Without a doubt, U.S. businesses are now facing the biggest struggle in recent memory, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although 50% of survey respondents say that their employers were involved in contract disputes, the likes of which could have financial ramifications for any company, a breach of contract pales in comparison to the widespread losses and uncertain future that millions of American business owners are now facing.
The feelings of dread are shared by many. Around 77% of small business owners say they’re very worried about the economic impact of the outbreak, while 49% say that customer demand is down. And while roughly 70% of small business owners tried to apply for the government’s Paycheck Protection Program, only 20% reported their loans had been approved and that funds had been deposited.
That means that an overwhelming number of American businesses are coming to terms with some serious financial news — and, of course, small businesses are going to be hit harder than large corporations. But with these three tips in mind, you’ll be in a better position to weather the storm and thrive once we fully reopen.
Focus On the Long-Term
As many business owners probably learned the hard way, panicking at the onset of the pandemic didn’t do anyone any favors. While it’s natural you might worry about how to pay your corporate income taxes (which comprised 11% of all taxes collected by the federal government in 2015) or keep up with vendors, making rash decisions will never turn out well.
Instead, you’ll want to think long-term if you can. You’ll likely need to contain some costs in the interim, of course. Your instinct might be to stop all of your marketing efforts in order to save money, but remember that marketing during this time can actually help you. History shows that companies that are able to maintain or amp up their marketing efforts during times of economic downturn usually end up reaping the rewards. By all means, explore ways to find cost savings in the here and now. But if you forget about your long-term goals or become blinded by panic, your business may not make it to the other side.
Keep Your Current Staff, If Possible
Many businesses have resorted to laying off or furloughing their workers in order to cut costs. But if you’re able to transition to a remote workforce and your business can operate while keeping doors closed to the public, you may find opportunities amidst all the uncertainty. Although those 26 million daily trips taken on public transportation have likely slowed way down, your non-commuting team can still contribute in big ways to your business from afar. If you’ve worked hard to build your team, you need to continue supporting them now (and they’ll return the favor). Instead of laying off team members or even hiring contractors to bridge the gap, you might want to take this time to invest in your employees’ skills. If you can train them to take on other responsibilities, you can help to build their careers and allow them to jump in when other departments need an extra hand. If work is low but you can afford to keep paying your core team members, sign them up for some online courses or webinars that will benefit both them and you.
Amp Up Your Online Presence (And Get Creative)
If the digital side of your business is lacking, you’re already behind. You need to immediately focus on your online platform — not only your website, but also your social media channels. Even if retail locations and restaurants have already reopened in your area, keep in mind that many consumers will continue staying at home and away from public places for the foreseeable future. Whether you offer curbside pickup, partner with a delivery service, or bolster your shipping options, you’ll continue to appeal to those who are trying to flatten the curve. You’ll also need to employ some major creativity and offer services or products that you might never have considered in the past. As long as it aligns with your brand and represents a current need, diversifying your offerings can be a great way to keep money coming in.
Although local regulations might be becoming laxer, COVID-19 still remains a threat throughout the United States. It’s likely that many businesses will remain closed to the public for months to come — and that we may need to prepare for a second wave come fall. With these tips in mind, you’ll have a better chance of filling a customer need and protecting your organization in the long term.