Even though you might prepare for a natural disaster or a slight downturn in the market, there are some events company owners simply can’t predict. Massive global changes, such as those that come with a pandemic, create disruptions in the way we do business. 2020 has already been a year of upheaval for small businesses. The remainder of the year promises even more challenges.
In a Main Street America survey of 5,850 small-business owners, researchers found timing is everything. If mandated closures continue for several months, about 7.5 million of the approximately 30 million small companies may shut down permanently.
Small businesses must suddenly change the way they operate and try to overcome people spending less money in certain areas. Those who adapt quickly survive and those that don’t fail. There is some good news here for companies ready to meet the needs of the public and adjust where needed. Services for essential items are needed more than ever before.
1. Segment Your Audience
Now is a great time to take the customer list you currently have and divide it into groups. Look at the needs of each segment of your audience with the future in mind. What needs can you meet, and do the parts work for current offers as well as new ones?
2. Assess Staff Needs
As with most things, 2020 will pass. Rather than letting your top-performing staff members go, look for new jobs for them to do. Perhaps one of them is skilled in online matters and could take over some of the marketing temporarily. Keep in mind that after the pandemic passes and killer hornets and other scares are gone, your business will likely rebound. It costs time and money to locate and train a new employee. It’s better to try to keep skilled people working now.
During difficult times, put your staff first. What are their needs? How can you help them feel safe? If you can’t afford to keep them on full time, can you at least give them some work or apply for a government grant or loan to keep paying them anyway? Don’t release people who are almost like family when things will likely rebound in a few months.
3. Figure Out How to Help
Look to some of the businesses who’ve instantly changed what they produce or sell. Local distilleries, for example, changed their typical offerings and started making hand sanitizer. Factories began producing face masks and protective equipment. Other companies have made numerous changes to meet the challenges and needs during a difficult time.
Even once a pandemic is over, people will need different products and services than before as the economy and the world recover. Think about the needs of your local community and look for ways to meet those concerns.
4. Take Stock of Expenses
Your stores may shutter, or the number of people allowed inside may be severely reduced right now. The extra downtime is a chance to analyze all your expenses. Pull out the paperwork and see if you’re spending too much on items from vendors. Do you need a case of printer paper delivered every month? Can you cut that back at all?
Look for ways to reduce ongoing expenses, such as utilities. Can you turn off lights at night or leave only a few on? Are there services you subscribe to and don’t use or can do yourself? Cut anything that isn’t necessary to run your business.
5. Set New Goals
Most business owners write out goals for the next year sometime in December. Since the world changed drastically in the first part of 2020, those objectives may not meet your current needs. Take a look at future market projections and adjust your goals to best fit current economic conditions. It’s fine to simply have a goal of holding your ground and not losing too much business. You can always continue your growth model once things return to normal.
6. Adapt Your Business Model
Surviving 2020 will require adaptations in the way we do business. Your customers have to feel safe shopping in your stores or visiting your restaurants. The only way to provide that is through changes to the way you sell goods. For most brick-and-mortar stores, offering delivery services and curbside pickup will be the new norm. At-risk populations no longer want to go into stores to make purchases. Provide much-needed relief for them by adding on to the ways you sell your products.
7. Go Online
If you don’t already have an e-commerce store, now is the perfect time to start one. Not only does it allow you to stay open 24/7, but also many people won’t feel comfortable shopping in-person for the rest of 2020. There are website tools that help you take offline business online fast to come out of this isolation-situation as a winner.
USA Today recently reported the second quarter of 2020 saw retail giant Amazon’s sales rise 26% and hit $75.5 billion. People are naturally turning to safer solutions with less one-on-one contact. Online shopping is up in many industries, so it’s vital to offer this option.
8. Install Safety Measures
When your business does reopen, your employees and customers need to feel comfortable coming into your establishment. Even once the threat of a pandemic passes, there could be other situations that arise. Install safety measures that make sense for your industry.
For example, how can you better space your customers apart for comfort and safety? Do your cashiers need plexiglass guards to separate them a bit? Should you scan people’s temperatures before allowing them access to work there or go shopping? Think through the things making everyone safe without disrupting their lives too much and implement new procedures.
9. Offer Promotions Matching the Times
You’ve probably noticed the second quarter of 2020 lacks a lot of advertisements and exclusive sales from companies. Since most businesses plan promotions months in advance, your offers may no longer be relevant to what’s going on in the world. Instead, think about what people need and what you provide, and offer promotions that make sense. For example, some restaurants offered a roll of free toilet paper with a carryout order. Since bath tissue was in short supply, this was a promotion most helpful to their customers.
Reassess More Often
In the past, you likely planned for the full 12 months of the calendar and then reassessed things. Unfortunately, 2020 ushered in such rapid changes, an annual model no longer works. Businesses must be ready to adapt on the fly to survive upcoming challenges. At a minimum, look at things each month and make any needed changes to keep running and turning a profit.
Companies that change and survive this year are going to come out stronger than ever before. In the meantime, get creative, stay on top of things and look for ways to reduce short-term costs.