The devastating impact of the Coronavirus continues to be felt by companies the world over. From the loss of profits to the loss of employees, colleagues and friends, the pandemic has left no one unscathed. While larger corporations may have been in a position to quickly pivot and thus cushion the blow, small businesses have not been as fortunate. According to one study, nearly half of all small businesses in South Africa have been forced to close due to COVID-19, resulting in hundreds of thousands of jobs lost to the economy.
The question now becomes, how can the rest avoid suffering the same fate? Well, here at UBU we’ve compiled a small business survival kit, filled with sound advice and great suggestions on how to make it through the worst of times and come out smiling. Keep reading to find out more.
Time for a Reassessment?
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many small businesses into a period of introspection. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Due to the lack of revenue flowing through the doors, companies will need to reassess everything from revenue streams to their spending habits.
The most logical place to start would be the cutting of costs. Budgets now take on an even greater significance than before. All unnecessary and non-revenue-producing expenses should be cut immediately (The company vending machine may not be the most essential thing right now). Reduced working hours and temporary layoffs may also be required during this time, although this should be seen as an absolute last resort.
Seek Help if Needed
Your business may need a cash injection to help keep the doors open in the short-term. If this is the case, there are several avenues that you can attempt. The Department of Small Business Development has put together a COVID-19 SMME relief package to assist small businesses who fit the criteria. Check out the conditions and see if you qualify.
The major banks are also offering assistance in various forms, so be sure to visit your banker and make enquiries. If help is required, you need to request it.
Set the Necessary Policies in Place
While the government has issued various sets of guidelines and requirements, businesses must develop their COVID-19 policies for the workplace. Establish official processes regarding the number of employees at work and what to do when an employee is feeling ill. Social distancing guidelines in public areas such as the canteen and the smoker’s area also need to be explicitly stated. Employers should clearly and concisely outline their safety protocols and enforce them. By doing this, companies leave their employees feeling safe and also confident in their ability to manage the crisis.
Your company’s COVID policies shouldn’t stop at the workplace. The current pandemic has necessitated the use of sick leave more than ever, so create an employee-friendly policy that caters to this. Your workers will thank you for this.
Create Space for Remote Work
The sudden onset of the pandemic forced many small businesses to explore the unfamiliar territory of remote work. As company doors were closed, many relied on their employees operating from home to keep things ticking along. Remote work is now an inevitable way of life. From a health and safety perspective, allowing employees to continue working from home creates more space for social distancing at the office. From a cost perspective, a business can save simply by having fewer employees present at work. From a production perspective, research shows that employees tend to be more productive at home, which is always good for business.
For all of the above-mentioned reasons, small businesses would be wise to implement a work-from-home plan. Manage the process by outlining daily, weekly and monthly expectations regarding productivity. Also, invest in quality systems and technology that enable your employees to perform optimally from home. Conduct regular virtual “check-ins” to make sure that your employee stays on course. Successfully implementing these procedures allows you to effectively manage your employees while they are out of sight.
Don’t Forget to Call
As you continue to reconfigure your small business to meet the challenges of the day, do not neglect the most important aspect: your customers. During this time, many of your loyal patrons may be wondering what is happening with your organisation. Don’t leave them wondering. Make a point of connecting with your customers regularly. Keep them updated as to what is happening in your world.
Make use of social media platforms, e-newsletters and other communication channels to share your latest offerings, or to simply inform customers of the new safety protocols that you’ve implemented. Regularly connecting with your base is great for your customer retention strategy. It’s also an excellent way to get new customers through the door.
Improve on Perfection
While there is no doubt that your small business exudes greatness, the fact is that room for improvement always exists. With so many companies experiencing more downtime due to less work or fewer customers, now might be an opportune time to level up in certain areas. Take these opportunities to upskill your staff, or improve your marketing strategies. Look at new ways to acquire customers and develop additional revenue streams. Using those quiet periods wisely enables you to protect your small business against external shocks in the future and also sets you on the path of continued growth.
Show Your Human Side
In times like these, compassion does go a long way. Small Businesses need to be aware of the suffering around them. This applies to their employees as well as the communities in which they operate. If possible, donate to a relief fund or, better yet, organise a food drive for the less fortunate. As tragic as these moments are, they do present an opportunity for businesses to give back. Take that opportunity.
Cutting costs, setting clear guidelines, and regularly connecting with customers enable companies to answer the challenges that this dreaded pandemic has laid down. Taking these steps not only positions the small business to survive but also to grow, retain their existing customer base, and hopefully get some new customers along the way. If your company hasn’t already done so, it’s time to start implementing these survival nuggets and save your business.
If you’re interested in more information on how to survive this crisis, have a look at our COVID-19 Pandemic Survival Guide for small businesses.