Small businesses will probably be the hardest hit in times of crisis. Many conditions could cause a decline in sales for your small business. It is important to think of every small issue that could happen and plan for it beforehand. If you haven’t, then plan to be inventive in ways you can survive.
For example, is your small business prepared for disaster, economic decline, or illness?
What are some ways you can survive in times of crisis?
Review Your Overhead and Spending
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), you should be aggressive and imaginative with your methods. Here are some of the ideas they suggest:
- If you are selling goods, keep your inventory small. It’s a fine line between going out of stock constantly and having too much inventory. Watch it carefully.
- Watch your cash flow and if a crisis occurs, negotiate with your lenders, contractors, and landlords for short-term pricing.
- Eliminate non-essential supplies, sales, or services. For example, if you are a restaurant, limit your menu for curbside services. If you are a landscaper, offer only top-selling services for a short period. Be inventive.
- Be careful with capital spending. When thinking about buying a pricey item, think do you want it, or do you need it?
- Review your rented space. Could you move to a better location or even work from home?
- Be better than your competition. What are they doing and what could you improve? Ensure your customer service is better and even hire seasonal workers if you need to for the short term.
- Increase your marketing. Think about ways you could be inventive with your marketing as well. Make sure your messages are carefully planned. For example, if you own a cleaning business, what other services could you offer as well as cleaning? For example, many seniors may need help in organizing their homes.
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Involve and Train Your Staff on New Approaches
Be reassuring to your staff. This is when they need you the most. Even if you are panicking inside, you should reassure them that you will do whatever you can to keep the business going. Most crises are short-term. You don’t need all the answers yet, but this is the time to use your leadership skills and be there for your staff.
Let your team know your concerns and ask for input. You are not alone and many times people who work for a small business feel like that business is their own as well. Are they willing to take on new responsibilities during the crisis? If so, what kind of training is involved?
Could you take this time to train your staff on skills you have been holding off because everyone has been too busy? Employees appreciate honesty. They don’t want to fear for their jobs, but if you do have to lay some off, tell them that you will be working to get them back as soon as possible.
Will your business allow flexibility or remote work? You may have been thinking about doing this for a while now. If you do, develop a plan of reporting and communication. When brainstorming with your staff, also meet with them individually to see what they would like to do. Some may want to take some time off or take reduced hours. That will ease your fears of laying off. However, you must do what is best for your business.
Discover and Embrace New Technology
If more people are working remotely, think about implementing a new time clock system such as ezClocker. The ezClocker time clock app is simple, easy to use, and affordable. This scheduling and time tracking app will allow employees to use their own mobile devices to clock in or out. A GPS timestamp is also recorded which allows you to verify that your employees clocked in and out of the right locations. Your staff will love the time clock app because it allows them to view their schedules and timesheets all in real-time.
Many companies are using Zoom for their conference calls. This way, everyone can stay in touch and see each other on the call if they can’t be together in the office.
Review your payment options. What are some other options you can offer? Accepting payments through cash or checks only may result in late payments. Consider offering different methods to pay such as PayPal, Square, Venmo, or Apple Pay. People may feel more secure using these methods than giving you their credit card information.
There are several productivity tools you can use as well. Research and learn from others the best ones for your business.
Be Smart and Stay Calm
This is not the time to take advantage of the situation when things go wrong. For example, don’t let employees work for free. If you want to take a pay cut, that is fine, but pay anyone who works for you. Pay your taxes. Continue to follow all laws. You can also earn a bad reputation from a crisis if you are misleading customers or employees. Don’t hike your prices up, but don’t go low either. You can run specials to get new customers but ensure whatever you do, you can manage your cash flow. You still have to pay bills.
It is also important to maintain your business integrity.
Research Financial Resources
The SBA offers small business loans and during a crisis, more money may be available. Research your local government and banks as well. Are there other places where you can get money if a crisis occurs?
Also, think about investors and any other resources. What is your backup plan if you lose income for 30-60 days?
Develop a Crisis Plan
If you haven’t yet, develop a crisis continuity plan to handle many situations for the future. What would you do if your business caught on fire or was wiped out from a tornado? Do you have another option if you lost the space you rent? What if one of your employees did something illegal? Could you handle another pandemic? Where could you set up your offices or how would you handle the loss of equipment? Do you have all your computer information backed up somewhere?
You could develop a small crisis plan at first and add to it as things happen or if you think of new ideas. Whatever you do, plan for something to happen.
Once you have developed your plans, it is important to keep communicating with your employees and customers. Build a social media presence and email list. Notify them frequently regarding any business changes. Regarding your employees, be thoughtful and caring. It is okay for them to know you are concerned but be calm. You don’t have to have all the answers. Also, by asking for their ideas and input you are building better relationships. If you do have to lay off workers for a short period of time, communicate with them frequently about any updates. Stay in touch with them so you don’t lose them.
During a crisis, your marketing and advertising shouldn’t be silly or gimmicky. It should show strength and understanding. Offer specials but don’t go so cheap you can’t pay your bills or your employees.
Research better ways to run your business. Stay ahead of the competition and if you see a weakness, be aggressive but thoughtful when marketing. You may come up with a different business idea or plan that could be used in the future.
Finally, if your community or area is going through the crisis as well, think about ways in which your business can be involved and help others. Show compassion, humility, and kindness to everyone. Your business may be judged by customers and others regarding how you reacted in the situation.