Clearly the events of the past few weeks and the anticipation of what’s to come is creating a lot of anxiety in the Children’s Activities sector. There has been an overload of content on how businesses should react, but as the situation is changing daily, we would advise to be careful on what advice you are taking, and where possible only visit government websites for the latest recommendations. We would advise to regularly check the below websites, that have the most up to date content on how businesses should respond.
Coronavirus overview: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Coronavirus latest information and advice https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
Coronavirus advice for employers and employees: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
Federation of Small Businesses
Advice to small businesses and FSB members about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources-page/advice-to-small-businesses-and-fsb-members-about-the-novel-coronavirus-covid-19.html
Ideas and Suggestion on how to operate through the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak from the CAA
Cash flow challenge or opportunity
By Kieran James, Stryde
In every challenge there is also opportunity, and we at the CAA believe that there are opportunities for businesses to deliver their outstanding services in a new and innovative way to their clients. Rarely is there an opportunity that invites customers to change their own habits to such a degree. Not all businesses involving children's activities operate in the same way, but the principles below should be transferable to almost any business anywhere:
- Remember, if self-isolation happens parents/carers will be looking for ways to entertain children and a lot will look for educational routes.
- Focus on the problem you are trying to solve and look for innovative ways to solve the problem if your normal service is not possible (for example, if you deliver dance classes, create and sell fun dance videos for parents or a dance exercise workbook they can follow)
- Be decisive with your time; remember, the single biggest indicator of profitability on pay per delegate courses is ‘number of delegates per class’. Look to merge workshops/classes together to ensure the sessions you do run provide maximum profitability.
- Plan for staff/subcontractor self-isolation: connect with similar businesses for sharing resource and offering work to those who have the skillset to support in your field
- Cut costs: review your bank account for the last 3 months and look for any non-essential spending. Things like unused software subscriptions are a common ‘waste’ in small businesses.
- Get flexible with customers; flight operators are offering transferable flights to ensure travellers continue to book. If possible, use the same principles to allow carry forward attendance. You’ll still feel this at some point, but it can even out any potential cash flow burden.
- Limit refunds; unless your policies prevent you, look to offer overpayments as credits against future classes.
- Make sure your customers can pay online
- Work out your burn rate, the amount you need as an absolute minimum to cover all business costs (and personal if you rely on the business for this)
- If you plan ahead and have periods where you’re not going to be able to pay all your costs, look at funding options that could bridge the gap.
- Explore purchasing cash flow forecasting software to help plan ahead
Delivering Value Online
By Adam Lovelock, Coconut Creatives
I’m sure every business in the sector is currently considering how they deal with delivering their services in the coming weeks. At this point in time (14/03/20) the Government advice would be to continue in your normal way of operating, while of course being extremely diligent to the risks of the virus. However, this is likely to change, so how can you continue to deliver value to your customers if you have to stop delivering your classes?
It is important to remember, that even in isolation parents will still be looking for activities for their children, especially to keep active and stimulate the mind. Recording the content, you deliver on video and delivering to customers is of course never going to replace your normal service, but for many this could provide welcome value through a difficult time.
There are many free to use online webinar systems that would allow you to deliver live content to groups of children watching from home. A good example would be Zoom (zoom.us) where you can deliver up to 40 minutes live content to 100 people for no cost at all!
Create closed groups, such as Facebook Groups, for all your customers would provide the platform to deliver videos, creative ideas, tasks for children and so on! Look to develop a real community spirit in these groups and offer ongoing value to your customers even if you are unable to run classes or deliver your content.
Of course, none of the above is ideal, however we believe the more value you deliver to parents and children in these tough times the more goodwill you will receive in return. There is of course going to be concerns over bookings over the coming months, but if you can show you are offering flexible ways to deliver your content you can work towards easing the possible disruption.
Marketing, Communications and your Brand
Sam Willoughby, What's On 4 Kids
This might not be top of your list right now but in exceptional and worrying times we also want as much of the familiar and normal as possible. Therefore, keep up with your planned promotions and activities that support your brand and promote the wonderful things you do.
Think how you can bring a little bit of joy into the world and the lives of your customers and team - a funny photo, a cute vid or a snap ‘just because we can’ mini competition :) And particularly good news - no matter how small - tell us!
Consider other additions such as promotion of some at home activities in line with your current programmes and themes. Recommend your own and other resources such as videos and websites or apps.
Do acknowledge the coronavirus situation but keep information to government sources only and how you are applying the government recommendations. Decide now any changes or enhancements to your refund/credit policy if classes have to be cancelled and communicate it to reassure parents.
Your existing team and prospective franchisees will also be reassured that you are continuing to promote your brand and programmes.
Large events you are due to attend such as conferences, expos and family shows and festivals may be rearranged. This is disappointing for everybody but try to attend on the new dates if possible, so you hit the ground running on the other side of all this.
Even if some classes have to be cancelled keep your brand in front of parents online, via email, social media and they will return when classes resume.
Use any unexpected downtime to look forward to work on your marketing and business plans for later in 2020 and in to 2021.
And remember a collective shock like this often makes us reassess our lives and do things that we wish we had found time to do before. This may well include spending more time with our children doing fun and exciting things - so get ready for an upturn in enquiries too!
A refresher on simple, effective and low-cost local marketing can be found here https://whatson4kids.co.uk/business-help/resources
We will continue to offer advice and support in the coming months to the Children’s Activities Sector. For all members of the CAA, remember our Facebook Group is a fantastic resource to raise any questions or issues you may have, with many industry experts on hand to lend support -