As entrepreneurs, changing trends, new regulations, weak consumer demand, and GST rates would have been definite risks for one to go through. But overnight, the primary and only concern of every entrepreneur out there was the COVID-19 pandemic. And interestingly, no one was ever taught how to make your business survive a pandemic shutdown globally.
This pandemic has undeniably emerged to be the greatest threat to business. Small businesses are vulnerable, and impacts can be way more brutal. Our solidarity to overcome the unexpected waves of the threat posed by the pandemic is much required as we work in solitude.
Here is an ultimate survival guide for your business:
Proceeding through the pandemic
1. Adhere to regulations
Stay updated on the evolving regulations of your city or country. Policies designed vary dynamically from one region to another, keep your business informed to know the details of services you’re allowed to offer. If you are not sure of the regulations, confirm with the local authorities or through the helplines. Government agencies and public health organizations are places to look for accurate information.
When it comes to offering services, these regulations vary from one business to another. You have to consider and keep in mind the safety measures to ensure the well-being of your employees. Here’s a two-step decision tree for you to consider before opening your workplace.
- Verify the Source, Date, Time, and Motive before going through any piece of information. This simple task will shield you from the fake news and reports.
- Know it all – Tax relief, cash payments, repayment holidays, apprentice support, insolvency laws, and much more.
“Do your research. If you know the situation, you can handle the pressure better.”
2. Keep your customers updated.
The most important thing you should focus on in these uncertain times is keeping your customers updated about your services. Connect through social media, websites, or email.
- Emails are the best source to communicate with your potential customers effectively
- Make the best use of social media initiatives to help small businesses like the business resource hub of Facebook and more
- Since Google is the first thing people lookout for help, keep your business details updated in Google My Business
Communicate with your customers, understand their needs, and try to meet them. Keep your communication transparent, let them know how the business has been affected, and your efforts to keep the service on. Empathize with them, maintaining your customer base is more important than making money.
“When dealing with customers – List. Talk. Help. Offer. Retain”
3. Protect your cash flow
Sustainable cash flow contributes to the success of any business. Your ability to protect your cash flow is the key to overcome the current crisis. It will also be your first lead in the following months once the restrictions are lifted or relaxed.
- First and foremost, keep track of your money, your investments, accounts payable, account receivable, etc. You can use a spreadsheet or do it manually, but make sure every penny is accounted for.
- It’s essential you identify alternative supply chain in case the producers are struck by this crisis
- Assess all the risks involving your customers, suppliers, and employees
- Understand your cash flow pattern and type. Cash to Cash Conversion(CCC) cycle will help you thrive
- Revisit your investment plan and variable costs
- Maximize your cash flow by maintaining the number of accounts receivable high
- Re-negotiate payment terms for fair and poor class customers
- Workout new payment plans to help your customers and also keep the cycle going
- Don’t focus much on profit, and the fact is you need money to function so accept what can be collected today
- Borrowing money is not recommended, but if you are in an indispensable need of loans, make use of the government relief funds and other reform policies.
- Suspend payments to lenders in terms of rent and debt. Inspect details on rent-free periods, periods of reduced rents, deferred rent, installment plans, and debt waivers
“Analyze your position and impact. Go through cash receipts, commitments to employees, customers, and what you will have in the end.”
4. Go for low budget marketing.
Don’t cut back on marketing. Instead, choose effective and creative ways. Your customers might not be spending as much as they did before, but they are planning for the future and interested in knowing what your business has to offer. Against all the odds, marketing can still keep you ahead in the game.
- Create striking content: Be it blogs, Instructional videos, infographics or slide decks, ensure that you have a solid content marketing strategy. The content you provide can mean the difference between a customer choosing your brand over others.
- You can showcase your expertise and create interest among the customers. Good content effectively helps improve conversions. If you are not able to create fresh content, recycle your old ones.
- Social media: Use social media to amplify your message through hashtags or online events. Host an event, class, webinar, or podcasts. Target influencers enable us to reach a wider audience. Choose paid promotion on established social media pages.
- Get Ad promo credits: There are numerous ways to get a paid ad promo credit. You can also get free trials or coupons, depending on the company.
- Customer referrals will excite your existing customers and bring in new leads with higher conversion chances.
- Respond to queries: Respond to questions related to your business in sites like Quora and Yahoo answers. This will let more people know about your business and widen your reach.
Whichever marketing type or strategy you choose requires sensitivity to what’s going on in people’s lives and should keep up with the sweeping changes.
“Be innovative. Be digital. Resonate with your marketing message.”
5. Focus on strategies
In this unprecedented situation, strategies you devise can guide you through. The strategy we are asking you to focus on here is different from your organizational strategy. To survive and thrive, you have to be flexible and adaptable to evolving needs.
Keeping in mind the Regulations for your Business; Safety and Security of your Business, as well as your employees and customers, form proactive strategies.
6. Lockdown exit strategy
Right now keep this on your primary focus,
- Gather your core team, list all the affected areas of your business and look for solutions
- Plan not only for what you need to change but also look for new growth opportunities
- Try adopting new technologies to be more effective (use technology to augment not to replace people)
- Negotiate on your expenses
- Look for new channels to sell your products
“Don’t Panic. Make Decisions. Do it Now.”
7. Connect and Communicate
Undeniably, Communication is the key to any business. Apart from communicating with your customers, involve yourself in your community. Help people through your business.
Connect with similar businesses around you and support them; that’s how you earn their trust. By doing this, you can build better relationships, which will, in turn, help you grow. You can show your support through your social media handles. Be a guest for your community radio. Let people know how you are handling this situation.
Find the digital version of your business:
- Digitalization is not just a trend anymore. Especially during this COVID-19 situation, taking your business online has become inevitable.
- Digitalization ensures higher process efficiency, lower transaction costs, and better control.
Building resilience can help you bounce back effectively.
“The 4Cs of Survival – Change, Cut Back, Communicate, and Collaborate.”
8. Invest wisely
As mentioned before, revisit your investment plans.
- Make sure you have considerable emergency funds in hand to get through the crisis
- Have more liquidity, add possible assets to it and be aware of your liquidity position
Invest in technologies that promote remote work such as an internal communication platform, secured wi-fi network, online booking system, and marketing channels.
Take enough time while planning things to avoid mistakes, and do not ignore the facts of your financial situation.
- Though Stock markets are hitting low and consistent rate cuts, they have affected several fixed deposit returns, so be optimistic and aim your investments in equity for the long term.
- Guaranteed return products are reassuring during uncertainty as you don’t have to worry about market trends, and it’s clear of volatility.
“Take stock of the situation. For every down, there’s an up.”
9. Plan ahead for the post-pandemic scenario
Once the pandemic is controlled and when countries come out of lockdown, everything will have changed. What we are now struggling with, can become the new normal. Proofing your business from any such unexpected crisis in the future is essential.
With enough analysis, you can plan a strategic framework for your business, defining your purpose and perspective. Planning always helps more than the plan. It keeps you informed of your position.
“The best plan that we suggest for the post-pandemic scenario is, Be prepared for uncertainty!”
What does this mean for your business?
Many countries have managed to control the virus as much as they can, and life is beginning to return to “normal.” Unfortunately, normal is not what it used to be. If you are a service-based business owner, offering any service that involves physical contact ranging from salon services to dental consultations or anything similar, you might have had to close your doors a few months ago, just like all your other counterparts in the services industry. Here are certain things you can expect.
1. The lobby won’t ever be the same:
Social-Distancing is a prime aspect that is being stressed among the public, and as a business owner, that means establishing a new set of definitive ground rules.
The refreshing take on social responsibility of business now entails that social distancing is practiced with zero compromises. This means you are to limit the number of people spending time in a small room for a certain period of time. This can be achieved by managing your appointments to ensure that your services are well spaced apart, and hence avoiding the scenario of a crowded waiting room. This is especially true when your business usually manages appointments with a large volume of clients, such as government embassies, retirement homes, and lobby management in general.
“Stay Positive. Repeat Business with different methodologies.”
2. Limited business hours:
During this time, some governments have set limitations on working hours, and this can severely impact revenue. So you need to make the most of the hours you have on a specific day.
Your workflow needs to start becoming more efficient and organized to be able to swiftly finish appointments and move on to the next client in line.
“More appointments = more revenue.”
You can use an appointment scheduling tool that sends automated reminders to both the service provider and the client so that both parties begin on time and even end on time.
If you are a co-working space provider, you most certainly need to Revamp your Framework and use a system to manage time effectively. You need a system to schedule meetings for all the people from different companies, who are trying to use the available conference rooms. This ensures that everybody’s time is valued and that safety is not compromised for productivity.
3. Periodical Sanitization of the workplace
You might get just a few minutes between appointments, but it’s your responsibility as a business owner to keep sanitizing the workplace to keep it disinfected regularly. The public is still skeptical about setting foot outside the safety of their own homes, and businesses need to ensure that the client feels safe in a thoroughly disinfected environment.
You can incorporate regular cleaning hours into your calendar and make your appointment scheduling software reflect available appointment times accordingly.
“Ensure a clean environment and hygiene.”
4. An online presence:
If your service can be offered online and offline like an academic course, there can’t be a better time to go digital. In retrospect, it opens up your business to a vast sea of clients from potentially all over the globe, willing to accept your services online.
You might also want to consider that consumers are displaying a sense of paranoia when it comes to trusting businesses at this time. Studies suggest that more than 65% of consumers were willing to trust the services of businesses that had an online presence, even if they had previously not heard of it.
Taking your business online builds credibility and offers you a new platform to experiment, experience, and earn.
“Brainstorm realistic options like virtual events, online consultations, and deliveries.”
5. Staff management:
Do not call your workforce all at once. Start with 20% and make your way up weekly.
Before the reopening, take time to ensure that your business is equipped to prevent contamination. Write down special safety instructions that are to be mandatorily followed and display them in their corresponding workspaces.
“Negotiate variation to contracts and agreements.”
6. Assign safety volunteers:
It would be helpful to assign someone to the team as a safety leader to stress the importance and enforce the new protocol.
If you have a large number of employees, checking each of their temperatures can be time-consuming. Some companies have adopted thermal scanners that their employees can just walk past, and the scanner can indicate if anyone’s temperature is above the normal range.
7. Breakroom Countermeasures:
The break room can be commonplace from where the virus might spread, and it is essential to schedule the break hours for different staff. During these times, it is necessary to be accountable and keep records.
Assign your staff to specified break routines so that you prevent any outbreak and trace the source during a worst-case scenario.
“Rotate shifts and cultivate the ‘right habits’”
8. Routine Staff training:
It is important to keep educating the staff continually. Also, take surveys from employees with questions like,
- Do you see your colleagues practicing social distancing during clocking in/out?
- Do you wear your mask at all times?
- Do you sanitize your equipment regularly after use?
Use the corresponding data to see how effective your current strategy is and further steps to ensure that your staff feels Safe.
9. Social Tensions:
There has also been a lot of social tension among different races and ethnicities due to the virus. Please treat all your peers with empathy and humanity.
Inappropriate behavior should not be encouraged among coworkers in any form, and management must immediately take action to ensure the safety of all employees. We can all survive this by staying united.
These measures are to be implemented so that the safety protocols are enforced at all times. The aforementioned is strikingly relevant when you run a huge retail store. You absolutely need a system to manage your staff, your store visitors, and even vendors. We must prioritize the health and safety of our team, clients, and the general public above everything else.
“ Be Decisive, but also empathize. ”
To summarize, the points below are essential to protect your business and thrive:
- Adhere to Regulations
- Keep Your Customers Updated
- Protect your cash flow
- Go for Low Budget Marketing
- Focus on Strategies
- Connect and Communicate
- Invest Wisely
- The digitalization of your business is now a necessity more than ever
- Planning is must,
- Plan to overcome your risks
- Plan to promote innovation
- Plan for uncertainty