The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for everyone. It impacted a surprisingly high number of businesses across the United States, though “non-essential” businesses were the most heavily affected. The issue with a business being non-essential is that most states chose to force their temporary closures, causing a loss of revenue as well as the temporary or sometimes permanent layoffs of many employees. This issue did not only affect small businesses, but large ones as well. For example, major airlines were forced to cut down their flight plans and permanently lay off a large percentage of employees. All problems experienced by major businesses, however, were felt even more keenly by small businesses. Even successful small businesses don’t have the same financial cushions that large corporations have. Furthermore, small businesses feel the losses of employees more, as they normally have a much smaller staff than big businesses do. When a small business loses a significant portion of its staff, it’s forced to compensate in other ways. Many small businesses are being forced to shift the way that they operate in a manner that may be permanent. It’s difficult to say at this point what exactly the future looks like for anyone, let alone a small business.
Nonetheless, it’s important for small businesses to attempt to recover to the best of their abilities. Not only for the sake of their own future survival and their employees, but for the economy in general. The American economy is dependent on small businesses, and without them the nation can’t recover in general. While it’s understandable if you feel defeated by the COVID-19 pandemic, you can’t give up! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is something that you can do to help your small business survive. With that being said, let’s look into the best things that small business owners can do to ensure that they recover from the pandemic.
1. Transition Online As Much As Possible
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it not only smart but necessary for small businesses to transition as much of their operations and presences online as possible. Many businesses have been able to keep employees onboard more than expected due to the existence of remote work. Employees have transitioned to their home offices, communicating with employers through phone calls and video conferencing applications like Zoom. For some small businesses, remote work is difficult, if not impossible. This is especially true for those that provide non-essential services, like catering. But if a business can conduct much of its work remotely, it should. Even as restrictions relax in some parts of the world, the pandemic could surge again, and if businesses are prepared for employees to work remotely they should be more able to make the transition smoothly next time.
Businesses should also focus on creating a stronger online presence in terms of advertising and marketing. Right now, Facebook is considered the most used social platform. It has almost 2.45 billion monthly active users. Having a social media presence that allows them to take advantage of a fraction of those users will help small businesses recover from the pandemic. Furthermore, making delivery and online orders more accessible is crucial as we look towards the future.
Sarah Perry, a Marketing Consultant for Third Angle Marketing, says, “While we have been quite fortunate during this pandemic, our biggest challenge has been adjusting our messaging to businesses in this new world we live in. There are a lot of businesses out there that have the potential to make it through all this craziness but have reservations due to lack of knowledge, funds, or even past experiences. That is why we started a new video series called, Marketing Minutes. The series aims to demystify the world of marketing and help businesses feel more comfortable and confident with their marketing efforts no matter where they are currently.”
Michelle Bracewell of Bracewell Web Works also expressed the importance of digital marketing during tough times like these. “As with so many small businesses mine has been impacted by the pandemic,” she says. “Most of my clients are small businesses that are service oriented and some were shut down for an extended period due to COVID. So some were forced to put off projects we had been planning on. BUT my clients that stuck with their online marketing are doing well! So now is the time to make your website work harder than ever for you!”
2. Prioritize Your Cash Flow
Small businesses usually operate on a limited amount of cash at first. This makes the transition to higher levels of revenue somewhat difficult, and many small businesses don’t have the cushion necessary to handle events like the pandemic as they should, even if their income levels have risen. Forecasting and prioritizing cash flow will enable a small business to cut down on unnecessary costs, and for that matter save more money for the future. Cash flow forecasting will help you make adjustments to ensure that you have more money coming into your accounts than money departing the accounts. You should also avoid unnecessary purchases, and encourage your employees to do the same. Furthermore, any products or pieces of equipment in inventory that can be sold should be sold in order to cut down on costs.
3. Work With Customers
Small business owners need to remember that customers are having a hard time too. Customers that may normally be relied upon for regular business and on-time payments may be shifting their own priorities in light of the pandemic. Right now, three out of four Americans are still incredibly anxious about their overall retirement outlooks. Monitoring the financial health of your customers and clients and being understanding, working with them on payment plans, will not only help them, but help your business.
This is especially true for independent contractors like Charlie Harmon, Web Developer and Owner of Ember Method. Harmon told us, “Rather than playing a blind waiting game, I sought new ways that I could bring revenue into my business, find new clients in a difficult industry climate, and offer support for fellow small business owners who were also struggling by adjusting my rates as needed. While it’s been an extraordinarily difficult time, being open to change seemed to be the key to keeping myself afloat. I’d encourage any business owner who’s struggling to think outside the box and be willing to shift as needed.”
Dontje Hildebrand, Co-Owner of 43 CBD Solutions confirms this notion, saying, “Our business is recovering by focusing on large discounts and giving the best value possible to our long-term customers with online rewards and special offers. Treating our loyal customers to have them coming back for more has been an effective way to cruise through these challenging times.”
A recent Bank of America homebuilders report found that while the pandemic is projected to have some impact on homebuying patterns, only about 18% of survey respondents cited Covid-19 as a catalyst for moving.
Many businesses are dependent on repeat customers and clients; being kind to them and understanding of their circumstances will ensure that they remain regulars after they’re recovered. On a very practical level, it also allows your business to take stock of the financial statuses of their clients and customers, and thus make steadier projections regarding income.
Susie Kelley, President of Spot On, a digital marketing agency based in Birmingham, Alabama, told us that her team has helped their clients “pivot to tactics that would be helpful to their clients.” She said, “Since tradeshows were not an option, we helped them create webinars, virtual town halls, freemium version of SaaS products, small virtual networking events, etc. allowing them to keep top of mind and reach more prospects.”
Tyler Rice, Founder and Technical Director of Animas Marketing, based in Durango, shared with us a similar story of helping out those in need. “Acquiring new leads has always been a large part of growing our digital marketing business and when COVID-19 became rampant in the USA, many small businesses put marketing budgets on hold,” said Rice. “The lack of new clients was a challenge but our business got more involved with the community offering free resources and large discounts for small businesses in need. We also offered flexibility with payment methods which made many clients trust our business even more. Being present and available to others during this time can go a long way to building trust and authority with your brand.”
Your business may have specialized in one product or service in the past. But the fact is that as times change, business owners will be forced to diversify their offerings. This will not only enable them to reach a wider client base but offer products that previously may have seemed innocuous. Very few small businesses were selling masks prior to the pandemic, but many have started offering them in the face of this crisis. For the same reason, some states have made it easier for businesses to diversify. This is why certain states have allowed restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages to go; when it’s difficult for them to make revenue as is, they need as many outlets as possible. Furthermore, a number of grocery stores are offering delivery and pickup services when they didn’t before.
Beyond Blue Media tells us that this diversification and innovation is precisely what they are recommending to their clients: “As a local digital marketing company navigating COVID-19, we’ve been looking for ways to creatively help our clients maneuver the pandemic. Our clients are in various horizontal and vertical industries, making each unique to the pressures of keeping business sales up during these times. We advise local business owners to be thinking about the long-term plan rather than solely jumping into short-term which could prove harmful to your business in the long run. Be thinking about strategies that will keep your business operating even during tough events such as this. You’ll want to look to areas where you haven’t covered in the past and what that will look like to expand your business on new horizons.”
It’s going to be hard for small businesses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic; we don’t want to minimize that. But it is possible, with the right decisions and great communication. Brett Truka, CEO of Denver software development company Devetry, says this about the importance of open communication: “In times of continued uncertainty, communication is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. Clue-in everyone the moment you have new information, and if you have bad news to communicate, be upfront.”
Holly G. Green, CEO of The Human Factor, Inc., reminds us of the importance of taking care of the people in our organization during such a difficult time. “Business leaders have to consider both the financial and emotional toll the pandemic and closings have taken on business. We have all had to traverse through all the stages of unexpected change – shock, frustration, denial, depression, acceptance, and integration – multiple times,” she said. “Even when a leader is ready to adapt and move forward, bringing everyone along in the race gets tougher and tougher every day. Pausing to consider how to refresh and re-engage your organization, no matter the type of business, is more important than it has ever been.”
Keep moving forward, and you can keep your business alive!