Well, this is an emotional subject for me. I love Small & Medium Businesses (SMBs) and that's why I never back down from a chance to help any SMB entrepreneur. SMB owners are considered the backbone of most global economies by employing millions of people and by serving each one of us with our requirements - be it our favorite beauty products or services, entertainment, food, etc.
COVID19 pandemic has caused maximum havoc for these SMB owners more than anyone else. If you look around during these lockdowns across the globe, you can see almost all your favorite small & medium business outlet is closed. While these closures are impacting the business owners financially, its the uncertainty of what's lying ahead that is worrisome for most of them.
The latest statistics say around 27% of small business owners believe their revenues are impacted by this pandemic. This pandemic, unlike any other adverse event, has brought with it multiple questions like:
How will businesses operate while all this is over?
Will customers come back with their old trust post this pandemic?
What kind of measures needs to be taken to ensure the safety of your customers?
When is this pandemic going to end?
Most of the small and medium businesses have closed shops to ensure their workforce is safe and sound at home. Some of them are using this downtime for renovation and reevaluation of prospects lying ahead. Most of them are availing support from local government authorities to cope up with the revenue loss. And many of them are struggling to stay afloat amidst the biggest challenge of our lives.
So here are some of my thoughts on what SMB owners can do during this pandemic which will help them come back strong or stay optimistic at least.
Evaluate All Options
COVID19 may come across as the perfect time to throw in the towel for every SMB owner. But I will say do not even think about it. This is the time to evaluate your options to stay in the game and come out of this challenge. Evaluating all the options will help you get clear-headed and survive this without much damage.
For example, if you own a fast-food restaurant, look at ways you can still serve your customers. It may be via an online delivery platform or own delivery staff. As your customers are also under lockdown, they would love to enjoy your delicacies in the comfort of their homes.
So this is the time to put your thinking hats on and come up with a plan for serving your customers. The most important thing to keep in mind is to ensure the utmost safety of your employees during these times.
Monitor Government Support
Another important thing you can do now is closely monitoring the support provided by your local authorities and government. Every government across the globe are launching support schemes for helping their citizens and businesses stay alive during these testing times. From the United Kingdom's £20 million funding to the US government's $1 trillion economic stimulus fund, every government is trying to do their bit to keep the economy alive.
As an SMB owner, you need to stay on top of these support schemes to ensure you leverage these to survive this pandemic. You should join the relevant discussions on these support schemes on social media or your local business organizations (virtually) to understand how your business can get the right support.
Here is a resource to find all the government support for businesses - Click Here.
Stay In Touch With Employees
If you ask any small & medium business owners, they will agree to the fact that their workforce is their extended family. That is one of the best characteristics of being an SMB as it lacks the bureaucracy of larger enterprises. If a small business has to succeed, its employees have to function as a single unit along with the owner to achieve their goals.
During these tough times, as an SMB owner, you must stay in touch with your employees. You should let them know that you are there for them whenever they are in need. Be it via WhatsApp or Zoom calls, make sure you spend time with them to keep them updated on the latest developments around the business.
Connect With Customers
As a small business owner, you would have spent years toiling hard to build a loyal customer base. I remember the way my favorite eatery in the local market checks on me and my kid whenever I visit for my favorite burger. SMB owners, unlike bigger companies, tend to strike up a personal relationship with most customers.
So the times are weird but that shouldn't stop you from maintaining those relationships. You need to maintain the connection by staying in touch with your customers. Keep them updated on what's in store for you and your business. Via email or WhatsApp conversations, you need to let them know how you are working hard to serve them still and also about how they can reach you whenever needed.
Work On Your Personal Brand
While reading this advice, you might think "Personal Brand, seriously?". But I request you to hear me out. I am a firm believer that every SMB owner must work hard to build a personal brand. A personal brand will help you showcase the "real" you to your prospects and customers. It will help everyone understand your "why" and they will get behind that.
So during this lockdown or a slow period of activity, I recommend you to start focusing on building your personal brand if you haven't done already. Use your personal brand to tell a story of who you are, your aspirations, your struggles at the moment, and what are your actions. This will help build an authentic image of yours for your audience and they will support you and your business.
P.S: Not sure how to build your personal brand, connect with me and I can give you some tips.
Plan For Post COVID19 Times
I agree that there is a lot of uncertainty looming around for small and medium businesses due to this pandemic. But that should not stop you from planning for the times ahead. These are the perfect times to either pivot or course-correct for your business. Think about the directions you always wanted to take and those new things you wanted to try for your business.
Tough times like these can make or break your business. Have a plan for your post COVID19 operations. Stay on top of your cash flow, employee management, and future expansion plans.
Learn Something New
Well, this is another point that might irk you. But let me explain. Remember how painful is it to pay a marketing consultant or a website developer every month for getting a mediocre end product. Now, these are the times you can pick up a skill or two which you can utilize for growing your business. I hear from business owners that time restraints put a halt to all their skill development plans.
Ok, you have time now as these are slow times for every business. Pick up some of those courses on LinkedIn Learning or Udemy and upskill yourself. My best recommendations for every small and medium business owner will be the basics of online marketing, social media platforms, content marketing, and advertising on Google and social media platforms.
Put Out Content For Customers & Prospects
For every small and medium business, it is imperative to keep a communication channel open. As a business owner, you can focus on creating content relevant to your community and share it with them. These can be regular email communications or updates on your social media channels or other useful information for them. Your customers will be looking forward to receiving regular updates about your business and it is your responsibility to provide them the same.
Use tools like Canva, Crello, and Mailchimp to create, and share useful content for your community. You can also utilize these downtimes to plan your content for the time ahead once all this madness is over.
The most crucial thing to do for every business owner nowadays is to stay positive. One of the alarming side effects of this pandemic was the drastic increase in the number of entrepreneurs seeking professional help for coping up with stress (Source). As a business owner, it can get overwhelming to handle all the stress-causing factors thrown at you from several directions. But one must stay positive to traverse through this tough period.
How can one do that? Pick up some new positive habits like journaling or meditation. Use an app like Headspace and build a new habit of silent sessions for calming one down. Incorporate positive habits to help you cope with the negativity around and the stress.
Take Good Care Of Health
One of the adverse effects of periods like lockdown and pandemic is the tendency to neglect one's health. To cope up with the stress, many of us may fall back on habits like over-eating and drinking which we think will help us relax. The negative effects of these habits are much higher and they likely become a strong habit easily. So stay aware of such habits that can harm your health.
On the other hand, it is much easier and beneficial to take good care of health with habits like regular exercise, eating healthy food like greens and supplements, etc. So adopt habits that will help you take good care of your health.
Spend Quality Time With Family
Every SMB owner knows the pain they go through and the sacrifices they have to make while building their business. Most of these entrepreneurs live such hectic lives that it is tough to spend quality time with their families. Those missed special events like kid's birthdays or anniversaries are considered worth it as they are building a safe future for their loved ones.
But now, due to this pandemic, the slowdown brought upon can be the ideal time to spend some quality time with your loved ones. Make the most of it and have some good laughs. Take your kid out for a bicycle ride or start those walks with your better-half which you always postponed. Make this a priority and you will create a list of fond memories while COVID19 moves on.
As an SMB fan, I am praying and hoping that all the small and medium businesses and their owners somehow survive this pandemic. I am cautiously optimistic that most of these businesses will come out strong of this testing time and I will be there to cheer for many of them as a customer or a well-wisher. Let's stay positive.
Stay Safe; Stay Healthy.