The recent global crisis that has revolved around the COVID-19 epidemic has created a once-in-a-generation set of circumstances that has left small and medium-sized (SMB) business owners absolutely reeling. If you’re one of those brave entrepreneurs desperately searching for a way to keep your startup afloat, here are some tips and suggestions to inspire your efforts.
Take Things Into Your Own Hands
The first thing that you should realize, as a small business owner, is the fact that if you want your startup to survive, you can’t sit on your hands waiting for government help. While there are many stimulus options in development — you can find out about many of the federal ones right on the U.S. Small Business Administration website — these loans take time to generate and can come with strings attached.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take advantage of a coronavirus stimulus package for your company if it helps. However, it’s important to realize that this won’t serve as a panacea for all of your company’s woes.
If you want your business to survive the chaos, it’s important to look further than a bailout package. Dig deep, draw on that entrepreneurial energy that helped you launch your business in the first place, and then start working towards taking the solution into your own hands.
Go Remote Wherever You Can
The first thing that all small businesses should be considering at the moment is how they can move their internal operations onto the cloud. Going remote is currently the only option that will ensure long-term communication and collaboration within your company.
Start by looking at online remote work applications like Slack, Zoom, and Trello to help facilitate your team’s online activities. Once you’ve found the tools that best suit your needs, set up accounts, invite your team to join remotely, and begin establishing your online workflow.
It’s highly recommended that you create a remote work document for your team as you go along. Use it to outline processes and behaviors that are essential to your remote work structure and then share it with your team so that everyone can stay on the same page.
Adapt to the Online Marketplace
Once you have your team operating in a remote workspace, it’s time to move your outward, customer-facing focus onto the cloud as well. It doesn’t matter if you sell handmade jewelry, provide lawn care services, or anything in between, there is value in establishing an online presence, especially during times like these.
On the one hand, if you have a primarily brick-and-mortar product or service, you can use the online marketplace to market your wares, find new customers, and even adapt your product offerings. For instance, while Waffle House is unable to serve customers directly, they decided to offer their waffle mix online for customers to purchase and make at home — and sold out of the stuff in a few hours. In addition, many smaller restaurants have found a way around the madness by allowing online ordering and then providing curbside pickup.
Whatever creative e-commerce work-around you come up with for your own particular startup, make sure to address the following e-commerce concerns:
Focus on Your Brand
While your sales may be slumping at the moment, if you can survive the coronavirus shutdown, the cash should eventually start flowing again. In the meantime, during times like these, it can be more productive to temporarily shift your focus from sales generation to branding.
Have your team focus on developing a digitally-focused customer experience strategy that strives to interact with and understand your customers better. Look for ways to establish new emotional connections with your customers, gather feedback, and generally help to promote your image.
You can also use this time to cultivate a better company culture for your brand as well — even while you’re working remotely.
If you come out of the pandemic with a powerful, recognized brand identity it can ultimately make up for a host of lost sales.
Preparing for the Future
As you implement strategies and tactics to help get to the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important to remember the future as well. Learn from the lessons that the current challenge offers and take the time to prepare yourself for other tests that may pop up in the future.
Adaptability is an essential part of entrepreneurship. If you can manage to shift and adjust to the changes that are taking place, you’ll be able to come out of the current situation with a stronger, healthier startup that is ready to take on whatever the future may hold.