How to launch a physical business virtually during lockdown

Guest post by Reece Tomlinson – CEO of cosmetic treatment innovators Uvence

It might well be understating the issue to say this year has been one of the most challenging for the world of business in recent memory. Even the biggest firms have seen a mass migration to remote working that has left skyscrapers vacant and the smallest a sudden pivot to online offerings in order to keep up supply.

Running a business remotely through lockdown has given business leaders and executives a new challenge, as a lack of a physical office often be accompanied by more time-consuming communication that can sometimes lead to misunderstanding.  

Since lockdown began, I have been – like so many others – working from home, which is British Colombia, Canada. Some 4,500 miles away from the business I am launching in London. Uvence, a project seven years in the making, was due to launch this April in London and then the wider UK. This was unfortunately put on hold from the outset of the Covid-19 lockdown period, due to the nature of the business – an innovative cosmetic treatment. The hands-on nature of the product designed for plastic surgeons meant that we couldn’t quickly pivot to an online launch with a new way of delivering the product to customers. 

A Liquid Nitrogen bank containing suspension of stem cells. Cell culture for the biomedical diagnostic.

This has presented a unique challenge both for us, in terms of launching the business, and the doctors using the product, who have had to drastically alter the way they run their clinics and how they interact with patients. 

Like most other businesses, we have relied heavily on video conferencing software to get things done. Although the nine-hour time difference with London has meant some very early meetings, it has for the most part been incredibly useful. 

Launching a business during this period, from my experience, comes down to people management and product preparation. The world today is almost unrecognisable from this time last year, but the people you work with are largely the same. 

People management

It can be easy to get into a habit of micromanaging without the instant access to team members that a physical office affords but that is not the most effective use of your, or anyone else’s, time. That said, morning meetings and end of play catchups will give structure to everyone’s day as well as help keep priorities in order. When launching a business, knowing what absolutely must get done today or this week is paramount. 

Product preparation 

Launching an online product or service has been one of the major themes of lockdown for businesses forced to close during this period. While this has shown how quickly a firm can pivot when it needs to, there are of course some sectors where this is not possible. This is exactly what we have found at Uvence. 

There’s no way to make a cosmetic treatment such as ours available virtually and without a doctor to administer the treatment in person it could be performed improperly meaning that we had to find a way to make it safe. Perspex screens, facemasks, visors and separate waiting rooms have allowed us to create an environment that is safer than visiting a local supermarket for the patient. Erring on the side of caution in this case is probably the right side of the line to tread at this point.

Remain calm and communicate

During a period of crisis, it is quintessentially important that leaders stay calm and controlled. A calm and controlled leader will bring calm energy to the team. They will be able to remain collected when the situation proves stressful, unknown and even frightening. When a leader can remain calm and collected, it will equate to better decision making and an increased feeling of being in control of the situation. A launch can be an incredibly stressful time so providing the steadying influence on your team is one of the most important things you can do.  

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