5 ways to prepare your small business for the post-pandemic economy
As recent months have shown us, COVID-19 has significantly impacted all sectors of the economy. In particular, small businesses have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. From the bricks-and-mortar family shops to online service-based companies, business owners are scrambling to make sense of this new reality and the evolving relief programs such as CEBA.
Learn to assess how the pandemic is impacting your business, what to do to keep it afloat today, and how to best position your business to succeed in the post-pandemic world. Use these five tips to create a plan of action.
1. Plan tomorrow’s success today
What can you do in your business today to be ready for tomorrow? Plenty, beginning with planning, budgeting, and strategizing.
Start by looking at how COVID-19 has impacted your business. Consider the following:
- Customer demand: has it increased, decreased, or remained steady?
- Working conditions for staff: for example, have some/all of your staff moved to a work-from-home arrangement
- Supplier issues: can you still get parts/services on time?
- Delivery options: has anything changed?
Getting a snapshot of where your business is right now can help you identify what needs your immediate attention, as well as new opportunities due to the pandemic.
Create a plan to address the necessary issues. This will give you a framework to populate with action items.
After creating an initial plan, prioritize. Break your plan down into a timeline and create a budget. How much will it cost to make the necessary adjustments? And where will you get the money? You have several options.
You could temporarily shut down your business if you haven’t already, or slow it down while you put your new plan in place.
This could also be a good time to develop a new product line or service based on new customer demands.
You could increase current prices, although this could negatively affect your image if customers view the price increase as a greedy tactic to make money at their expense.
2. Project and prepare
What will the economy and your local market look like after the pandemic? To survive in the immediate economy and thrive in the future, forecast and map out where your business will be post-pandemic.
Will your best option involve reconnecting with existing customers, or attracting new ones? How will the necessary pandemic-related changes impact your budget?
Stay flexible. Expect to project, revise, and create new projections based on the changing COVID-19 situation.
Be prepared: Forecast for different scenarios
Preparing for your business to survive and thrive without knowing how the pandemic will influence the economy down the road is just plain tricky. That’s why the best way to prepare includes forecasting several different scenarios and how your business can negotiate each.
What could your new normal look like? Possible scenarios might include
- Move to a permanent work from home scenario for some/all employees
- Offer or expand digital delivery of services
- Offer or expand curbside delivery of products
- Open your bricks and mortar business for customers by appointment only
- Move to multiple shorter shifts of part-time workers
- Reduce office or store hours
3. Invest in digital wisely
Although stay-at-home mandates mean more people spend more time online, exercise caution when it comes to investing in growing your digital business.
If yours is a business best-suited to a bricks-and-mortar business, it might be wiser to split your business plan budget. Include digital or ecommerce options as well as post-pandemic opportunities for when your customers and clients are ready to meet face-to-face. When the restrictions are lifted, consumers might be more than ready to ditch their laptops and leave their homes to go shopping!
4. Nurture company culture and self-care
If your place of business is closed, consider the downtime an opportunity to strengthen your non-tangible assets. Nurture in your company culture and support individual mental health and well-being so you’re all at your best post-pandemic.
Revisit your mission statement and remind your team about what makes your business and company culture unique through regular emails, chats, or Zoom calls. Look for ways to draw your employees together either through socially-distanced get-togethers or virtual social gatherings.
Model mental and physical self-care to your team. This might mean managing anxiety by minimizing your exposure to news headlines, sticking to a strict quitting time for at-home work or starting a new physical activity challenge for everyone to participate in together via a fitness app or weekly video calls.
5. Only open when you’re ready
As shops, offices, and restaurants across the country slowly “re-open,” it’s anything but “business as usual.” If yours is a brick and mortar business, don’t feel pressured to open your business when the restrictions are lifted in your area. Instead, make sure you’re prepared to put your best foot forward for customers when you do re-open.
Opening the business before you’re fully prepared could find you paying employees to staff your shop without enough foot traffic to justify the cost. Or you could be missing out on offering new products or services customers now want due to lifestyle changes arising from coronavirus restrictions.
Before opening, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you need to change how you deliver your existing products and services?
- Do you need to make changes to staff hours?
- What’s required to maintain social distancing requirements in your business? For example, painting lines on the floor, offering facemasks, hand sanitizer dispensers, signage, security person to regulate traffic flow into the store, plexiglass partitions
- Is your business equipped to accept touchless payments?
When it comes to surviving and thriving in the current economy it’s hard for business owners to make definite plans. No one knows how long restriction will remain in place, whether they will get more strict or become more lenient, and what our post-pandemic world will look like.
Yet by identifying your current strengths and concerns, taking advantage of CEBA, planning for different scenarios, and strengthening your company culture and team individuals, your business will be in the strongest possible position when the new normal arrives.