Red sign hanging at the glass door of a shop saying “Closed due to coronavirus”.

Many small business owners are getting hit hard by the realities of the coronavirus pandemic. Shutdowns, social distancing measures, and even customers’ fears may have changed the way you handle many of your business operations. Here’s the good news: your small business can navigate the challenges associated with the developing coronavirus pandemic.

As a business owner, you and your employees must be prepared to adapt and overcome new challenges at any given moment. While the current challenge is unprecedented and certainly unexpected, it’s also one that your business can manage.

Amend Your Business Plan

Businesses that aren’t able to adapt their business plans in light of the changing situation will be the first to collapse in the middle of this struggle. Your business plan may look very different from the way it did before the pandemic swept across the nation—and that’s all right. Consider factors like:

How can you continue to provide service to your customers? If you’re considered an essential service in your region, you may be able to remain open even in the midst of shutdowns and shelter in place orders. On the other hand, even nonessential businesses can continue to provide services to their customers through delivery, curbside pickup, and online ordering. Real estate agents have quickly pivoted their business models to offer virtual tours, for example—and that model has allowed many buyers to tour homes without needing to violate social distancing requirements.

How have the needs of your customers changed? As you consider your business plan, you must also look carefully at how the needs of your customers have changed in light of the coronavirus. Your customers may have new needs: clothing companies, for example, can step up to the plate and provide their customers with masks, while distilleries have discovered the value of producing hand sanitizer for their communities. Your customers may need more activities that they can do at home or solutions that will allow them to connect with friends and loved ones in spite of social distancing measures. Consider how your business can shift what it has to offer to its customers in order to meet those changing needs.

Focus on Business Survival

If your small business is struggling in the midst of the current crisis, you’re not alone! While many of the changes associated with COVID-19 may become long-term solutions across the nation, other things will eventually go back to normal. The economy will eventually stabilize. Customers will be able to visit your store again.

In the meantime, focus on survival.

If you qualify for loans or government grants, including the Paycheck Protection Program, which can provide vitally-needed relief that may help your business cover employee paychecks, take advantage of them. You may also want to:

Focus on keeping your doors open. Your profits may not be as high this year as they were last year. Keep in mind that the goal may not be growth for this year—it might be making it through this crisis.

Keep your business top of mind for your customers. Let customers know that you’re still there for them in the midst of the pandemic. Consider how you can provide services to your local community. Donate unused goods before they expire. Connect with your customers on social media. All these small steps can add up to help keep your customers aware of what your business is doing in the midst of the pandemic—and increase your odds of success when your doors open again.

Seek Opportunity

There are still opportunities out there, even in the midst of a pandemic! Consider how you can find opportunities to grow your business, even in the current times. These may include:

Providing delivery options. Customers, especially those who are medically compromised or high risk, may be reluctant to leave their homes. Offering delivery of your goods can make it easier for those customers to purchase products that they might not otherwise be able to bring home, spreading your business at the same time.

Offering something new that your customers need. Take a close look at what your customers really need during this time. Hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, masks, and protective gear have all become increasingly important. Creatively consider how your business can offer services or products that customers are looking for. Do your customers need a local source for food, especially with many meat packing plants closing down? A source of entertainment? A product that you can offer? Take a hard look at how you can deliver those things to your customers.

Adapt, Adapt, Adapt

Circumstances are likely to continue changing for the foreseeable future. Even as lockdowns lift around the nation, social distancing measures may remain in place. Customers may have changing needs—many of which will continue to change.

Keep adapting. Keep changing. Invest in agile development and marketing opportunities. Adaptation is the secret to making it through the coronavirus challenge and many others like it. Listen to your customers. Ask what they need and how you can provide it. Through that adaptation, you may actually find new business opportunities or even the chance to expand your business—even in the middle of a pandemic.

Fear is the killer of small businesses. If you think small or find yourself too afraid to step out during this time, it can destroy your business faster than the coronavirus. On the other hand, by taking advantage of the opportunities in front of you, reaching out, and expanding your business, you’ll find that your small business is much more likely to survive these changing times.