The COVID-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on the global economy, with small businesses hit particularly hard.
Despite challenging times, many business owners have learned a lesson or two. Here are a few takeaways from the pandemic that may help your business weather this -- and any future -- storms.
Stay Positive, Cash Flow
The line between profit and cash flow can be fine, but business owners who survive tough times agree that positive cash flow is crucial. Your business shouldn't be in danger from 2-3 bad days.
You never know how long an unexpected event could last or how far a ripple effect may go, so restructure your operations to ensure that you have enough cash coming in to last for a few weeks -- at a minimum.
Cover Your Data Assets
As many businesses suddenly shifted their workforce to work-from-home status, data security became more important than ever. As employees took laptops full of customer and employer data out of the realm of secure networks and into the world, businesses had to focus on issues like cybersecurity.
Protecting against a data breach is only half of the solution, however. Savvy businesses insure against the possibility of a breach with cyber liability insurance to help them recover in the event of a hack, breach, or equipment loss.
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Have an (Adjustable) Plan
Does your business have an emergency plan that covers a shut-down or downturn in sales? It's not fun to prepare for the worst, but having a business disaster plan can help you think clearly and avoid irrational decisions.
Once your plan is in place, use it as a guide, but be prepared to adjust your actions based on how events unfold.
Don't Be a Cowboy
If every other retailer or restaurant in your town is closing, it's a good sign that you should, too. While it can be tempting to take a stand and fight, you may have to sacrifice to protect your employees and patrons.
At least you won't be alone.
Pay attention to what your fellow business owners are doing and adhere to local county, state, and federal guidelines for opening and operating your business. The last thing you want is to do anything that would prevent your business from re-opening along with all of your peers.
Don't Slash the Marketing Budget
When money is tight, it can be tempting to cut "non-essential" spending to make payroll and keep the lights on. But try and move your marketing budget to the "essential" category.
Marketing efforts often take time and consistency to yield results, so taking your feet off the gas during a slow time can come back to bite you later -- when you need the efforts to pay off most.
Use tough times to re-evaluate your marketing and get creative with your budget, but keep the pedal to the metal when it comes to building brand awareness and connecting with your audience.
A Website is a MUST
As non-essential businesses were ordered to close their doors, many learned first-hand how crucial a website can be for continued operations.
Food and beverage businesses were only allowed to do take-out orders, drive-thrus, and curbside delivery, which proved to be a more effortless pivot for some than for others.
Those that already had websites did not have to do much as they redirected customers to their site or app to place orders.
But those without websites suddenly had to scramble to accommodate customers.
Having a website was already crucial before COVID-19. Now, it's an absolute must-have for any business operating in the 21st century.
Payment Options Can Be Contactless
The health concerns of COVID-19 has led to people being worried about and questioning how hygienic it is to conduct transactions with cash. Contactless payment options helped solve this concern.
Customers have already begun moving away from cash and towards digital payment before COVID-19. But COVID-19 is making digital and contactless payment methods even more attractive to business owners and customers alike.
Lead with Your EQ
Business owners quickly learned to deploy emotional intelligence (EQ) during challenging times. Rather than projecting arrogance, fear, or silence, the best business owners clearly and transparently kept employees informed on what they're doing to support the organization and its people.
Pan for Gold
During crisis times, you may be surprised who stands up and takes a leadership role in your organization. Pay attention to those who aren't in managerial positions who demonstrate commitment and a willingness to go the extra mile. You may not be able to reward this behavior now, but be sure to acknowledge it and take appropriate steps to show your appreciation after the crisis ends.
Give Back to Your Community
Just because your doors are "shut" doesn't mean you can't find creative ways to stay connected and serve the community. How can you positively contribute to your community during times of hardship?
Businesses that authentically serve their community's needs during challenging times will uncover loyalty from new and existing customers. On the flip side, self-serving companies could find themselves alienating or even angering customers during a crisis.