This is what small business owners can do during the pandemic.
Whether or not the real culprit is mass hysteria or the virus itself, we can all agree that the global impact of this pandemic is affecting more than just toilet paper availability. With the majority of social and public spaces (like malls, schools, community centres, shops, etc.) closing for the foreseeable future, many small business owners are facing very real challenges, trying to stabilize the future of their livelihood in these turbulent economic times. While the simple equation may look like “no customers equals no businesses”, there is a deep well of opportunity to fortify your business during this time that could mean the difference between long term survival and closing up shop. Here are some ways that every business owner can use during this time to strengthen your business:
- Tax preparation
- Website audits & tweaks
- Social media content
- Competitor Analysis
- Internal policy audits
- Make (or refine your current) emergency strategy for next time a pandemic happens
- Record everything (revenue, staff notes, customer questions…) as a reference for the next disaster
Here are some industry-specific strategies and actions to take to strengthen your business during this global crisis.
Medium to Small Retail Businesses
With so many independent retail businesses relying on razor-thin profit margins and enormous overhead, the reality of closing up shop could mean the end of the business. While this terrifying prospect could be a reality, there are ways to actively strengthen the future of your store.
Do: Find valuable ways to continue to employ your retail staff for their regular hours and wage remotely. This can be anything from research for new products, social content, competitor analysis and anything that doesn’t require a new skill set. Look at your retail staff’s personal hobbies and talents. Maybe you have an artist in the group that can work on future window displays or a budding influencer that can map out a social strategy.
Don’t: Refuse to pay your retail staff. Refusing to pay staff is a band-aid solution to a problem that will follow you indefinitely. In addition, stop by your shop every 2-3 days to make sure everything is in order (no burst pipes/crack windows….etc.). This is your responsibility as an owner.
Restaurants & Food Services
Restaurants and foodservice businesses often bear the brunt of public scrutiny when it comes to contagious outbreaks due to the nature of bacteria transmission by food. Unfortunately, restaurants also have one of the most fragile revenue structures, relying not only on a complicated food supply chain and perishable product but also high staffing costs. Here’s what you can do to make the most of this time.
Do: Donate uneaten food. If you do plan on remaining open, make sanitation signs obvious in various places around the restaurant. Provide your kitchen staff with daily check-ins and reminders for increased sanitization. Use this time to connect with your suppliers and farmers to offer support. Connect with peer businesses in the restaurant industry, offer any resources or help you can. Make a video training series to send to new and existing staff to demonstrate best practices (maybe put the offering out to the public and get some much-needed cash back into the business as well). If you feel like you need something physical to do, clean, reorganize and take inventory. Get yourself ready for when business comes back.
Don’t: Make this into a joke and point the finger at hysteria. Wherever this situation ends up going, public perception is important and the perception of sanitization and care is of the utmost importance in food establishments. You can also use this as an opportunity to sharpen your chef skills and continue to develop your special skill sets.
With the vast majority of e-commerce businesses relying on global supply chains (with many hubs in Asia), manufacturing and processing facilities felt the tension early on during the COVID-19 outbreak. While sales may be down (depending on your industry), and product orders may be halted, there are things you can do to strengthen your business.
Do: Check in with your suppliers, warehouse manager, and factory managers. Offer a note of support. Keep the communication lines open. The time will come where you’re going to need these people to be on your team again and they will remember how you treated them during the pandemic.
Don’t: Get on your supplier, warehouse manager, and factory managers’ case. This is a global issue that we are all trying to navigate — and finger-pointing serves no one.
Community Spaces & Events
With all non-essential events being canceled, venues and planners are losing out on weeks (likely months) of revenue. This is the same for community spaces like coworking and community centres. However, there are things you can do to balance out the effect of this pandemic.
Do: Publicly acknowledge the disappointment and inconvenience of event or community space cancellations. If you have an offering (like workshops), make sure your social content is highlighting it. If you do not have a digital offering, now's the time to try it out. Test out a digital event like a panel or live workshop.
Don’t: Try to push for events to still happen or revert to pushy sales tactics to get your community back in the door. You’re trying to run this business long term, don’t burn your reputation for this (albeit extended) moment of panic.
If having staff commute to a physical space is necessary for continuing to keep your business stable, ensure you have; adequate hygiene products (soap, sanitizer, sanitary paper products), written consent (via email) from your staff that they are acknowledged and accept the risks associated with being in an uncontained space, emergency plans in place for more extreme government measures.
With the vast majority of businesses experiencing an impact on revenue and sales during this time, it’s important to keep the focus on the opportunities that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak allows us. Take advantage of this time to strengthen your business in ways that will create a stable foundation to build back up quickly once consumer routines return to normal. Ensure your staff and customers are safe, being educated on the situation, and are aware of what measures are being taken to support the community during this time. Check-in with peers and people in your supply chain. The future of your business may depend on it.