After the events of 2020 and 2021, we have all experienced something that we never thought possible in our lifetime. A global pandemic that ravaged the world sent small businesses into veritable tailspins. Companies had to shutter—some temporarily, some for good. Furloughs became the norm, and layoffs were inevitable. For many small business owners, there has been no darker time. And just figuring out how to stay alive became part of their day-to-day.
The pandemic prompted many entrepreneurs to revisit how they usually have “just done things.” Systems have had to be tweaked and operations have had to change. And models have had to pivot—sometimes significantly. So what can you, as a small business owner, do starting right now, today, to ensure that you will be protected if something this catastrophic ever happens again? While there may be no way to pandemic proof your business, there are things you can do to help make it more resistant to events such as the virus that shook the planet.
In this article, we break down a few of how you can actively strive to make your company more pandemic-resistant and thereby gain at least some peace of mind moving forward.
Running a Small Business in a Pandemic Environment
No one could have seen the events of 2020 coming. Many people had to contend with the repercussions of what happened and how it all heavily impacted small businesses across the globe. Since last March, many companies have made substantial shifts in how they do business. They have had no choice. So what are some critical things for business owners to consider now should disaster strike again.
1. ECommerce is everything. This cannot be stressed enough. What we saw during the pandemic was a rapid and measurable shift to online buying—in all market sectors. Everything had to find an online presence, from real estate to clothing to food shopping. If your small business has no viable eCommerce strategy, odds are you are going to suffer—if you’re not already suffering.
Online shopping is going to be key moving forward. You could look into platforms such as Shopify, for example. They make it easy for any business to create a shop online and draw in those customers. Many smaller companies especially had to shift on the fly to primarily an online selling model, given that in-person purchasing was non-existent. However, as the smoke begins to clear, entrepreneurs have more time to consider ways to transition to a more robust digital/online presence.
2. Market to the moment. What do we mean by this? Simply put, now everyone is COVID savvy. Meaning, people are looking to buy from responsible businesses, prioritize health and well-being, and genuinely demonstrate concern for their customers. Much of this mindset did arise as a result of the pandemic.
Your marketing efforts need to spotlight what you as a company are doing in the wake of COVID-19 to ensure safety and sanitization. Even when this has all passed, people will still be concerned about the issues that COVID brought up. This will be ongoing, so you need to be prepared to address it. And what’s more, make sure that customers know exactly how you’re managing it through enhanced marketing efforts.
3. Emphasize company culture. One thing that came out of the past year without question was the need for small businesses to have a culture, stand for something, and have a value system in place that defines who they are and what they embody. People realized how important it was to support small businesses during the crisis. To this end, they took the time to learn something about those small businesses before patronizing them.
How do you want people to perceive your company? As the boss, you set the tone, define the standards, and implicitly influence behaviors. Creating a commendable company culture could include anything from establishing causes you support, employing a highly customer-centric service model, and encouraging growth and learning among employees.
4. Speed up the decision-making process. Often, a company in making decisions goes through a rather tedious process. There are a series of meetings regarding critical choices—it has to go through various committees. And so on and so on. While certainly, it is good to be thorough, a pandemic doesn’t necessarily give you time to be slow. In other words, you need to speed up how your organization makes decisions.
How can you put decision-making procedures within the company on a hyperdrive? This is the question you need to be asking. Making employees more accountable for their decision-making could go a long way toward facilitating things at all levels and not just putting the burden of critical decisions on management. This also empowers your employees and gives them an increased sense of ownership when it comes to the company.
5. Nurture talent. This may sound simple, but it is so important, especially when facing a crisis as a company. What we see as the pandemic subsides is that there is a massive talent shortage in nearly all sectors. Things have changed. Attitudes toward work and what constitutes a “job” have changed. Employees need a reason to stay loyal to you and work within the company.
Revisiting the benefits you offer is a start. Getting creative with some of those benefits could also help attract talent. One important thing is to provide your employees with opportunities for more education, training, and advancement. The people who work for you want to know that they can climb the ladder, so to speak—allowing them to do so will make them more likely to stay on board.
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