With the school year in full swing and many providers now restarted (face to face or online), every children’s activity business needs to reassess its strategy and operations to properly position for the recovery.
In order to get through this crisis, business owners must take decisive action. This is even more critical given the likelihood of further lockdown measures put back in place across the UK as winter comes (potentially as early as this week).
We’ve prepared a few thoughts below in taking decisive action and some of the key considerations over the coming months.
1. Situational analysis
Firstly, a comprehensive situational analysis of your business and where you see the market moving. This is a rigorous assessment of what has and has not changed, with particular focus on the elements that have withstood the shock and which ones have been adversely affected. Regular tracking and measurement of your strategic objectives and key performance indicators will be important. It’s likely some of these will have changed based on the impact of Covid-19. These KPIs will not only measure your current situation but also guide you making decisions for the next term and beyond.
2. Financial review
Managing cash flow should be top priority. The current environment our businesses are operating in makes it more challenging to predict as comfortably as last year for example, and with media speculation and Governmental U-turns rife, we must plan for different scenarios. What are the best and worst case scenarios for your activity business and how do you ensure you’re primed for both (particularly the latter)?
We suggest running multiple scenario assessments such as;
a) revenue shortfalls continue for the rest of the calendar year
b) revenue shortfalls continue for the rest of the academic year
c) rapid revenue decline brought about by a second national lockdown
Depending on how you run your business and how much seasonality or term-time/holiday periods affect it, you may need to run more financial scenarios specifically based on those needs.
If you’re seeing serious concerns ahead, start mitigating your risk now to ensure your business can survive what looks likely to be a challenging winter period for the sector. Managing overheads, overdrafts, invoicing, credit options etc will all be important to manage risk.
3. Health & Safety
While explicitly clear guidelines have rarely been released by the Government, most providers have now been able to proactively get back safely running activities. You will still need to be diligent in all things health and safety, particularly if our sector receives additional guidelines in the coming weeks/months so keeping a close eye on this area will be important. Similarly, making sure your communication is clear, concise and consistent is something that will bode well for customer satisfaction and retention rates.
4. Customer Retention & Acquisition
Whilst challenging, it’s paramount that every children’s activity provider continues to focus on both customer retention and gaining new children. Building rapport with current parents, children, schools, nurseries, venues will be important and should hold you in good stead as they may well be less likely than before to move to other service providers (given the current situation) so don’t give them any reason to want to stop, and be organised with re-enrolments, direct debits, payments and online booking systems.
Gaining new customers may be tricky right now, but not impossible. Word of mouth in our sector has always been prevalent and remains the case, which further highlights the need to keep existing customers very satisfied. It’s also key to continue brand awareness efforts online where people continue to hang out more if they are not going ‘outside’ as much.
5. Pricing & Payments
We’ve seen the sector significantly disrupted, and careful planning for pricing and payment is needed going forward – now is a good time to review current pricing strategy and model, alongside how you take payments going forward. Aside from cash being less hygienic and largely an unneeded ‘contact’ point between you and customers, online booking systems available are very good – many options to suit all budgets and requirements.
In another vein, some have moved towards upselling products (props or equipment) that parents buy and reuse each session. This is a great way of increasing revenue and average customer spend and if done well could be something easily continued into 2021. Ensuring your value exchange with customers is on point with every service offering and revenue stream is important and now perhaps more so than ever is a brilliant time to review all of this.
Anything you can do to spur sales without simply opting for a quick cash grab should be explored.
6. Organisational Alignment
Once you’ve considered all of the above and ticked off key tasks, it’s really important that you make sure you and your business are focused for the future. Alignment in all areas is critical. Ambiguity and uncertainty about the future is likely, but your business can still have clarity in its purpose, strategy, and objectives.
Make sure you communicate frequently with your staff, peers, franchisees, franchisors (where applicable), and present a clear vision and approach externally to both customers and the general public.
Customer experience and satisfaction should be one of the most important success factors for children’s activity providers. Covid-19 has largely made the customer even more important (if possible) than before.