The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually everyone on the planet. Entire countries closed their borders, and a lot of cities and villages are on lockdown. These quarantine measures are forcing many businesses to shut down. Self-isolation saves people from the spread of coronavirus, but it also negatively impacts their businesses.
Indeed, this is a challenging time for employers and businesses. Yet, every challenge is also an opportunity to learn and grow. In times like these, there are two approaches to deal with the situation. The reactive entrepreneur approach is when you respond to an unforeseen event only after it occurs. On the other hand, the proactive entrepreneur approach is supposed to anticipate possible challenges. Whatever camp you are in, the ideas from this article will help you support your brand during the coronavirus outbreak. It’s time to find out how to haul your business out of this quarantine bog!
Taking Back the Control
Today, millions of small business owners are wondering how they can actually support their firms during the quarantine when everyone is locked in, and a lot of businesses are literally on hold. Unfortunately, nobody knows how long the lockdown is going to last. Experts predict it may last until June or July, but nobody can provide any guarantees. The World Health Organization has issued the guidelines that specify the conditions under which countries may end the lockdown, and some governments have already started to talk about a quarantine-exit strategy. Following their example and being an entrepreneur and a leader by nature, you may want to create your own quarantine-exit strategy for your business. To ensure that your company stays afloat and even thrives during the quarantine, we suggest you focus on the following fields.
One of the top concerns of any business right now is how to conserve cash. When your business cash flow is strong and stable, you can always pay your suppliers, meet payroll, and handle other expenses that come with running a business. Understanding how cash flows in and out of your business and conserving as much of it as possible (to maintain a positive cash flow) is crucial for entrepreneurs in the time of crisis.
Hence, it is highly advisable to prepare a six-month cash flow projection. This is where you look at your budget and define how much cash is coming into your business and how much of it is going out over this quarantine period. This should allow you to identify potential cash shortfalls. Here is a list of questions to consider when creating your six-month cash flow projection:
- What can you realistically expect based on what you know already?
- Will your product sell during the crisis?
- What is your sales volume and can you maintain it?
- What operating expenses can you cover? How can you adjust those expenses?
- What is your business operating cycle? How long does it take to generate revenue and pay expenses?
- Do you have any reserves? Is it possible to make any reserves?
If you find out that you don’t have enough reserves, you may want to search for borrowed funds available. Try reaching small business programs that can provide you assistance. For example, the Small Business Administration came up with some guidance for businesses and coronavirus funding options. Their new program is going to lend up to two million dollars to small business owners that can provide evidence under the SBA’s requirements that they are suffering losses. You may also check other local, state, and national assistance programs that help business owners.
If getting a loan sounds too risky, we offer you four more tips on how to conserve cash more efficiently:
Tip#1. Separate mandatory and optional spendings.
Every single thing you and your employees spend money on needs to be revised. Make sure you cut or at least minimize the recurring expenses related to things you can live without until the crisis ends.
Tip#2. Ask for discounts.
If you are trying to free up some money and invest it in your business, we would definitely recommend calling your service providers, vendors, landlords, and banks and check whether they offer any discounts or a grace period. Big companies are usually sympathetic to small businesses and don’t mind bending some terms and rules to help smaller enterprises see their way through this challenge.
Tip#3. Use barter trade.
Barter trade can be a major asset when it comes to cash conservation. You may talk to your suppliers and convince them to accept your products or services instead of a monetary payment. If your current vendor is not persuaded, you may look for another one who will more likely accept these terms.
Tip#4. Give discounts to stimulate payments.
One of the ways to maintain a viable and stable cash flow is by offering limited-time discounts. Encouraging your customers to pay for the product upfront within a specified period will secure a steady cash flow on your side.
2. Client Relations and Communication
Good communication can save your company during the quarantine. Although this is a force majeure situation, it’s definitely not the time to go silent. Your clients are probably as worried and lost as you are right now. The best you can do is let your customers know how you’re responding to the situation. Being honest and transparent with your audience is essential in times like this.
We recommend that you show care and support to your clients by offering them guidance, mitigating rescheduling fees for services, and canceling hefty fines where possible. This will show your empathy and understanding. Not being tone-deaf under such circumstances is really important.
It is a good idea to create an anti-crisis communication strategy. You can include the following communication activities in your correspondence:
- Let your audience know that your company is closely following the situation.
- Explain your business’ current position. Are you still open or closed? Have you changed your working hours? Are all of your products currently available? Are you offering a delivery service? Let your customers know how you handle the situation.
- Reassure your customers that you are a reliable business that will stand a blow. Showing your support for the community, dedication to your business’s mission, and commitment to your customers can inspire confidence in your clients.
- Provide an overview of what measures you’ve taken to comply with the CDC’s guidelines. Consider making a demonstration of how you ensure a safe and clean environment for your employees and customers.
- Don’t forget to mention how you help your staff get through this time (extra cleaning supplies, paid leave, shorter hours, remote work, etc.).
- Put customers on notice that you have to reduce staff or working hours and that this may increase your response time. This might be awkward, but keeping your audience informed and prepared will ensure fewer complaints if things go south.
- If you consider this appropriate, you could mention how customers could help your business. Instead of simply encouraging them to buy, try asking them to support all businesses in your industry as far as possible and ask them to pay you a visit when this is all over.
- Consider being more personal. Show your customers that behind your brand are real people, not just a faceless corporate organization. This aligns you with your customers during such a difficult time.
Among other things, you should also become more active on social media. If you feel like your posts take you nowhere and you have no idea what’s working and what’s not, it is time to start working on your social media strategy, learn the key SMM metrics, and get people’s attention.
On social networks, you can have more informal communication with your audience (your clients, prospects, and friends) and ask them how they are coping with the situation. Find out what type of content they’d like to see from you and how you can help them. It’s also a perfect place to start conversations with your loyal customers, connect with them on a more personal level. In addition, you can conduct a survey among your followers and ask them directly what they think about your product.
Many small businesses have review sections on their social media pages, websites, and Google My Business pages. It’s no secret that customer reviews can be really influential. They can boost your sales and search rankings more than paid advertising, but they can be hard to get. If you’ve been passively waiting for your customers to come around and give you reviews, now it’s time to be proactive and encourage them to do so. Consider going through your customer base and sending them an invitation to support your business in this difficult time with their feedback. In exchange, you can give them a promo code with a discount.
If you have many followers on your social media pages, you could start spreading digital acts of kindness, for example, promoting other small businesses that are now on the brink of extinction and need support.
3. Team Management
In addition to your audience, it is essential to be honest and upfront toward everybody in your team. Letting them know what’s going on with your business and how you feel about it is your top priority. You should strive to ensure that each member of your team has a clear understanding of what is happening. This will preserve their loyalty and trust in you as an employer. Make sure you deliver all the important messages to all your team members on time. The production and sales can be revived eventually, but only if you maintain a reputation and a good name.
It can be tough to make unpopular personnel decisions. If it comes to that, try to talk it out with people and reason with them. Before implementing any changes, make sure all the procedures for the staff reduction or changes to the working day duration are made according to the law.
Even if you have retained staff and did not have to cut back your payroll, your employees will still experience stress. For example, working remotely and separated from each other for the first time can put pressure on them. This is why one of the essential things that you should do as a leader during a quarantine is to support your team.
The following tips can help you keep your team productive and motivated:
- Make sure everyone in your team is equipped with necessary tech and productivity tools (these can include project management apps such as Trello and Asana, video conferencing apps such as Google Hangouts and Zoom, and messaging apps such as Rocket Chat and Slack);
- Establish a detailed work-from-home policy (Even if your company is not new to the concept, you should still prepare an updated guide as this will help your employees feel that you have the situation under control.);
- Define goals for remote workers (It’s crucial to be clear about your employees’ duties and responsibilities. You should set well-defined and measurable goals for them.);
- Provide emotional support (Working from home can evoke the sense of loneliness and anxiety. It is advisable to maintain team spirit, share good news with the team, and provide emotional support to employees as much as you can.).
4. Online Presence
During the lockdown, you may have more free time to spend for the benefit of your business. We recommend you pull yourself off your everyday routine and start working on your business, not only in your business. This means doing things that you probably wouldn’t be doing on your day-to-day basis, i.e., searching for bottlenecks in your business, strategic planning for the rest of the year, or automating your business processes.
One more thing you can do is update your website design and make sure that everything looks spot-on and up-to-date. If you have been planning to change your website template or add a couple of new features – now is the perfect time to give your online presence a facelift. (We assume that you already own a business website, but if you don’t – go straight to www.boxmode.com to fix this immediately. We offer plenty of ready-to-use and customizable templates completely free of charge.)
Updating older content on your website and making it relevant is also a great idea. You may want to optimize the content that is already out there or add new valuable information for your visitors by starting a blog, a podcast, or a youtube channel. Having an up-to-date site creates a better user experience and will likely encourage your visitors to spend more time on your website’s pages. This can also contribute to your search engine optimization because Google values a good user experience.
Are you one of those ambitious entrepreneurs who have new and promising business ideas on their minds, but have no time to put them into practice? Well, now you have plenty of time to make them real! But any new project needs investment, especially in establishing a substantial online presence. And this could be precarious during the quarantine. Still, there is a solution! With Boxmode, you can create a free website to assess the demand for your new product or build a new site for your existing business. This is a great opportunity to implement new online marketing techniques that you’ve been dying to try.
Another activity you could perform during this social distancing period is automating your business. If your emailers, social media pages, and website are not linked together, now is the time to synchronize those systems. Consider using platforms for automating your workflows such as Zapier, Integrify, and KiSSFLOW. With their help, you can schedule your entire social media calendar and set up automated emails.
5. Keeping Up a Good Spirit
In times of crisis, our usual lives are turned upside down. We tend to focus on the negative, glued to our mobile phones and television for hours. So, the first and the best advice that you could follow for keeping up a good spirit is to be mindful of your news and social media intake. We know you want to keep up with everything that is happening out there, but putting your phone away even for a couple of hours a day will have a positive impact on your mental state and overall mood.
Try to share more information with your colleagues – praise, thank, rejoice, acknowledge success, and share emotions. Keep sharing valuable and interesting materials with them. Whether you’ve watched a webinar, a movie, or read a new book, you can share it. Maintaining human contact is crucial. This can help people stay connected to their team.
As a small business owner, you are constantly pulled in a dozen different directions, hardly having enough time to spend with family. Now is a great time to be with your closest ones. Regardless of what else is going on, try setting aside a few hours every day for your family. You could play a game, cook dinner together, watch a movie, listen to music, or just talk.
Music, by the way, is a real lifesaver for many of us. Though we can’t visit concerts right now, many famous musicians share livestreams and virtual concerts in support of the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Response Fund.
Remember, it’s a bit unsettling now, but this turmoil will come to an end. Realizing that this is only a temporary situation, and that, eventually, life will return to normal, can help you make it through the day and keep your business alive.
Make Your Business Thrive!
Don’t be afraid to push your business forward during these turbulent times. There is so much talk about small businesses being the first to suffer from the quarantine, but this can also be a time for you to thrive. If you really use this time wisely and focus on what you can do to inspire your team, you can come out stronger on the other end of this crisis and, eventually, grow your business. Stay focused on what you can control and not on the things you can’t. Remember that any crisis provides not only challenges and trials, but also an opportunity to become more enduring.