As the world continues to work toward preventing the spread of COVID-19, small businesses are finding themselves in an unimaginable situation. A staggering 7.5 million small businesses are at risk of closing, while 87 percent of small business owners report that their business is hurting as a result of the pandemic.
I’d venture to say most companies did not have any type of plan to address a global pandemic’s impact on their business operations – the major impacts we’ve experienced in the past weeks have been nearly impossible to predict or plan for. With 22 million Americans having already filed for unemployment, the overall rate is predicted to reach its highest point since the Great Depression. It’s clear that the impacts of this pandemic are being felt vastly across the country, however, it’s not too late to implement a few changes that will not only help your business during the crisis, but will better set you up for future unforeseen obstacles and hardships. Here are four tips that will help you and your business navigate the stressful times we are in.
Create a Continuity Plan
It is so important for businesses of all sizes to have a clear continuity plan in place, outlining procedures and instructions to be followed in the event of a crisis. If your small business doesn’t currently have one, it’s not too late to create one now. Your plan should outline the key resources needed to deliver your product, both internally and externally. It should also identify the key business risks of the crisis at hand, as well as highlight the differing roles of the employees who are responsible for changing workflows during this time. If you find yourself in need of a continuity plan, there are many free templates available online to get you started.
Increase Your Level of Communication and Transparency
One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is communicate clearly with your customers. They understand, now more than ever, we are operating in uncertain times, especially when it comes to the supply chain and your product availability. In an email to customers, outline what your brand is doing to help them during these challenging times. By describing the steps your company is taking to mitigate the risks that are resulting from the pandemic, you will build credibility with your customers and they will appreciate the transparency. By providing your customers with a great shopping experience during a time like COVID, they’re going to continue business with you in the future, ultimately leading to an increase in business performance down the road.
Be Open to Change
Life as a small business owner demands evolution and innovation. However, it may be difficult to implement changes to your routine. Be that as it may, you have to be prepared to change the way you’re doing business. Think about how restaurants have developed takeaway and delivery services overnight. Similarly, small businesses are finding themselves pivoting their marketing strategies and relying on social media to drive engagement and sales more than ever before. How can you reach new customers while adhering to the nation’s guidelines?
For example, take a look at how the retail industry has pivoted as small businesses have been forced to close their doors and consumers must shop entirely from the security of their own homes. My company, Jane, has strengthened our ecommerce offerings and has pivoted away from our planned Spring campaigns and instead shifted our product offerings to meet customer demands in this new COVID Life.
Utilize the Help Around You
While these times are scary and you may not know how best to proceed, it’s okay and understandable to seek help. Banks and financial institutions are up to date on the latest news related to relief funds and grants, the stimulus package, and other resources. Staying in frequent touch with your bank and your representative keeps the line of communication open, keeps you abreast of your financial situation, and helps you take advantage of available financial options from the Small Business Association and as part of the government stimulus plan.
It’s also wise to expand your network of connections when it comes to fellow small business owners and business leaders. Everyone is feeling the effects of the pandemic when it comes to the economy and their business, so talking regularly with others about how they’re coping with the situation provides perspective. It also acts as a useful way to gain ideas of how to boost your business during tough times by understanding what has and hasn’t worked for others.
While it’s inevitable that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt by everyone for a long time to come, there are upsides of this unprecedented time. Learning to navigate these unchartered waters will undoubtedly promote resilience, sharpen business skills, and increase resourcefulness of business owners. We will be stronger than ever once we reach our new normal. Let’s do the best we can to support each other on the road to recovery.
A seasoned senior executive, Mark Spencer has more than 20 years of commercial business development experience, including over a decade of working with and advising eCommerce platforms. He is currently SVP, Commercial Operations at Jane.com, a curated online fashion marketplace. Outside of the office, Mark is an avid traveler, loves anything sports-related, and enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and the family dog. To learn more about the Utah-based company, visit Jane.com, download the app in the App or Google Play Stores or follow along on Instagram.