There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has vastly changed the landscape of business in the U.S. and around the world.
Databox, in collaboration with Lola.com conducted a recent survey of 300 businesses across different industries to glean insights into the ways in which they are being impacted by the current health crisis. What they found is that for many of these businesses, the virus has presented pressing challenges that have forced owners to change the way they operate. For service-based businesses in particular, the change in customer needs brought on by this new normal has actually presented opportunities.
We’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of five management tips for small business owners to continue adapting and enduring during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Re-evaluate Your Company’s Finances
Depending on what product or service you provide, there is a good chance that your business has or will suffer financial losses as a result of this pandemic and the drastic ways in which people have had to adjust their lifestyles. Even so, you still have to pay all your bills (rent, debts, payroll, etc.). With limited cash flow, it is going to be harder for you to meet these payment deadlines.
A crisis such as this is a good time to re-evaluate your company’s finances and make adjustments where able. Examine your budgets thoroughly and find the areas where you can cut costs. Retail businesses, for example, can temporarily decrease their inventory levels knowing that customers are not currently shopping in-store to buy products. The key is to operate as lean as possible to avoid cash flow shortages.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic’s impact, you can ask for assistance from the government. The Small Business Association (SBA) under the CARES Act is offering small businesses low-interest disaster recovery loans of up to $2 million to help those whose finances have been severely affected by the pandemic.
2. Prioritize Health and Safety
The most important thing to prioritize during the pandemic is the health and safety of your employees. Implementing remote working conditions has become common practice to avoid the risk of spread.
Working from home demands an increased level of communication to maintain company culture and keep everyone on the same page with regards to daily tasks and office updates. Research the various digital tools available to aid in this. Video conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Meet can be helpful when setting up meetings, while productivity apps like Basecamp and Asana help track the progress of work-related tasks.
You can also consider setting up an alternating office-work schedule for your employees so that social distancing can still be observed. You can schedule some of your employees to show up at work on specific days while others continue to work from their homes. Just remember that business owners have the responsibility of keeping their employees safe. If any employees are coming into the office, you’ll have to be vigilant in staying up to date on government safety guidelines with regards to protective measures like conducting daily temperature checks, providing PPE and regularly sanitizing all shared spaces.
3. Take Your Business Online
The best way to reach your customers in this current climate is to bring your business online (if you haven’t already). If you own a brick and mortar retail establishment, you can set-up an online e-commerce store where customers can browse and shop for your products without having to leave their home. If you are a service-based company, your website can be an online platform where consumers can learn about and book the specific service you provide.
If you’re setting up a website, be sure that it’s well executed. According to Forbes, 38% of customers are more likely to stop browsing through a website if it’s poorly designed. If your budget allows for it, consider hiring a web designer to build your website so that it’s both attractive and easy to navigate for your audience. The short-term expense is worth the long-term return.
If a website is too expensive and time-consuming at the moment, consider creating social media pages for your business and promote your services from there. This is a quick and easy way to build a bigger customer base, answer customer’s questions and even schedule consults. If you do have a working website, you can also link to it on your social media pages as a means to drive more traffic to the site.
4. Study the Competition
Many businesses and bloggers are struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic, but some have managed to adapt and pivot better than others. The key is to identify people’s current needs and see if and how your business may be able to meet them. For instance, a number of dog walking companies have expanded their services to now offer grocery runs for clients who are immunocompromised.
Study the companies within your industry that have adjusted well and figure out what it is they’re doing. Studying the survival strategies of businesses from other industries is helpful as well. As with the dog walking example, there may be an opportunity outside your original scope that you are able to take on. Doing a cross-examination of the different strategies from different companies will help you determine which may be effective for you and your company. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
5. Communicate with Customers
Transparency is always key, especially now. Keep customers and clients up to date on any and all business-related news, operational changes or new ways you’re able to serve them as this new normal sets in. You can do this through social media, newsletters or any other mode of communication you find effective.
The COVID-19 pandemic has, without a doubt, changed the way businesses run today and for some entrepreneurs, this change has been scary. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can mitigate the risk and still successfully manage your small business amidst the crisis. The points mentioned above are a good start to making sure your company not only survives but stays competitive throughout the pandemic.