The small businesses that will survive and thrive in the coming months are the ones that can adapt quickly to the new market realities, which include stringent social distancing and workplace hygiene measures, a slowdown in consumer spending, and entirely new sets of shopping behaviours.
Dov Girnun, the CEO of alternative lender Merchant Capital, says while many small business owners have been able to reopen their doors, they continue to be affected negatively by high levels of customer uncertainty. To overcome this, businesses will have to provide a stronger sense of comfort to their customers as they adjust their approach.
“The pandemic has affected every business differently. While some companies were able to shift to a remote work model quickly, others – like the food industry, for example – were more severely impacted. Sadly, many have had to close their doors for good. Businesses are going to have to plan carefully, and possibly even make some changes to their business, if they’re going to get through this crisis,” said Girnun.
Girnun says the transition to something resembling normal trade will be ‘a slow and challenging process’, but by anticipating some of the hiccups, small businesses can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress down the line. His advice for small businesses at this time includes:
Keep a tight rein on your cash
Extend the runway for your small business by conserving cash where you can. “Be careful with unnecessary costs, and try not to waste anything. You need to prepare for a slower revenue stream in the coming months, and cash in hand will help you through the rougher patches,” says Girnun.
Be deliberate with your communication
Communicate with your staff and clients frequently, while keeping your emotions in check. Your role as a leader during this time is fundamentally important. Don’t leave anything up in the air, and give bad news early.
Plan for different scenarios
Try and understand how your business would operate under different circumstances. Augment your products, and start thinking about your customers differently as we enter the ‘new normal.’ “Remember, your customers’ requirements may have changed – possibly forever. Start thinking about how you can restart your business with the business you have,” says Girnun.
Remain positive and resilient
Remember why you became an entrepreneur in the first place. Create a sense of community amongst your local networks, and support one another. “Talking to your peers about the situation helps you develop solutions you hadn’t thought of, and puts your own challenges in perspective,” he says.
Merchant Capital has created a ‘Back to Business’ toolkit – including a comprehensive reopening checklist – that will walk small businesses through the steps they will need to take to reopen and help them plan.