For many business owners, the challenges they face due to the pandemic can change daily and even every minute. From lost jobs, to completely closing down or changing the way they operate – the affects of the pandemic have been felt by every industry. It is also true that there is hope. The overwhelming amount of support from loyal customers and the community shows that people are united and are fighting for a better future.
As many states lift Stay At Home orders and begin to allow more businesses to open up for operations, it is also true that many entrepreneurs are feeling uncertain. Here are five tips that every business owner can implement once they open up shop.
1. Revisit Your Strategy –
Your strategy is what helps guide the way you operate your business. It provides a way for businesses to establish goals and metrics, including solutions to problems they face. While there is a chance your strategy may be outdated and no longer in line with your goals, it is important to revisit and adapt As this is one of the first steps you take when you first open and plan your business, it should also be the first step you take prior to re-opening your business.
Looking at your strategy will give you a clear path and help you improve and make shifts where necessary. Every business owner learned important lessons during this shut down. Put some thought into your business structure and ask yourself they following questions. Do all the products and services I offer make sense? Are they still or will they fulfill my client’s needs? Are the measures I implemented during the shut down, good for my business long-term? That last question is important. Say you were a restaurant that didn’t offer take out or delivery prior to the shut down, but saw a success in that area. It might make sense to continue or expand that offering.
2. Rework Your Budget
It is no secret that everyone’s pocketbook was affected, and for many it will take months to recover or even start seeing a profit again. Before you open up, take a step back and look at your budget. Take an honest inventory of the state of your both your business and personal finances. Where do you need to cut back on spending or operating costs. Start off with the essential spending to run your business and work your way up. As you look at your financials, this is also a good time to restructure and look at the vendors you use. Looking at your finances prior to reopening your business will also help you establish a solid plan when looking at approaching your re-opening in phases.
3. Bring Back Employees
Most business owners faced the hard decision of having to let go of their hard working employees. While many hope to bring them back and pick up the businesses right from where they left off, the reality might look very different. For starters you will have to look at your budget to plan which employees and how many you can start bringing in. While the end goal is to have all your employees back, you might not be able to support them all at once. You may have to bring them back in phases or on a part-time basis to start. Whatever the case, you must take the approach that will make most sense for your business. The second most important part of this is to establish a strategy that takes into consideration the health and safety of your staff and customers.
Many people will be weary of returning to “normal” life. The threat of placing their health on the line will be very present in their minds, as it should be for every business owner. The threat of what COVID-19 presents for society will still be lurking and will not magically disappear when businesses are once again operating. To help put customers at ease, you will have to keep following guidelines from the CDC and health officials. For a restaurant that might mean not seating people at tables right next to each other, or only allowing parties of four or smaller. It could also mean that store owners will only allow four to eight people in their store at time. A good rule of thumb is to also make sure your guidelines and the measures you are taking are posted clearly for your customers to see prior to entering your establishment. The same goes for sharing this statement on your digital platforms. These guidelines will look differently for every business, but to successfully re-open you must have them in place.
4. Market Your Grand Re-Opening
Many businesses started to market their businesses heavily during COVID-19. From statements on how their establishments were handling the pandemic, permanent closure and hours of operation announcements, to new services and specials – we saw a flurry of marketing. As business owners you should use this opportunity to market your business as if it is a grand opening. Treat your business as if it’s new and market, market, market. Use the tools that are available to you, like your website and social media platforms. If you don’t have them, then this is the time to set up accounts. Make sure all your information is current and up to date on your website, social media profiles, Google My Business and Yelp.
Let the community know you are open for business. Your digital platforms are your best tool for marketing, so make sure you are using them to your benefit. Get creative with your marketing, don’t be afraid to try new things and tactics you have never used before. Using your digital platforms to advertise your business and product is a great way to engage with your pre-existing clients while reaching a new audience.
Community and connection is one of the main things most people craved and missed during the “Shut Down”. Take this opportunity to build a community in your neighborhood. Look for other businesses and vendors that you can partner with that will help strengthen your business. Think of ways that you can support other local business owners while helping improve yours. This approach will help your local economies recover quicker and rebuild other businesses in your area.
Make sure you are looking for and seeking out resources available to small businesses. The SBA recently offered several types of financial support, but there are many other resources available in your communities. Inform yourself about any emergency relief your state established, or reach out to a local CDFI like Prestamos, to learn about any COVID-19 micro loans. Reach out to the coalitions that formed out of this pandemic and ask about any resources they may know of or simply consider joining one to connect with other small business owners. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As the uncertainty of what the future holds weighs heavily on our communities, small local businesses are a beacon of hope for many. From our favorite local coffee shops to beloved nurseries and our more essential needs like HVAC and plumbing services – small businesses keep our economies running. As your businesses start to turn their recovery mode on, it’s imperative that we remember to work together and be a resource for one another.
At Prestamos CDFI, we are here to help you with any needs your small business has. We offer a variety of loan products and technical assistance programs to help your business grow and succeed.