Remember when owning a small business was risky but rewarding? Stressful but satisfying? And then COVID-19 hit.
In the midst of a global pandemic, being responsible for your own business—as well as the livelihoods of your employees—very likely seems overwhelming if not completely debilitating. Nobody said entrepreneurship was easy, but certainly nobody predicted this devastating turn of events.
Every day—perhaps every hour—you feel forced to reset your expectations, your goals and your strategy. Will you survive? How long can you support your team? What does your small business look like six months from now, one year from now?
Here are the top four survival tips for small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Embrace this era of uncertainty as an opportunity.
American author John Shedd is known for the phrase, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” American president Franklin Roosevelt once said, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”
These are the times in which ingenuity thrives—particularly among entrepreneurs. As EO CEO Carrie Santos observes, “Entrepreneurs do not catch up on news and wonder how they will face the COVID-19 crisis. Entrepreneurs jump in to offer solutions.”
Before you tackle the problems at hand, take time to reflect on your core purpose. Ask yourself: Are there new ways for you to support your goals? Let go of how you operated last week and consider what might make sense in this new reality.
Around the world and across the street, we are seeing examples of entrepreneurs rethinking their process, their product and their way forward:
• Distilleries pivot to make hand sanitizer.
• Health care laboratories innovate, collaborate and share findings like never before.
• Companies from various industries refocus production to make face masks.
2. Focus on your people.
When you first launched, you concentrated on attracting your ideal clients and hiring good people. And so it remains.
Yes, there may be lay-offs. Your revenue will drop. Now is the time to double down on those valuable star employees and loyal customers.
Prioritize your team’s safety and mental health. Implement new, virtual ways to communicate regularly with your team. Clearly outline your benefits and let them know their options. Informed and engaged employees are empowered and dedicated. Lean on industry peers for creative ways to support your staff and stay informed about the latest laws and resources in your area.
• How to take care of your restaurant staff during a health crisis.
• The US Chamber of Commerce shares how organizations might design an on-off furlough plan.
• In the US, the government is allowing states to change their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits.
• How to rely on and align your frontline employees.
3. Engage with customers and community.
Don’t neglect the clients, customers and community who help your business thrive. They’re weathering this crisis alongside you, so consider their needs as well.
Provide longstanding customers with exclusive ways to support and engage with your business. Reach out to them through social media platforms to lift their spirits and discover how they’re surviving this difficult time. Rise above the chaos and build goodwill through your communications.
Consider offering gift cards toward future services or investments in upcoming projects. Remember, many people are at home and spending more time online, so be sure your website and social media platforms are ready for primetime. Encourage your clients to post online reviews. If possible, create ways to up your virtual commerce.
• Ideas for retaining customers during the coronavirus epidemic.
• Health and fitness businesses are finding new ways to deliver their services.
• Consider “holding your ground” a good thing during this crisis.
4. Proactively identify sources for financial support.
The greatest challenge to maintaining a small business has always been cash flow. Today is no different—but your sources for relief are changing every day.
Whether you’re seeking access to capital or immediate liquidity, it is imperative to understand the options available to you. Now is the time to engage with policy-makers in your area and advocate for your needs.
While governments work to pass relief packages, you might also look a little closer for help. Unprecedented times demand unprecedented solutions, and now might be the moment to reconsider borrowing from family members or exploring alternative approaches to lending.
• Three ways to protect your small business.
• Peer-to-peer lending provides an alternative means for loans.
• Five steps to secure your business in hard times.
• The US Small Business Association provides extensive resources and guidance.
• For EO members, MyEO Deal Exchange has waived its joining fees in order to promote EO member cross-investment.
Purposeful optimism is a must
What we can’t know for certain is how COVID-19 will change the business landscape in the years to come. Here’s what we do know: Entrepreneurs like you were born to weather these storms.
You didn’t choose to start a business because it would be simple or easy going. There is something unique in your very DNA that makes you the very best person to navigate the difficult months ahead.
And, if these last weeks are any indicator, entrepreneurs will be stronger next month and even next year. Yes, you and your business will emerge from this crisis different—but also with more resilience and strength.
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