Small Business Survival in Tough Times
Pandemics, recessions, and economic sluggishness are all disruptors that can challenge your business and its endurance. For small businesses, surviving in challenging times requires persistence and the willingness to adapt if needed. The current marketplace is exceptionally competitive. Unfortunately, it takes more than resilience and an excellent attitude to succeed. We’ve gathered a few quick tips that may help you as you ride the wave of economic challenge.
Be prepared to pivot.
If your business struggles during economic stress, it might be time to do a serious audit of how things work in your business. Evaluate services and staff that are essential to the survival of your business and make changes. In a pandemic situation, consider offering different products or services. If your business model supports it, consider offering services virtually (online), and maximize customer communication via email, phone, and video conferencing. Brick and mortar stores can pivot to an e-commerce store. Providing products and services that are in high demand can boost revenue. For example, clothing manufacturers converted their production line over to masks during the 2020’s pandemic.
Don’t forget to market.
A company’s marketing is typically the first thing to get cut when tough times strike. The problem with this is that the amount of incoming business leads decreases with fewer advertisements and decreased marketing. Additionally, less marketing creates more losses. It’s a circle of hurt that chips away at small companies.
A simple way to fight limited marketing resources is to use low-cost marketing strategies. Consider methods such as :
- Increase press releases for new services
- Network via small business groups
- Connect and network through your local Chamber of Commerce
- Gain exposure through public speaking opportunities
- Optimize your email and online marketing campaigns.
- Increase social media exposure and continue to connect where your customers are
Look Beyond Your Front Door.
The most powerful thing about the internet is that it enables small businesses to compete beyond their local market. Using the internet to reach customers out of state and even beyond your native country is filled with possibility. Email campaigns and social media can act as sales representatives generating digital leads in the cloud.
Stay in the Know.
Information about government regulations changes daily. During pandemic conditions, follow the data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These groups provide recommendations on how to keep your community and employees safe. They also may have information for grants and unique business loan opportunities that might help your business during low cashflow situations.
Look for untapped funds.
There may be untapped revenue sources available to you to help maintain your business until economic improvement. Some options include:
- Small Business Administration (SBA) loan help
- business interruption insurance
- business lines of credit
- loans and grants from state and city programs
- loans and grants from larger business in your industry
- outstanding amounts from existing customers.
Audit all expenses and contracts
Review all your business expenses. See what makes sense to trim so that the business continues, but customer service doesn’t take a bath. Take a look at unnecessary cleaning services, advertising, subscriptions, and insurance or utilities. It pays to ask utility and insurance providers if they offer any short-term fee reductions during economic turmoil. Try to cut as much as possible before losing staff.
It’s also prudent to look at your current contracts and leases to save on unneeded expenses. Review any leases or supplier contracts to see if you can cancel unnecessary supplies or get out of a costly lease. Be sure to check for hidden expenses in doing so. It’s worth it to reach out to your landlord during economic turmoil to see if a rent abatement or temporary lower rate is available. While your landlord isn’t obligated to give you a break, you may be able to negotiate favorable terms when every business around you is in the same boat.
Change staff carefully.
Sometimes you might need to reduce staff temporarily. Assess your employees and determine which workers are mission-critical to keep the business afloat. If possible, adjust the number of hours and accommodate responsibilities.
It ultimately pays to keep your staff intact because when the economy bounces back (and it will), you’ll want an experienced team in place to ramp up the business. Removing key staff makes it hard to bring the company back to normal, and you may lose them to your competition. The other thing to remember is that staff reductions may make you ineligible or reduce the amount of financial assistance you receive from grants and government programs.
Stay Connected with your customers.
Economic sluggishness, recessions, and pandemics aren’t easy on your business. But keeping connected to your customers helps let them know you’re still around and trying to serve them. Leverage email campaigns and social media to let customers know:
- how you’re keeping employees and customers safe
- new services to offered
- new ways to contact you, i.e., phone, email, text, or chatbot
- any hours or location changes
- safety procedures for coming into your shop during pandemic conditions.
Final thought: Take care yourself.
As a business owner or solo entrepreneur, the weight of the business can be a challenge. Not only do you have the task of keeping the company alive and keeping employees working, but the stress level is paramount for you. Sometimes your mental health takes a hit, or you risk professional burnout.
If your stress levels suffer, don’t forget to reach out for help. You may need to contact a business mentor, colleague, or even a professional counselor. If you don’t remember to take care of yourself, then it’ll be more difficult to tend to your business’s survival.