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 over the world face major challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the German district of Unna as well, many companies are confronted with a new set of problems: What can they do if sales drop, for instance 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 so on. Fortunately, 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 support companies in the district of Unna to get through the COVID-19 crisis in order to avert insolvencies and preserve 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 considers what kind of support the business actually requires. 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 company to develop targeted strategies that enable it to adjust to the new situation. Among other things, this involves digitalization options for over-the-counter retail or digital ordering tools for local restaurants. In other workshops, companies jointly consider how they can establish 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.
By end of August 2020, around 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 work 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 created ideal conditions for businesses to develop innovative ideas using a variety of methods, such as design thinking.The redesign of the room took place as part of the "Knowledge Creates Success" project, which is funded by the EU and the 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 keep on challenging the local economy in the Unna district, but with the WFG crisis team, companies will have someone they can approach to help navigate them through the crisis.