How to get through COVID-19 as small business owners
While COVID-19 is impacting everyone around the world, there’s little doubt that small business owners are among the worst hit. So, does this mean there are no opportunities at all right now? And how should small business owners navigate the choppy waters left in the pandemic’s wake?
In practical terms, the best thing small business owners can do is to step back and consolidate. Take the time to look at where you are, begin to build up support around you and make a new plan. You may be able to retain some of the business strategy you began the year with, but in most cases some level of refocusing is necessary.
Advice for small business owners during COVID-19
- Keep lines of communication open with clients
Whatever industry your small business is operating within, it’s really important to keep talking to clients and customers. This is equally so for prospective new customers as well as existing ones.
Communication shouldn’t necessarily include sales pitches or direct sales, but rather concentrate on keeping two-way conversation going. Check in on clients and see how they are. Explain where your business is and when you’ll be in a position to resume work. Even if you don’t have all of the information right now, you can use the time to build ties with clients and strengthen the bond you already have.
- Think about whether you can pivot
Lots of businesses use times of adversity to completely pivot into a whole new area. Whether it’s breweries making sanitiser for the cause or design companies helping to provide 3D printed PPE, it’s a theme during the pandemic.
However, you need to find the right time to do so and it’s important to stick to your core business. Fully understand your specific niche and work out what your clients want. Then make logical decisions about whether you can feasibly pivot into something that links with your core business. Consumers are keen to support small businesses right now, so talk to them about your business and what you can do for them.
- Ramp up your networking
COVID-19 shows just how reliant we all are on others, whether on a personal or professional level. And it’s at times of adversity that entrepreneurs really feel how beneficial it is to connect with others within the same industry, and those in complementary industries too.
And as we can’t meet in person, social media platforms are more important than ever. Use LinkedIn to find others in your sector and actively network to grow your community. Just reach out and ask questions, begin a thread for discussion or write your own blog.
- Find out your financial options
Many small businesses need some extra support at the moment, and the stress of accessing funds is high. So, take control and find out what options are available to your small business. A good place to start is Gov.uk as advice, guidance and announcements are changing often. In my last blog I wrote about the UK Government’s advice for small businesses during COVID-19. You can read it here.
The two main grants for small business are the self-employment scheme and the job retention scheme. Loans are also available in the form of the Business Bounceback Loan that offers up to £50,000 or up to 25% of your company’s turnover. It’s interest free for the first year, and after that will be on a fixed term low interest rate of 2.5%.
These grants and schemes are vital for many small businesses right now. It’s important to take advantage of what’s available to help you get through this challenging time. However, many small businesses are failing to access any kind of funding. It’s vital that you research and scour the advice, guidance and information available so that you are aware of new initiatives as they crop up. It’s worth checking out local authorities, councils and business organisations too.
- Add value to existing customers
Customer satisfaction is the main differentiator between small businesses that succeed and those that fail. Do everything you can to help your customers during these challenging times, and you will increase their loyalty to you for the future. Look deeper into what you currently offer and see if you can add to it. Ignore the competition and work out how you can make your offering better. Whether it’s through virtual communication, loyalty programmes or launching a newsletter, think about how you can work right now to retain your clients.