COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on all aspects of American businesses, but perhaps none have been as severely affected as small business owners. Surviving this disaster will require more than just time: you will need to take a pragmatic view of what has happened and what steps you are willing and able to take in order to bounce back. Here are our suggestions:
Take a hard look at what you’re spending now and what you were spending before to determine what can be eliminated. Efficient spending is going to make a real difference in your business’ ability to survive this crisis. That means you need to look at what you’re spending now, while you’re cutting expenses to the bone, as well as what you were spending before. If you can break your expenditures down into what is necessary versus what can be eliminated, you’ll be able to cut out a lot of the fat and give yourself a cash flow advantage.
Perhaps you’ll find that you no longer need the same amount of physical space if you are comfortable with having workers telecommuting. That single example can lead to savings in electricity and other services that can boost your ability to cut expenses. Your goal is to run as lean an operation as possible, but to do so without having your cuts impact your ability to provide the service that your clients expect and want.
Examine how the shifts that the pandemic has forced can be incorporated into your business in a more sustained way. Plenty of companies have shown tremendous flexibility and nimbleness in the way that they deliver their products or services, or even in the products themselves. Every business’ success is based on what the market needs, so business owners who can assess how the pandemic’s unique dynamics can be used to their advantage, or how they can adjust to them, will be the ones that are most successful and most likely to survive.
3. Competitive Inspiration
If you’re stuck for what to do to transform your business, there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking to your competition for inspiration. Perhaps they’ve moved their in-store shopping experience to one that is entirely available online, or they’re providing a new way to use an old product. Maybe they aren’t able to open but are remaining engaged with customers via webinars, podcasts, live sessions on Facebook or Instagram. Whatever is working for one company, whether in your industry or not, can serve as inspiration for you.
How are you spending your time through the pandemic? Are you just worrying about how your business has suffered, or are there things that you’ve wanted to do for quite some time but have put off until you had a moment to spare?
Perhaps most importantly, it’s a good time to reflect on whether you’re actually enjoying yourself as much as you thought you would when you first started your own business, and whether the whole endeavor is actually worth it. Are you making the money you thought you would? Are you enjoying it as much as you thought you would? Has it provided the quality of life that you anticipated? Or would you be better off doing something else? It makes perfect sense to take this forced time off to reassess and either confirm or deny whether you should keep moving forward or turn to something else.
Take a longer view of your business than what is demanded by the immediate moment. There are some businesses that will be able to return to normal, but that is not true of all of them, and taking a clear-eyed look at how consumers are going to look at spending money with your type of business in the future is time well spent. If your business is essentially dependent upon having lots of people gathered in a small space, then you have to think beyond getting back to work and, instead, spend time thinking about the changes you’re going to have to make to allow yourself to stay in business. You may fail to do this, but you’re likely to find that your competition hasn’t, and that will not only put them one step ahead of you but may leave you selling in a way that your customers are no longer willing to engage with.
If your business operations have slowed or come to a stop as a result of the pandemic, one of the smartest things you can do is to use the time to expand your own knowledge and education. There are seemingly limitless courses that you can take online – both free and fee-based – as well as books you can read to make sure that you have sharpened your abilities and expanded your knowledge of your business and industry.
The social distancing that has been required by both the government and the medical authorities gives you the opportunity to boost your abilities and expertise, whether by reading about your own industry or by taking cues from successful people in other industries. You can find inspiration from innovators and great thinkers both current and classical. There is a lot more to be gained from the down time offered by the pandemic than thinking about your inventory and your clients. Use the time to improve yourself and it will provide a broad advantage within this business and those you may be involved with in the future.
7. Taking Care
Perhaps most important of all, stay healthy and stay positive. If you have extra time that you would have been spending on your business, take the time to make sure that you are taking care of yourself, the people you love, and the people in your community. We are living through history, and at some point in the future you are going to look back and assess how you spent your time in lockdown. Whether it’s in reference to your business or your personal life, work towards a resilient response that you can be proud of, and that hopefully will advance your business beyond this temporary setback.