Advice for SOPA Members: What you can do in these uncertain times

It’s a strange time to be living and working in at the moment, but we wanted to try and bring something positive out of it, so we have put together a list of ideas and suggestions that you might find useful over the coming weeks.

We understand that everyone is finding themselves in a stressful situation, and we know there’s no clear cut answer with regards to what will happen, but we’ve found that focussing on smaller tasks can help us take our minds off it for a little while, whilst also getting things done!

1. Social media

If you’ve thought about using social media for a while, but never really got round to it, this could be the perfect opportunity to get yourself set up. Play around with accounts on different channels to find out what works for you. Do you like taking pictures on the farm? Instagram could be for you. Are you more of a people person, and you like chatting away to like-minded people? Maybe give Twitter a go!

Social media is a great way to get your message out there and can be used as a free marketing tool for your business. Don’t be put off if you don’t immediately have thousands of followers either – your posts can easily be shared by other accounts, such as SOPA, to all their followers as well.

Regardless of what you like to post about, now is a great time to connect with other people and share some of the positive things going on around you. If you fancy sharing anything with us, you can! We’re @ScottishOrganic on Twitter and https://www.facebook.com/SOPA.org.uk/ on Facebook.

2. Vending machines

Do you have a product that you could sell via a vending machine? If this is something you think could apply to you, whether you produce veggies, eggs, milk, or something entirely different, take this time to look into a vending machine, whether it’s something you could do, and how it could boost your business.

Depending on where you live, another simpler option could be to run an honesty box, where people take what they need and leave the money for you to collect.

There is unprecedented demand for local food supply to ease the rush on supermarkets; is this something you can offer to help your community?  Is there something innovative you can develop that will bring lasting benefits to your business?

3. Veg boxes and delivery schemes

Do you already offer a veg box scheme? With many older and vulnerable people unable to get out and about, this could be a great opportunity to help your customers and local community.

There are a lot of people struggling to find basic items, so perhaps you could team up with a local shop or bakery and expand your delivery service to include items like bread, milk and dried or tinned goods.

4. Click and collect

If you usually run a shop, can you turn it into a click/phone and collect service? To save people coming into the building, and to allow staff to stay at home, if people order via phone or email, you could arrange a collection time and take their order to them in their car. This allows your customers to be able to buy what they need, but minimises contact between you.

Connage Highland Dairy are a great example of this, running their ‘One Toot and Your Order’s Oot!’ scheme, so people can still stock up on cheese.

5. Online training

A number of training services are running online seminars at the moment, like Business Gateway https://www.bgateway.com/.  Again, if you’ve found you’ve got some extra time on your hands when you’d usually be out and about, check out what’s available.

It doesn’t even have to be work related – perhaps you’ve fancied taking up a new hobby, or you’re looking to refine your skills in another area, there are some fantastic options out there.

Speaking of hobbies, if any of you are knitters or fancy giving it a try, this year’s Shetland Wool Week (SWW) hat pattern has launched today.  We have been picking up on the sneak peaks of the four suggested colour ways for the hat that SWW have been revealing over the past week and are delighted to see organic Uradale Yarns as one of the four suggestions!

6. Future proofing and resilience

We can take positives out of this current situation if we choose to do so. It might not be easy, but it’s important to learn and adapt so if anything happens in the future that causes disruption to the supply chain, shuts down businesses, or means people can’t come to work, then there’s a plan in place.

For example, can you ask each of your employees to put together a video of their daily jobs, so if they’re off then someone else can fill in? Or perhaps you could create an online document or calendar that your team can access, so everyone knows who’s doing what.

It’s also a really good idea to review your risk assessments and health and safety right now.  There are a number of changes happening very swiftly that affect all businesses and employing staff in the current climate, and your business will look responsible if you address these threats with strength and conviction. SOPA have produced a simple Risk Assessment template and you can download this from the Members Area of the website. 

7. Sign up to email alerts

A number of important bodies, including local councils, have been keeping people updated by email when new information occurs. This means updates are delivered straight to you and you can keep up to date with how the situation is developing.

NFUS, local councils, SOPA, and various other bodies all have mailing lists that you can register with, so find what’s relevant to you and sign up!

We have been sending out important Member updates via our usual email comms so if you haven’t received any SOPA updates over the past few days please check that these aren’t being caught up by your spam filter. 

If you have a customer base maybe you could also start a regular update for them? Tell them what you are doing and how you can help them just now.  Mailchimp is the most common way of sending email updates (and check the GDPR rules).

8. Checking in with neighbours and friends

Is there someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with for a while, but you keep putting off picking up the phone? Now is a fantastic time to check in with friends and family members, especially if you know anyone that lives by themselves or has to keep themselves isolated for a long time. They’ll definitely appreciate it, and you’ll feel better afterwards too!

Think outside the box too – there are plenty of apps out there that allow you to video call as a group, so if you’re missing your local pub quiz team or the friends you like to catch up with regularly, invite them to hangout virtually. Spend some time researching VOIP and other IT platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangout that can help you keep in contact with staff if they are remote working.

9. Let someone know if you need a hand

Isolation is all too real for a lot of people, and having to isolate yourself even more can be difficult. If you feel like you can’t reach out to friends or family, or you just want someone to chat to, RSABI are there to listen.

Available for farmers, agricultural workers, crofters, and their families, they can lend you an ear and point you in the right direction if you need help. Their helpline number is 0300 111 4166.

It may also be that you need to speak to your bank or other financial institutions about cash flow.  Don’t put this off; call them up and mention that you are struggling due to coronavirus.

10. Focus on the little jobs

We’ve found that it can help to focus on the little things, and ticking off those jobs that you’ve been putting off for a while can give you a bit of a positive kick during uncertain times. Have you got a pile of papers that need filing? That patch in the garden that needs weeding?  Does the workshop need a good tidy or is there a repair job that you’ve been putting off? Have you been meaning to go through your kitchen cupboards and sort out the Tupperware that you NEVER seem to have enough lids for? Now is the perfect time.

If you’re tackling office paperwork remember that all SOPA Record Sheets can be downloaded from the members area of the SOPA website.  SOPA Member Services staff (Debs & Joanna) and OF&G Scotland Certification Officers are here to field all of your queries as usual.  So, if you’ve been meaning to get in contact to discuss a specific issue or if you have any concerns that have arisen due to the current situation please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.

We appreciate that many of our farm and croft Members will currently be pre-occupied with lambing, calving and spring work and have plenty to keep busy.  But it is likely that you will also be trying to cope with managing a business under pressure, or even the difficulties of running a business when your key supply networks are in lockdown.  Discuss your priorities and what is achievable with your team and your clients/suppliers/customers.

11. Manage your media exposure

It’s important to keep up to date, but consuming too much news can have a negative effect on your mental health. The internet is great in that it allows us to be connected, but it can be a bit overwhelming at times.

Try to check in with the news twice a day – in the morning and the evening – if you’re finding it a bit difficult to manage.

12. Website updates

We’re aware of a number of businesses who are using this time to update their website, laying a secure foundation for when things get back to normal. If your site needs an upgrade, or there are some simple tweaks you’d like to make, why not investigate your options and re-launch when things are back on track.

Get in touch and let us know if there’s anything you or your business are doing at the moment that you find helpful. It can seem overwhelming, but remember that we’re all in this together and we can virtually join forces to help each other out! We’d also love to hear news and updates from you and your business, as we understand that there are still things going on behind the scenes!

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