The entire world has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from its obvious impact on public health and safety, socio-economic and financial indices have also been hit.
Most small business owners and entrepreneurs were not prepared for the short and long term-impact this may have had on their businesses. Most countries and regions have also imposed mandatory closures and lockdowns which have also restricted access to resources and materials, culminating in lower production and consumption. Employees’ livelihoods have been put at greater risks as companies are reducing pay and laying off workers.
All things considered, it is imperative for employers and small business owners to strategize and plan accordingly for the safety and future of their organizations and face the negative effects head-on.
Why it is important for you to strategize
The prevailing opinion among many medical professionals, government officials, and business owners is that conditions will likely deteriorate further before they improve. If you are a small business owner, this means navigating the difficulties in your business for the next few months, and exploring how you can maintain or even improve your business.
With that in mind, here are four strategies you can employ to manage your business:
- Inspire your team
This is immensely important if you are an employer of labour or the leader of a team. Now is the time for you to have a dialogue with your team and plan for the future of the company. Ask them to state their concerns and reassure them that you also have their best interests at heart, not just your business. During the current crisis, you may ask them for their thoughts on working remotely. Make sure they know it is safe for them to propose changes and to even make decisions on their own.
Anticipate and address your team’s concerns. Layout a plan with clear tasks, and monitor their progress. Most importantly, be prepared to be flexible. Your business is only as good as your team or workers.
- Engage with your customers/audience and address their concerns
The customer is the foundation of any business’ success. In order to maintain and sustain your business, you have to engage and interact with your customers. Understand that in a crisis, people panic and make many irrational decisions. This is why you need to engage your clients.
Your main purpose is not to urge them to keep buying or subscribing to your product or service. Understand that the crisis also affects them financially. It is in your best interest to ease any anxiety your customer may have and understand that some of them may not purchase your product or service for some time.
Tell them some of your plans for them and keep them constantly in the loop, but do not become overbearing in the process. Remember, old and current customers are the best marketing agencies you have to get new customers.
- Expect and plan for decreased productivity and income
If you have managed to keep most of your team of workers intact, don’t expect that they would maintain the same level of productivity to which you are normally accustomed. Some members of your team will have certain personal issues like sickness or other things that will affect them in a time of crisis. You should be a little more lenient and be clear on which tasks are of the highest priority to your business.
Similarly, based on the product or service you render, it is wise to expect small or significant changes to the income your business generates. You should plan accordingly by optimising production and marketing costs and making other plans that will maintain your business and minimise loss.
- Seek financial assistance, if necessary
As a small business owner, it is important for you to know your financial boundaries and outline how to manage your finances. It is, however, impossible for some businesses to survive the pandemic without any financial help. This is especially true for businesses that rely heavily on personalised services like massage parlours, cinemas, or even some restaurants. This is even more apparent for those who have already invested or purchased resources and materials they could not use before lockdowns took full effect.
Luckily, there are several organisations willing to offer financial help to small businesses worldwide to help them survive the pandemic. For example, Facebook recently unveiled grants worth a total of $100 million for up to 30,000 small businesses around the world. The money could be used to augment your operational costs, customer outreach, workforce maintenance, rent, or other expenses that small business owners will have to contend with amid the pandemic. They are also several banks interested in giving low-interest loans mainly to small businesses. For Example, First Bank of Nigeria is offering the secured overdraft designed for small to medium scale businesses in Nigeria. Likewise, The Central Bank of Nigeria has also reduced its interest to 5% and has urged other banks to review their loan terms during this crisis. The federal government of Canada is also developing additional lines of support for small and medium businesses during this pandemic. Information on how to apply for and receive any many other financial help is easily accessible on the internet and several platforms.