When the economy crashes, there is a national disaster, or even a world-wide pandemic, most small businesses are all in the same boat. We are all bobbing around in uncharted waters with no wind to fill our sails, and the only thing we can do is try to keep moving forward in any way we can. So do we row? Do we get out and swim? The key is being open to any ideas that will keep our businesses afloat.
Based on our years of business experience, we’ve put together some practical advice to help our fellow business owners through difficult times. Not all of these techniques will work for every business and every situation, but hopefully you will be able to apply at least one of these ideas to help you through a crisis.
There is nothing more certain in life than change. Change is the only constant that you can count on as a business owner. The businesses and the entrepreneurs that are flexible enough to adapt when times or circumstances change, those are the ones who survive. For example, our business heavily relies on building relationships and face-to-face meetings with potential buyers and sellers, as well as holding meetings between buyers and sellers. Since COVID, we’ve had to change the way we conduct business. We are leveraging the technology tools we have and scheduling conference calls, or FaceTime/Zoom/Skype meetings. We are seeing lots of businesses adapt to these changing times, by selling their products online rather than at their retail shops, offering take-out and delivery instead of dine-in, or making video tutorials or online instruction. Thinking of different ways that you can conduct business will help keep you alive, and especially leveraging digital technology will make all the difference.
If there is no option for you to change the way you do business, then maybe you might be able to change your business’s focus. Look for the opportunities that are out there during this crazy time and see if your business can bend toward a current problem that needs solving.
If there are no opportunities to change the way you do business, and you don’t see any possibilities to change your business’s focus, then try to volunteer and support your community through your business, if that is in any way possible.
Let Your Customers/Clients Know How They Can Support You
Nobody wants our economy to suffer, nobody wants to go bankrupt, and nobody wants to see businesses fail. So, appeal to everyone who is a customer or client, to all of your fans, to everyone who has worked with your business in the past and ask them to help you during this difficult time. Run a sale or offer a friends and family discount. Do anything you are able to do to keep income coming in. Buying gift cards or booking future appointments are also good options as well.
There are also easy and free things that your customers can do to help your business, like filming a video testimonial for you or writing an online review for you. Those are great things to ask of your current and past customers. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for support, as you have a captive audience and people are looking for ways that they can support their communities during any time of crisis.
Keep Your Team/Employees Motivated
Unlike large corporations, most small businesses don’t have big reserves in the bank to pay their employees if the business has to shut down temporarily. So, in order for a small business to keep their workers employed, they need to stay functioning and keep working as much as possible during a difficult time. Keeping them motivated and busy during a time that is challenging, especially if the job they were doing has been temporarily suspended.
Are there other jobs the employee can do? Inventory, marketing, and making sales calls are all activities that can go by the wayside if a business is too busy, so what needs doing that can be done by the people you’d like to keep on your payroll? Get creative and see how you can keep your people employed. You can also offer employee incentives to drive business, offer extra training, more education, or help them to develop new skills to use in their job once you get back up and running at full speed.
If your employees are working remotely, the number one thing to do is to stay connected to them and keep pushing their productivity. Communicate using Microsoft Teams or Zoom meetings. Keep face-to-face meetings happening, not just texts or phone calls. Human beings need real interactions, which will keep them connected to your business, and to the goals of the company. Use this time to do some 1 on 1 meetings with each of your employees to find out more about what motivates them, what they would like to see as incentives for reaching their goals, and to get any ideas they may have about moving the business forward during a challenging time.
Better Your Business
When your business is busy and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, many important but not urgent activities get pushed to the side. If your business has slowed down or has had to shut its doors temporarily, use this time wisely. Stay away from your sofa and turn off Netflix during the working hours of the day. Use this unexpected time out to make not only your business better, but to better yourself as the leader of that business. Invest in extra training or education. There is plenty of free stuff out there that is pretty good quality training. Read the top books on building your business up, being a better leader, or whatever it is that gets you motivated. My absolute favorite business guru and success coach is Darren Hardy. If you haven’t read his book The Compound Effect, now is a great time to do it. It’s an amazing book that has transformed my life and my business.
Take some time to document your businesses processes and procedures. Those are such a valuable thing to have when it comes time to selling your business or when you pass the reins onto your predecessor. This documentation process of all of the key roles and functions in the business is time-consuming and can be a daunting task to document every step you or your employees do to carry out each task, but once you have that library of written procedures, you are making your business much more valuable. It makes employee training much easier and it means someone will be able to step into any of the roles you have documented with ease.
You should also revisit your business plan during this time. Update projections and numbers based on your current situation and start brainstorming ideas on how you will be able to recover business that has been lost or how you plan to start back up again, once this threat has subsided. Make realistic goals for your business and outline your plan to achieve those goals. Don’t have a business plan? Now is the perfect time to develop one. There are many resources for business plans online, so just do a Google search to see which tools might be most useful for you in your industry or line of work. A business plan is the roadmap for where you want to take your business. Without one, how will you get to where you want to go? It’s not going to happen by chance, especially during these uncertain times, so rally the troops and draft a plan of action.
Cut Non-Essential Costs
If your outgoing expenses are surpassing your revenue, your business will not survive. It’s simple math and business 101, but right now, if business isn’t booming, you need to take a look at cutting some of your costs. As business owners and leaders, the burden always falls onto our shoulders to make the difficult decisions. You need to grab your QuickBooks file or schedule a meeting with your bookkeeper or CPA to discuss your current expenses.
Cutting costs will undoubtedly have a domino effect on your local economy. If you can keep all of your vendors and employees on the books, then you should. However, if you financially cannot afford to keep them on your payroll, then you need to be honest with yourself and make the cuts where absolutely necessary.
So, go through your current expenses and prioritize them. What is non-essential to operation that can be cut immediately to help give you a buffer? What could be cut if money gets really tight? What are expenses that are last resort cuts? You need to know where you stand will all of your outgoings so that you can trim the fat now, to hopefully ensure your survival during the leaner times ahead.
Even though you might not need it yet, do some research today and figure out what your options are for financial assistance, should you need it. Do you have any personal or business credit that is open and available for use?
Also, reach out to your landlord if you lease your business space. Don’t be afraid to ask about rent deferment or forgiveness. That just might be enough financial assistance to get you through a challenging time.