If you run your own business, you’ve likely learned to adapt to the coronavirus outbreak the hard way. Still, in this time of pandemic, there’s no need to panic. Many owners of SMBs are (quite understandably) wringing their hands at the moment trying to stay afloat. They’re grappling with how to change their operational models in the face of widespread self-isolation and social distancing. Whatever your business does, and whomever your target market may be, you may feel as though the end is nigh. But this is just like any other challenge you’ve faced since you opened up shop. You can either make decisions rashly out of panic. Or you can take a deep breath, take stock and make strategic decisions that will see you come out of this crisis with your business intact.
Don’t give in to pandemic panic. As the Brits would say, “keep calm and carry on” doing business any way you can. Here are some pointers to help you do that in a way that is realistic and sustainable until the gears of the economy grind back to their normal pace…
Now’s the time to think strategy!
As much as it may seem otherwise, this is actually a great opportunity for you and your business! Let’s face it, most of the time small business owners are so hard pressed keeping track of the day-to-day operations that they don’t have time to dedicate to strategy. They spend more time at the proverbial coalface with their employees than in their office planning thinks like their content marketing strategy, generating new leads, optimizing their website’s conversion rates or re-engaging with lapsed customers.
Now, however, you have the time to think strategically while your operational load has diminished. Think about how your business can adapt to the fast-rising new delivery economy. How can you maintain brand awareness and customer relationships through online channels? Can you still bring your products and services to customers even if they can’t be with you physically? In what ways can you continue to bring value to your clientele? How will you make sure that your customers continue to remember you? Could using Lead Generation Companies help you to engage with new customers to whom you can cater in a different way? Now that you have the luxury of more time, you can iron out any inefficiencies in your operational model and adapt it to the fast changing new economy.
How will you build a sense of anticipation for when things return to normal? Think about special promotions or invite-only events for loyal customers which can take place after the lockdown is lifted.
Resist the urge to panic fire your team
At this time, you’re likely extremely conscious of overheads. One of the most significant of which is your employees. Many businesses all over the world have already begun panic-firing their employees, jettisoning entire departments and leaving formerly valued employees destitute.
While we understand that no business wants to take this measure, it’s a panic response with which we can sympathize. Nonetheless, we absolutely do not recommend letting go of employees unless there’s absolutely no other choice.
Letting go of employees is a procedure-heavy and costly exercise in the long term. Not to mention a huge PR black eye if your former employees name and shame you on social media (or in the press) for letting them go. Moreover, it potentially leaves you with huge costs when things return to normal as you struggle to recruit, train and onboard new employees so that you can hit the ground running. If you absolutely can’t afford to pay your staff anything while this is over, consider at least putting employees on furlough so they have a job to come back to when this is all over.
Still, keep in mind…
There’s always something your team can do from home
Whatever your operational model, there’s a good chance that your employees can still help you to stay profitable even if they’re not on the premises. They can help manage your social media accounts. They can compose insightful content marketing materials like blog posts, videos, infographics etc. that you might otherwise have outsourced to a marketing agency. They can make outbound calls or deliveries to customers. Just remember to ensure that they have the right phone package to allow them to make lots of outbound calls. You wouldn’t want to saddle your employees with an enormous phone bill at a time like this.
Be sure to check in with your team via video conferencing to keep morale high, give them a sense of “business as usual” and keep them motivated to succeed.
Renegotiate terms with your vendors
The coronavirus has thrown a spanner into the works of your entire supply chain. You may find yourself unable to pay your vendors on time, or at least need to significantly reduce your orders from them. The good news is that they’re SMB owners just like you and going through the exact same trials and tribulations. But they can’t help you if you suffer in silence. Reach out to them and attempt to renegotiate terms. Most will be prepared to offer flexibility rather than risk losing a valued customer. Whether you arrange to stagger payments, set up arrears or simply scale back your provision, you can likely come to mutually beneficial terms that will keep your overheads manageable while still maintaining a good relationship with your vendors and supporting them in this time of mutual need.
Reach out to your clientele
These are uncertain and disruptive times. Your customers will appreciate whatever sense of continuity you can offer them. So make sure that they know you’re still with them. Reach out via outbound emails to all on your mailing list and regular messaging on social platforms. Let them know how you’re operating in a different way, but still operating nonetheless. Make sure they know how to get in touch with you and that you’re willing to offer them flexibility in these uncertain and unprecedented times.
Business as unusual
The current climate may seem extremely challenging. Even insurmountable. But rest assured, when all this is over, your business will emerge from it stronger, smarter and more agile!