One of the first business sectors to feel the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19 has been the hospitality and events industry. There were early warning signs that this wasn’t going to be business as usual, as events quickly started to be cancelled and travel restrictions imposed, amid the world-wide transmission of the deadly virus.
So what do you do in times of adversity? We asked Ian Carless, partner at Dubai event venue, Warehouse Four, how they were navigating their way through the Corona-virus crisis…
Making It Through Tough Times
It’s funny what life throws at you. The last few years here in the UAE were already pretty fallow ground for most. A shaky economy at best, shrinking marketing budgets, people tightening their wallets more than ever, with many just simply heading for the airport.
And now Corona-virus!
For those of us in the events industry, the financial effect of Covid-19 is like facing a tsunami head on. A world-wide viral outbreak with no immediate treatment; travel restrictions causing economic crisis and of course, the cancellation of all events, big and small. The situation is unprecedented.
As a result, we’re all struggling to deal with both the short and long-term ramifications, doing whatever we can to survive, whilst trying to plan for a range of scenarios that might hopefully lead to a recovery in the months and possibly years ahead.
At the root of the issue is ‘uncertainty’ – it’s difficult to plan ahead much less organize an event, when you don’t have a timescale to work to. Various newspaper reports have suggested that the Corona-virus could re-surface next winter, making some event organizers nervous about committing time and money to re-scheduled events.
In the meantime, it’s heart-breaking to see many companies, venues, restaurants, etc, have to close their doors. As an event venue, Warehouse Four has also been at the sharp end of the economic fallout with revenue dropping to zero in the space of a few short weeks. However, instead of hunkering down and watching the carnage unfold, we’ve been trying to tackle the issue head on. How, as a venue, can we make it through the tough times and emerge stronger on the other side?
Be Quick on Your Feet
In these hard times, you can’t afford to stagnate. If some particular aspect of your business isn’t working – try something new. As an event venue, our options are severely limited but it’s far from a lost cause. Ask yourself, how can we make this work?
As a team, we’ve said that survival is our priority. How can we stay relevant or at the very least, top of mind? We’ve looked at far flung ideas ranging from an indoor golf range to private cinema experiences. We may do all of these or we may do just one but the point is, come up with a few ideas, try them and see if they work. If they do, great! If they don’t, try something else. Sitting around doing nothing is a sure way to slowly kill your cash flow and ultimately your business. Be proactive and be quick on your feet.
Play to Your Strengths
We all have strengths and weaknesses. Instead of continuously trying to fix your weaknesses, spend that time playing to your strengths! One of our strengths at Warehouse Four is our size and uniqueness. We’re not a hotel ballroom. Neither are we ever going to be able to accommodate thousands of delegates for a conference. But given any resumption of events is likely to be limited to small and medium size numbers for the foreseeable future, then potentially we’re in a good position.
So instead of sinking money into advertising for large scale conferences, we’re spending money on attracting small scale events and companies that want to get off the beaten track. The point is, use the revenue-streams that are already in place and widen them. They might be your sole life-line to get you through the hard times.
Partner with the Right People
No man is an island. And your business shouldn’t be one either. Not only is this helpful emotionally and on a morale level but partnering with the right people can significantly help your business. As a small business ourselves, this is something we truly believe in at Warehouse Four. Since opening our doors, we’ve partnered with a number of local entities including Dish Catering for ‘Ramadan Nights’, Café Racers Middle East for the ‘Art Of Motorcycles’, National Geographic for several film premiers and the list goes on. Most importantly, these partnerships were not about immediate revenue but often awareness or simply goodwill. We like working with good people and these kind of relationships, aside from being fun, often end up paying back many times over in the long term.
So don’t shut your doors and windows, black-out the sun and wait around for better times – actively seek partnerships that will bring in revenue. Use the skills provided by others to keep the momentum of your business moving. Obviously be wise when doing this, spend each dollar wisely but don’t shut yourself off either.
As a business, cash-flow is king. This is especially true for small businesses. If you don’t have cash, you can’t pay the bills. With that in mind, look at the business environment you operate in. We live in a country where business is cyclical and often difficult to forecast, so it’s important to plan for all scenarios. At Warehouse Four, we made it a priority from the start to ensure we had enough cash flow to be able to survive a season with little to no revenue.
But that doesn’t mean we’re free and clear, far from it. Trimming any excesses is still one of our main priorities. Cut back on the non-essentials and the things that aren’t directly contributing to you making money. I’m not saying cut back on everything. As mentioned, you’ll need key partners to keep you alive in these times – and cutting yourself off from everyone may leave you in a worse position. Just cut back on the things that aren’t crucial to your ability to survive right now.
Last but by no means least, be brave. Running a business, even at the best of times, is hard work. It requires a strong will, powerful vision, a touch of ‘lady luck’ and of course, a healthy dose of back-breaking work. During tough economic times, this amplifies exponentially. Don’t let this dishearten you or get you feeling down. It’s going to take lots of hard work but if you’re 100% determined, rest assured, nothing is impossible.
If any of the above points resonate with you, or if you’d like to partner with like-minded people while driving your business forward, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
Be brave, stay strong and stay safe.
About Warehouse Four: Warehouse Four is a 4,000sq ft dedicated event venue in the heart of Dubai. For more information please visit www.warehousefour.com
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