You found your industry and niche; researched your market and educated yourself; built yourself slowly into a reputable business — then a global pandemic hits! Physical spaces are shut and movement is restricted, your business as you know it is forced to adapt with the times or will risk going under. This is the reality for many entrepreneurs following the outbreak of COVID-19. Many businesses are disrupted and seeing huge losses whilst some are experiencing a surge in demand. No matter which side of the coin your business falls on, this is a period for reflection, creativity, innovation and most importantly, resilience.
The first step is to consider the type of entrepreneur you are and create a limited contact strategy that is suited to your business needs and consumer base. For example, if you have a physical space, you might have to close your office temporarily and explore remote working options. This lessens the risk of you and your employees being exposed to the virus. If you own a retail or food business, you may want to focus on online sales and delivering to your customers instead of walk-ins. In some cases, remote working may be impossible and in other cases, loss of sales may significantly affect the workload and the revenue generated by the business.
This is the moment to make some hard choices, between keeping your key staff (even if with pay cuts) and letting others go (but with a severance package to support them for some time). If you are fortunate and you live in a country where there is government support for small and medium-sized businesses, you should investigate your options and seek advice from the relevant regulatory body or trade associations that your business may belong to. Keep in mind that the survival of your business survival will depend on how creative, flexible and proactive you are.
Utilise Online Tools
Many businesses and entrepreneurs are able to tap into a rise in demand for online services if they have an established online presence. Depending on the type of business you run, you may have found the move to remote working a lot smoother than others, or you may need to make a small investment in time and training to utilise the maximum potential of an online presence for your business. If your business normally offers a face to face services like coaching, yoga or training, for example, video conferencing options should be explored. As an entrepreneur, the importance of utilising online channels in this age cannot be overstated.
This is not only limited to websites but also includes email marketing and more specific co-working tools such as Slack, Google Hangout, Zoom Microsoft Team and WhatsApp. The website and email marketing are directed at the customers or clients while the co-working tools make working from home with your team efficient and productive. This is an experiment that requires business-specific creativity and innovation. The good news is that utilising online tools may continue into the future if properly adopted now. Think of it as an experiment; if it works out well, you have successfully expanded another channel for providing quality service to your customers. You may find these tools easier and more cost-effective in the long term, helping you downscale and to manage overheads in the future.
Create Customer Incentives
The pandemic is having a financial impact on everyone, including your customers. They may not be able to buy as much as they used to or even patronise you at all. On the other hand, you need to fill your order book and make sales to keep your business going. Customers may need extra motivation to continue patronising you. For as long as you are reasonably able to do so, even if it reduces your profit margin, it might be wise to offer temporary discounts or more generous terms to make sure your customers keep coming back. Offer discounts as a means to manage the situation and improve your cash inflow. Another great strategy is to ask your customers how you can help them, send out surveys and hear their thoughts, make them feel special. This will help you to improve your service at a crucial time like this.
This is the time to get practical. Some governments, as well as private institutions, are offering different types of reliefs for entrepreneurs and businesses. There are different loans and grants being given out or in the process of implementation. Do your research and find out which one you qualify for and start preparing the documents you need to apply for them. Now is a good time to get your accounts in order If you are finding it difficult to meet you rent payments, speak to your landlord to work out a compromise, such as a reduction or a rent deferral for a fixed period of time. Mortgage payments are being also being suspended in many countries, so your landlord may be amenable to a discussion about rent suspension or a rent holiday with your landlord. Put your thinking cap on! Consider your business needs and think of any practical things you can do to mitigate risk.
Tighten your belts.
Any extra cost-cutting needs to be done today, this is not a time to lose money or spend unnecessarily. These include minimised travel, cancelling any non-essential subscriptions, pausing any large costs that could be undertaken at a later stage or even temporarily reducing employee pay. You could also offer employees the option of going part-time (instead of being terminated) so as reduce your salary budget. The current situation requires all of us to keep planning and to keep adapting as the situation unfolds. The key is to keep afloat just enough to bounce back when the crisis is over.