Keeping Your Doors Open
Periods of crisis are difficult, tiring, and stressful for small businesses. Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. But unlike their larger counterparts, they may not have the resources for risk teams and contingency planning to be in-built to their daily operations. This can make them more prone to suffering when one strikes.
Although every business is unique and different, there are general solutions that can keep small businesses going during a crisis. In this article, I share five ways to keep your small business running.
#1. Keep Your Customers Happy
There are two primary ways to keep your business profitable: increasing your cash flow and reducing your expenses. Let’s talk about the first one.
Keeping cash flowing into your business is a priority during times of crisis. As consumer spending shifts, it is often harder to keep your sales numbers high. That’s why it is important to keep your existing customers happy.
The happier your customers are, the longer they will stay customers. Happy customers also bring other financial benefits during a crisis. They are:
- more likely to refer other customers to you
- make large orders,
- promote your business on social media
Depending on the nature of your business and products, the methods you use for customer engagement and satisfaction may vary. Before making any significant decisions, conduct qualitative research to find out who your most valuable customers are, what they want, and how you can give it to them.
More generally, you can keep customers happy by:
- Offering loyalty discounts to repeat customers
- Thanking customers for their support during a crisis
- Giving customers extra bonuses with orders (like product samples)
- Running giveaways
- Prioritizing fast and helpful customer service
#2. Cut Down on The Unnecessary
As I mentioned above, reducing your expenses is another great way to keep your business profitable. The lower your expenses are, the less revenue you need to fund your business.
When reducing your costs, experts recommend that you start by looking at your current and past budgets. Through examining your past budgets, you can identify areas of financial inefficiency. That is unnecessary spending that did little to nothing to facilitate your profits. These expenses can be cut down on. Before cutting each expense, consider how it will impact your everyday business life, and cut down accordingly.
While cutting costs directly is one strategy, you may also be able to reduce unnecessary expenses by temporarily halting business practices that don’t influence cash flow. For example, you may temporarily halt internal projects, team training, and non-crisis-focused meetings.
You can also free up employee time by automating processes. This could mean that you run your social media with a content calendar, or automate your ordering process with the sales software. This frees employees up to focus on customers, thereby prioritizing cash flow.
#3. Keep Communicating with Your Employees
Times of crisis impact everyone, from business owners to managers to employees. If you keep communicating openly with your employees, you can approach potential business problems together.
Being open with your employees will also give them a sense of security. Sometimes, business owners have to make tough decisions that negatively impact employees during times of crisis - like reducing employee hours. If your employees are aware these decisions are a possibility, they are less likely to feel blind-sighted and betrayed.
Prioritizing your employees may feel like a strange priority during periods of instability, but it’s a long-term investment. It is cheaper, faster, and easier long-term to keep employees happy through a crisis than it is to hire, train and acclimate new employees.
There are many quick ways to keep two-way communication with employees going during a crisis. That includes:
- Sending out a weekly email blast to update employees on the state of the business.
- Holding short meetings monthly.
- Making it clear employees can approach you with concerns.
- Being honest about upcoming concerns.
#4. Reach Out for Help
While many small business owners pride themselves on their independence, there is never any shame in reaching out for help. Weathering a crisis is difficult for everyone - but there is support available. In times of crisis, small businesses can get advice and help from:
- Their government.
- Their local community.
- Networking partners.
- Their local chamber of commerce.
- Professional associations.
- Trusted advisors.
- Professional consultants and analysts.
- SCORE’s mentorship program.
#5. Bring your Business Online
If putting your business online was one of your long-term goals, now is the best time to embrace that dream. Consumer behavior changes during crisis periods, meaning that people often resort to shopping online.
There are many benefits to building an eCommerce arm for your business. First, selling online requires very little investment, making it affordable for many small businesses. Second, your eCommerce arm can supplement your regular business, giving your existing cash flow a nice boost. Finally, online businesses reach larger groups of customers than brick-and-mortar businesses, meaning you won’t be limited to customers in your geographic area.
While small business owners cannot control a crisis at a macroeconomic scale, there are many small changes you can make to keep your business in the green until the crisis is over.
Periods of crisis feel like they continue forever, but this is seldom true. Eventually, the crisis will end - meaning that the best way to survive a crisis is to keep your business going one day at a time.
Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org
Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.