Staying financially afloat during the pandemic continues to be a challenge for many small businesses, and now, with business reopenings underway, uncertainty continues to be a part of daily operations. The good news is that there six steps you can take that will make your business’s foundation stronger – so you’ll be better prepared to get through any difficulties down the road.
In an earlier article, we shared resources available to business owners to help you navigate your way through reopening and reconnect with your customers. Here, we look ahead to the end of this year and 2021 by providing you with a guide on how to audit your business strategy and adjust to whatever our “new normal” may be. We’ve included insights from business owners like you who have found ways to pivot and reposition their businesses, shore up funding and more.
By using these six steps, you can start auditing your business strategy now to put short-, mid- and longer-term plans in place. By doing so, your business will come through the pandemic (and all its challenges) stronger than ever.
Step 1: Be better prepared
If your business has reopened, you likely have a plan in place for how to meet any new safety requirements as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees and customers. Still, it’s important to think further down the line because we don’t know where the pandemic is headed this fall and winter – but we do know that supply chain disruptions could cause shortages again.
That said, be sure to stock up on PPE, hand sanitizer and anything else that makes your place of business both compliant and comfortable.
- Provide sufficient PPE to your employees and be sure to have extra masks and hand sanitizer available for visitors and guests.
- Talk to your customers to find out what concerns are keeping them from visiting your business. If they’re worried about their safety, there steps you can take to ease their concerns, which may be as simple as adding plexiglass to customer-service areas, requiring masks indoors or mapping out socially distant waiting areas.
Step 2: Focus your operations while exploring new opportunities
One of the best ways to manage cash flow is to streamline your operations and build efficiencies. If it’s been a while since you’ve really looked at the return on investment for every item you stock or every ad you take out, now is the time to do that.
In addition, if you have employees, help them feel valued and secure by inviting them to brainstorm new opportunities and responsibilities with you. Solicit their ideas and get their feedback on potential opportunities aimed to support their growth, such as learning new skills that can increase online reach, provide a better customer experience or identifying new revenue streams.
“As we come out of the health crisis, I’d like to build our partnerships with companies who want to expand their employee pools, but whose reach has been limited by employee-transportation issues. We’re looking at high unemployment right now, and I’d like to help people who don’t have a way to get to their jobs.”Trent Griffin-Braaf, Owner, Tech Valley Hospitality Shuttle
Step 3: Ensure you have sufficient funds on hand, always
For many businesses, the leading factor that helped ease the financial stress of the pandemic was having sufficient cash on-hand. In some cases, working capital was already in place before the pandemic, so that businesses were ready for opportunities that arose. In other cases, businesses put plans — such as buying new equipment or expanding — on hold to redirect funds to more immediate needs.
Whatever the case, businesses that had sufficient cash on-hand were better able to respond to new opportunities.
To ensure that you have enough working capital, start by looking at your financials. If your resources are tapped out or if you’ve struggled all the way through, now’s the time to research available funding solutions. And even if you don’t currently need a loan or line of credit, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your business is positioned for stability and growth.
“I believe that owners should always look for ways to fund their businesses because we need to grow, create and stay ahead of our competitors. It’s not enough to think about funding just when things are tight. You have to consider the opportunities that you can take advantage of and whether you have the funds to do it.”Catherine Hover, Owner, Saratoga Paint & Sip
Step 4: Improve your marketing plan and website capacity
Brick-and-mortar closures meant many businesses had to find new ways to do business online. Now’s the time to review and strengthen your digital marketing plans, update your website (ensure it’s mobile-friendly) and master online sales and service.
- Consider how you’ve attracted clients in the past and how this may need to change, then develop a marketing plan that incorporates digital resources.
- While many e-commerce platforms make it easier to develop a website and online shop, consider having a pro run through the site before you launch or expand. This upfront investment can save you considerable time, money and headaches down the line.
Step 5: Prepare now for the holidays
We’ll post additional holiday season ideas and strategies soon, but it’s a good idea to start thinking now about how your business can adjust to serve customers, if things continue as they are.
Given the circumstances, the holiday season may require businesses to come up with creative solutions that will solve client’s problems, lift spirits and build loyalty. For example, brick-and-mortar shops won’t have the same foot traffic, and while online offerings may be a solution, they may lack that special “holiday season” appeal that many customers enjoy.
See if you can develop ways to combine the best aspects of shopping in-store or online. And be sure to order sufficient inventory for top-selling gift items, if that’s relevant to your business, just in case supply chain disruptions emerge.
Other things to consider:
- The pandemic has left a lot of people feeling isolated. What services or goods can you offer that can help them feel more connected or that would be a great gift for those who love them? For example, think about people with relatives in nursing homes or frontline workers who could use some extra attention and pampering this season.
- Look for ways that your business can partner with other local businesses and build support for each other. For example, a home-goods store can partner with a local skincare specialty shop on special gift bags that can be delivered.
- Consider whether there are ways to improve your delivery and curbside pickup services to make them convenient and safe for clients while building efficiencies for your business.
“Overnight, we had to rethink our business plans and marketing strategies and quickly hustle to reach new customers. But it worked, for us and for many others, and now we’re busier than ever. It’s hard to keep up with demand!”Marge Randles, Co-Owner, Argyle Cheese Farmer
Step 6: Review your insurance
Many business owners were surprised and disappointed to learn that their business insurance didn’t cover losses related to the pandemic.
It’s not yet clear if and how the pandemic will impact this facet of business insurance going forward. But right now is a good time to contact your representative to ensure that you know what is covered and what isn’t – whether for a pandemic, another type of natural disaster or any other event that could force closure and loss of revenue.
Contact Pursuit: We can help with your business strategy, now and for the future
If you have questions about boosting your business strategy, contact us today.
For more than 65 years, our team has provided business owners with the right resources to thrive and succeed. When you’re ready to build a strong foundation for your business, check out how our 15 loan programs and a range of additional support services can help.