A country completely shut down for several months creates challenges for business owners in every community. Figuring out how best to rejuvenate your company as the pandemic ends or possibly lingers throughout the rest of 2020 is challenging for the most financially comfortable enterprises. For those struggling before the outbreak hit, getting back up and running requires creativity and grit.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey showed that about 51.4% of business owners felt a negative impact from COVID-19. Most expect it to take about six months to recover from the shutdown. However, with remaining uncertainty about when the country will fully reopen and the threat will end, how do we move forward from here?
Create a solid plan and regain your traction. Even if you only open up in phases, knowing what you’ll do each step of the way helps avoid remaining pitfalls and speeds up recovery efforts.
1. Utilize Government Resources
The United States government has put together many different COVID-19 resources for small-business owners. Whether you need help keeping employees on the payroll or plan to take out a loan, you’ll find information at sites such as the Small Business Administration, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and your state relief website.
2. Study Cash Flow
One of the biggest problems for companies during a crisis is cash flow. If your doors shuttered for several weeks or longer, you might not have had any revenue coming in. Even businesses well-prepared for a disaster run through their savings quickly. Spend time studying how much cash goes out and what comes in. Look for creative ways to bring in more money until the economy improves, and people return to normal living and spending levels.
3. Add Remote Work Opportunities
As things open back up in phases, you may find your best employees can’t return to business as usual. They may have young children at home while schools and day cares remain closed. Offering remote work options where appropriate helps you keep those employees on your payroll until everything opens fully. Juggling work and little ones presents unique problems, so be flexible with work hours or shorter workdays.
4. Find New Options
The world is different than it was just a few short months ago. Look for opportunities in the changes. For example, distilleries around the country pivoted from making liquor to hand sanitizer for their local communities. Perhaps you could add a delivery service where you didn’t have one before. Think about your community’s needs and how you can take what you’re already doing and solve problems people face during and after a pandemic.
Learning to sell in the remainder of 2020 may require some adjustments to past tactics. People will be more cautious in the ways they spend money, so you’ll need to convince them of the value of what you have to offer.
5. Maintain Situational Awareness
Use community mapping to find illness outbreaks and other trouble spots in your area, particularly if you own a brick-and-mortar store. Recently, most Walmarts in the United States chose to close early due to fears of rioting and looting. Know what’s going on in your area concerning health and safety and take any appropriate steps to keep your customers and employees secure. They’ll come to trust you to have their best interests at heart and will remain loyal to you when life settles back to normal.
6. Manage the Transition
When the virus first became a concern, people went into crisis mode. Stores shut down or changed their hours and methods of operation. However, as we move back toward life after COVID-19, it’s time to look toward the future. Restaurants are a good barometer for how to accomplish this. They’ve changed things around to keep people safe but still serve them. They space tables further apart, have their servers wear masks and switch to paper menus they dispose of after each use.
No matter what type of industry you’re in, there will be changes for the rest of the year and maybe the long term. Think about what needs to shift in the way of policies and customer service, and how you’ll communicate these changes to give everyone peace of mind. The brands getting a handle on the transition will move more smoothly into the future than those that stumble and try to find their way.
7. Cut Costs
Since things will likely recover in spurts, look for ways to cut costs without hurting your business. For example, if you have reduced store hours, install systems to turn off the lights at closing and keep them off until opening. There’s no point in paying for electricity during hours you don’t operate. If you no longer host sales specials because too many people come in the store, or can no longer get the supplies, cancel any advertising you preplanned for the year and shift to a different marketing strategy.
Look for both small and big ways to cut your overhead. If cash flow is a bit tighter than you’d like, you’ll have more flexibility to get through the transition period.
8. Ramp up the Customer Experience
The ways society interacts may be different for months to come as we wait for a cure or vaccine to treat the virus. Employees often must wear a mask, and customers might have one on as well. A friendly and warm greeting now must come through in the voice, as customers can’t see a smile.
The same is true of reaching out to new people. Much marketing will be online, as it will likely be a while before trade shows or big events happen again. Seek online networking opportunities and ask current customers to share what you’re doing with their contacts. Reward them for doing so.
9. Bring Employees Into the Conversation
Your employees have a vested interest in making sure you succeed. They want job security and a sense of pride in where they work. Form teams and have them brainstorm ways to thrive in a post-pandemic world. At least once a week, hold a companywide meeting and keep everyone updated on changes.
If your employees are worried that you’re going under, they won’t be able to do their best work. Now is the time to put their minds at ease and encourage them to think creatively to keep current clients while bringing new ones on board.