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Adapt to survive: how businesses are changing in response to the current COVID-19 crisis

There’s no denying that we’re living in strange and uncertain times right now. Businesses across the country, and the world, are wondering how they will survive. But necessity is the mother of invention, and so we are seeing innovative businesses rising to the challenge and taking action to adapt and not just survive, but thrive.

Working from home

Following the Government lockdown, companies whose workers are traditionally office-based, have had to change how they work and try to shift to working from home. Office-workers are creating makeshift workspaces in their kitchens, spare rooms and, weather-permitting, even their gardens. Thanks to the likes of cloud-based networks and servers, many businesses, such as us here at Hydra, are able to securely and effectively work remotely, allowing near-normal service continuity. With remote working, communication is crucial, but thanks to messaging systems such as Slack, and video conferencing platforms like Zoom, teams and businesses are able to keep connected and keep in touch.

Moving online

With the forced closure of all non-essential retailers, many traditional bricks and mortar shops are seeking out new ways to take their offering online. A number of retailers have setup e-commerce websites, for example Sheffield-based Forge Bakehouse, who are allowing customers to place their bread orders (and pay contactlessly) online, to then collect at an agreed time. However, it takes time and consideration to setup an effective e-commerce website, so an alternative approach that some retailers are taking is to sell direct to their customers through social media, or in partnership with other businesses.

One of these is Sheffield catering business, PJ Taste, who, utilising the City Taxis “City Grab” App, is able to provide essential groceries, prepared meals and small treats to the residents of Sheffield. And unlike the major supermarkets, where to get your essentials delivered will currently require a 6-8 week wait, small businesses are much more nimble and are able to offer deliveries in as little as 45 minutes after ordering.

Other retailers have really utilising online advertising avenues to promote their products. This is actually giving many smaller retailers the opportunity to broaden their customer base from their previously geographically-restricted audience, to the whole country, and for some, even the whole world. Not only is this allowing these smaller retailers a valuable lifeline in the current time of crisis, but it also provides them with a valuable additional income stream moving forward.

Moving online

Changing target market

Many businesses have sadly had to close which sends ripples down the whole supply chain. Notably the hospitality industry has been massively affected. We've seen an increase in traditional trade suppliers shifting to supply direct to the public, which is not only keeping their businesses going but is also helping communities through the supply of vital supplies at this difficult time.

Forging new partnerships

We are all in this together and in order to survive we need to help each other as much as possible. As discussed above, many small businesses are following this approach and forming cooperatives and partnerships with other businesses to help them all survive. For example, Sheffield Food Producers Collective, a small group of some of Sheffield’s finest food producers, have come together to deliver their products (contact-free) direct to people’s doorsteps. And nationally, the ‘VentilatorChallengeUK’ consortium saw major UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors come together to produce much needed ventilators.


Now is the time to change. A recent #BeBrilliant webinar heard motivational speaker Luke Staton say, “now is the time to focus on what you CAN do, not what you CAN'T do”. And we are seeing many businesses do just that, particularly here in Sheffield where we are a resilient bunch! City taxis are one such local company that due to seeing their usual business all but stop, looked at the current situation and spotted an opportunity to diversify. They launched the ‘City Grab’ app, allowing people to order produce from local food and retail businesses, which City taxis then delivers to them. At a time when we are all being told to stay home, being able to bring local businesses products directly to their customers’ doorsteps is a powerful step forward in the fight against economic disaster in the wake of the pandemic.


Change your offering

Think about your skills and your facilities and consider how else you could put them to good use. A great example of this is in the manufacturing and engineering sector, where companies have taken up the call to help design and produce vital respirators. We’ve even seen cases of local school design technology teachers using their skills, facilities and materials to help produce PPE for the NHS and care workers. One example is Bradfield School, who, along with neighbouring schools Tapton Academy Trust, Forge Valley and Chaucer, have been producing thousands of face shields every day.