Fast, competent and geared to business needs: Eager to assist local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the business development agency (WFG) for the district of Unna has devised a wide range of services.
Whether a one-person business or a global enterprise: firms the world over face major challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the German district of Unna too, companies find themselves up against a new set of problems: What can they do if turnover drops off, say in the event management or hospitality sector? What kind of state support is available and how can they apply for it? How can they adapt their business model to the crisis? Companies now have to observe quarantine regulations and implement social distancing rules, cover their running costs and the list goes on. It was a good thing that the business development agency for Unna district (Wirtschaftsförderung Kreis Unna – WFG) quickly adapted its local business service package to pandemic-driven demands.
The business development agency (WFG) aims to help companies in the district of Unna get through the COVID-19 crisis as well as they can, thus staving off bankruptcies and preserving jobs. The WFG set up a crisis team right at the start of the pandemic to help navigate the region's businesses and freelancers through the crisis – with free, customisable and pandemic-compliant instruments.
In March 2020, the WFG immediately set up a crisis hotline to give businesses fast, free and unbureaucratic access to information and useful pointers. On receiving an initial enquiry, the crisis team looks to see what kind of support the business actually needs. Services range from brief consultancy inputs to workshops and personalised support for change processes.
In workshops tailored to individual company needs, the WFG experts work with the business concerned to develop targeted strategies that will enable it to adjust to the new situation. For the over-the-counter retail sector, this includes possibilities for digitalising sales processes while in the local hospitality sector it could be digital order tools. In other workshops, businesses come together to think about how they can set up new business models or adapt existing models to the new circumstances.
A corona how-to guide on the WFG website navigates local businesses through the myriad executive orders and support programmes that have since come into being.
Through to the end of August 2020, some 280 businesses contacted WFG for support, for instance with reorganising their production processes. Thanks to WFG consultancy, one company from the event sector, for example, quickly changed track and has since been able to establish itself as a service provider for large-scale digital events, such as organising and implementing works meetings.
While in the beginning it was mainly smaller businesses that contacted the WFG crisis team, the WFG now also advises numerous larger-scale companies and puts them in touch with the health department and other authorities.
By turning one of its rooms into a corona-compatible creative space, the WFG generated ideal conditions for businesses to forge innovative ideas using a variety of methods, such as design thinking. This room came about thanks to the 'Knowledge creates Success' project, which is being promoted by the EU and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The WFG has adapted its core task of delivering competent and practical business advice to fit the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding its portfolio of activities in the process. The pandemic will continue to place demands on local businesses in Unna district, but in the WFG crisis team they will have continue to have someone they can approach to help navigate them through the crisis.