situation isn’t the same as a large manufacturer that needs to furlough its workforce but here are my top 10 tips.

  1. Belief

Running a business is a lonely place. If you had a viable and profitable business before Covid-19 you have to believe you’ll have a good business after it. This is a different situation to the last recession. This is caused by a virus rather than a fundamental business failure.

  1. Keep your overheads down

When I launched Street Solutions UK in 2018 I bootstrapped everything. I didn’t take a penny out the business for the first nine months and carried on juggling two jobs until taking the plunge in June 2019 and going full-time. We have a small serviced office in Bolton but can work from home just as easily. It’s important not to over leverage yourself, especially when you’re a start-up. Focus on the essentials for the time being and allow the use of free resources where possible.

  1. Double down on your strengths/key products

Throughout the past months we've seen a higher demand than usual for a range of products other than the obvious PPE range. Providing extra focus on these via marketing/advertising has allowed us to be visible to customers that we wouldn’t have typically been in front of. Supplying these on good terms has now opened up discussions to supply again on an ongoing basis beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. 

  1. Expand customer base

Street Solutions UK is 100 per cent eCommerce. We started selling our products on eBay. We then built our own website and sold through that. When we were ready we sold our products on Amazon and then Amazon FBA, which stands for Fulfilment by Amazon. It means our products are being sold around the world and we’re growing our customer base and brand as a result globally. 

  1. Develop your own products

The lockdown is an opportunity to develop new products and services that can be carried out from different environments. We designed our own floor protectors for laminate and wood flooring which we sell on Amazon. They stop your chairs, bed, sofas and other movables from sliding all over the room. Because we designed the product the margin is bigger. We're now looking at current trends and data to see which sectors are still thriving to see if we can create new products that will be 'pandemic proof' in these areas.

  1. Cashflow is king

Covid-19 has emphasised the importance of cashflow. Unless you’ve got significant reserves, which most start-ups don’t have, cashflow is king so you have to keep on top of it at all times.

  1. Prepare for life after Covid-19

Hard though it is right now, businesses need to prepare for life after Covid-19. I was in the process of recruiting an eCommerce assistant when the lockdown was announced. It would have been easy to have delayed the appointment or furloughed the new member of staff but I wanted them to start straight away so they can understand the business in readiness for life after Covid-19. However we did delay recruiting a field sales rep because non-essential has been banned.

  1. Carry on advertising

It would be easy to stop advertising in the lockdown but I’m glad I decided to spend more on Google Advertising. It’s led to a lot of orders from supermarkets for traffic cones and traffic barriers that have more than justified the cost. The cones and barriers are needed to maintain social-distancing.

  1. Maintain your routine

I’ve always been more productive working on my own than in a busy office. Routine is really important. I get up early, walk the dog before I sit down behind my computer for the rest of the day. 

  1. Stay positive, stay focused

In these difficult times – and my admiration for the NHS knows no bounds during the coronavirus outbreak– it’s important for businesses to stay positive. The economy will bounce back although there will be some bumps in the road.