As small businesses traverse both a global pandemic and a financial crisis, the economic landscape continues to evolve. It’s going to be crucial for you to strategize what the next 6, 12 and 18 months may look like for your business. Assessing your resources and optimizing your business model will be key for navigating this new world we’re all living in. Some businesses may have successfully received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, meaning you have payroll covered for eight weeks and a six-month deferral on your loan. Other businesses may be bootstrapping and finding creative solutions to stay afloat. Whatever the case may be for your small business, we encourage you to take some time to evaluate the overall health of your business, seek small business guidance from trusted partners and constantly pursue efficiency.
Remember the early days of launching your business? Reflect on those important lessons learned and see if you can implement some “back to the basics” ideas. Now is the time to focus on the fundamentals of running a successful operation, including understanding your financial statements and budgets.
Cash flow management is more important now than ever. Once you have a solid understanding of your cash position, you can make decisions based on maintaining that position. Take necessary steps to cut back on outgoing cash flow, including cutting non-essential expenses and streamlining workflows. Evaluate your cash flow requirements, while thinking through various potential scenarios (both short-term and long-term) and have an action plan for each of those scenarios. You may want to consider updating your business plan accordingly, including a contingency plan to minimize overall disruption to your business. General small business guidance suggests setting incremental goals (possibly in 6, 12 and 18 months as suggested above) and trying to prioritize jobs and expenses that will help you make it to the other side of this crisis.
Despite the unprecedented turmoil that the global economy faces, some businesses are booming. How? They’ve been able to pivot in the face of this challenge and adapt to the ever-changing needs of their consumers. Whether that means changing your product offerings, shifting to online sales or collaborating with industry peers to expand your reach, you must think outside the box and continue to augment your value proposition.
Remaining nimble for the foreseeable future should be a priority. We’ve seen how quickly things can change, so do not get complacent. As the new normal continues to play out, consumer behavior will continue to change. Adapt now to your customers’ needs but be prepared to adapt again. Accept your newfound agility as a core characteristic of your business model and ensure that key stakeholders understand what this means.
In order to anticipate your customer’s needs in this volatile climate, it may be wise to send out a basic survey. Reach out to your network to find out what they need and how you can help. Survey Monkey, a free and user-friendly survey platform, has even developed survey templates to gauge sentiment and needs from customers. Make sure that you are open to implementing some of the changes your customers may suggest within the survey.
Become a Marketing Maven
Staying connected to your clients and peers during these extraordinary times can strengthen customer loyalty and nurture existing relationships. It’s also a great way to keep your business top of mind.
If you’re looking for ways to keep your employees busy with important work, task them with customer outreach. Simply picking up the phone and checking in on your clients can go a long way. Post regular updates to social media to keep the conversation going (in case you don’t have social channels set up – the time is now!) Send emails with inventory updates, discounts/specials or any announcement that may be of interest to your audience. Folks are hunkered down at home and hungry for interaction, so don’t miss this window to stay in front of them. Try to be a beacon of hope for others. Source ideas to support your local community and share those thoughts on social media. Whether that’s donating your product to non-profits or just shining a light on the good deeds that are happening in your town, people want to hear positive news. Here is some other small business guidance to set yourself apart, while also providing meaningful work for your employees:
- Create valuable resources and original content based on your specialty that people can download from your website
- Take time to learn and grow by listening to podcasts and webinars from industry experts
- Plan for a grand reopening – focus on possible improvements you’ve made or new services and offerings
While it remains unclear when and how the economy will fully reopen, it’s safe to say that the world will not be the same. We’ll likely experience a slow and gradual return to what we consider to be “normal” – some industries and communities will be able to open before others. However, it is not too early to start planning for what this post-Coronavirus work environment looks like. You can brainstorm with key stakeholders to strategize a responsible reopening plan.
Some companies have planned to establish alternating shifts in order to reduce the total number of employees in a building at one time. Other offices will implement touchless payment options and extend delivery, curbside pickup or only allow a certain number of customers in the building at once.
It may seem obvious, but when it’s time to reopen your workplace, ask anyone who doesn’t feel well to stay home. Share reminders of cough etiquette, take temperatures to mitigate sickness and set up hand sanitizer stations around your office. If possible, ramp up cleaning on shared surfaces like doorknobs and kitchen spaces and install more robust air filtration systems. Employees will likely not have the confidence to return unless they see that actions are being taken to protect their health and safety. We anticipate OSHA to inform these “return to work” plans and we encourage you to follow all safety recommendations put forth by reputable sources including the CDC and WHO. It’s critical to follow your state guidelines when it comes to your timeline of reopening for business.
Returning to a pre-Coronavirus climate will take time and require small business guidance from partners and experts. The safety and health of your employees and customers should remain your top priority. That being said, we remain optimistic about the future of small business in this country. We find strength and hope in the resiliency of small business owners and together, we’ll find our way to a new normal.