2020 has rocked everyone to their core. The pandemic has brought about massive economic disruption and left no one spared. While not all companies experience the same amount of damage, no one is immune to this pandemic, especially small businesses. The pandemic has left most small businesses hanging by a thread while others have been forced to close shop. Business survival is the overarching theme of 2020 and small businesses are fighting for their lives.
At the onset of the pandemic, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) surveyed to study the impact of the COVID-19 to small businesses. They found that as early as April, mass layoffs and closures have happened. The uncertainty around the end to this pandemic is what forced the majority of small businesses who participated in the survey to let go of some staff or close their businesses entirely.
While more small businesses have reopened since July, polls from the US Chamber of Commerce show that most of them are still wary of a second wave of closures as there is still no firm end to this disease. Financial hardships, digitization, and overall health and wellbeing of owners and staff are just some of the challenges small businesses face in this time of the pandemic. Small businesses need to be more resilient to rise above these trying times. Creativity, resourcefulness, and smart business decisions need to be implemented. Business survival should be the goal of all businesses, big or small.
7 Small Business Survival Tips in the Time of COVID-19
To navigate through these turbulent times, here are 7 tips to help you create your business survival plan.
Regularly Speak with Your Employees
Statistics show that around 50% of the US workforce is employed by small businesses. As much as this pandemic is a shock to business owners, employees also feel the weight of the problem. Some of these employees live paycheck-to-paycheck, so the possibility of job loss is a nightmare. Engage with your employees and involve them in finding new opportunities for your business. Be open and honest about the state of the company. They will be more comfortable dealing with the crisis when you involve them in creating your business survival plan.
Look Into Your Financials
Most small businesses have access to cash on hand for 2 months or even less. This is how vulnerable small businesses can be. Talk with your accountant to know what your financial position is. Create a 3-month plan and factor in your expenses. Explore financial aid from the government if there is any. Speak with your suppliers or providers for more lenient payment arrangements. But stay mindful that they also have a business to run so aim for an arrangement that is fair for both parties. Examine how you can operate cost-effectively and engage your employees in launching initiatives. If you are a service-based business or have operations that can function remotely, consider implementing a work-from-home policy during this time to save on costs. Regularly monitor your financials to control costs and be quick to respond should there be unexpected turns.
Engage with Your Customers to Explore Opportunities
The pandemic has significantly changed consumer behavior and chances are your customer’s expectations and needs have shifted. Gather feedback from your customers in-store, if you’ve reopened, or through your social media channels. If you have a mailing list, it’s time to reach out to your customers through an email marketing campaign. Get to know what their current needs are and how you can better satisfy them. Business survival doesn’t mean sticking with old strategies and approaches. You need to explore new opportunities to create new business streams and sustain old ones.
Upskill Your Business with Tech
Expect productivity to decrease due to low demand for your services or products. This is a good time to upskill and equip your staff with new knowledge. Businesses who want to survive will know that they’ve got to treat technology as their best friend. Explore tools that you can use for marketing your business. Establish your online presence and be more active on social media channels where your customers can be found. Invest in a website should you decide that selling your products or services online will be viable. There are affordable options out there and you can build one without any coding experience.
Explore New Strategies
After you gather feedback from your customers and identify what tools and techniques you can use, start looking into new strategies to create and deliver your services and products. You need to adapt to the current needs and expectations of your customers. You can also create a new or redefine your value proposition or tap into new markets you would have not looked into otherwise. Business survival will push you to try new things. As you work through the risks, you get to learn valuable insights on how to iteratively improve.
Have a Contingency Plan
As uncertainty looms, business survival will have a huge dependency on how you stay vigilant. What do you do if closures are reimposed? How will you keep the business running in the next 6 months to a year if the situation doesn’t improve? While you’re busy putting out fires in the short-term, you must not lose sight of the long-term plan. Planning will better equip you in this business survival game.
Connect with Other Small Business Owners
No one said you have to navigate this business survival game alone. There are more business owners like you who are fighting their way to survive. Connect with them and share ideas and experiences on business survival. You may learn a thing or two from other small business owners or help one out. You can engage with your local community or find online groups for small business owners and interact there.
Create a Safe Working Environment for You and Your Employees
Another constant worry of business owners and employees during this time is their health and safety. While you strive to get back on your feet, you must not sacrifice the health and well-being of your employees. Be more compassionate and understanding during these times. Some employees may be juggling between work and family care. Develop safety protocols in the workplace. Have your staff be tested should you need to reopen your physical offices or stores. Take care of yourself too. While business survival is important, your health should come first.
Survive to Thrive
Some would say that this year is not a time to try new things for your business. But I believe it’s the opposite. The pandemic has pushed us to unchartered territory. I say this is the perfect time to reinvent the wheel. Be courageous to explore new channels for your business. Draw strength from your employees by promoting a compassionate culture. Leverage on technology to re-establish your footing. Monitor and control your financials to keep your business afloat. Constantly engage your customers to find new ways to delight them in these extraordinary times. As you learn more things about business survival, you’ll get to realize new ways to thrive in the new normal.