How to Innovate Your Small Business during and after COVID-19

Virtually every industry has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses have closed their doors while many more people have lost their jobs. The pandemic is far from over, but things may never go back to the way they were even after the last case is reported.

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Businesses should adjust to the new normal and take steps to innovate their practices and processes to survive the pandemic. Customer service, communication, employee management, and marketing are some areas every business should work on to cope with any crisis of this scale.

Here are a few tips to help small-business owners navigate through the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and keep their businesses on track to reach success.

Determine the financial damage

Gather data on the financial situation of your business to determine how much damage the pandemic has wrought. This will help you craft a rebuilding plan that will help your business survive. Start with the hard numbers, such as your sales, profit, loss, and cash flow. See how they compare to the previous year.

Some businesses may not be as affected by the pandemic as others are while a small percentage may have even benefitted from the crisis. You need to know where you place so you can plan your next steps properly.

There are other aspects that you should factor in when assessing the financial damage. How many customers have switched to the competition? What budget cuts and compromise did you make to help your business stay afloat? Did you lay off employees? You have to consider all these in crafting your rebuilding plan.

It’s also important to consider if you will need funding to recover. The US Chamber of Commerce lists several resources to help businesses rebuild during and after the pandemic.

Reevaluate your business priorities

Before the pandemic, your top priority may have been bringing in more new customers and growing your business. You probably have already prepared strategies, marketing campaigns, and budgets for these only for the pandemic to occur and throw a wrench into your plans.

This doesn’t mean that your plans are automatically going bust. You can shelf some of them for later and fast-track the ones that will help your business recover through this crisis. Now may not be the right time to open a new brick-and-mortar store, but it may be the perfect opportunity to launch your e-commerce website (with the increase of e-commerce activity this year).

Knowing the financial impact of the pandemic to your business will also prove helpful in reevaluating your budget priorities. Where is the money most needed? Identify the key areas that will give you the most valuable returns on your investment.

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Update your business plan

If you previously relied on foot traffic to a physical store for business, this may not work as well during and after the pandemic. This means you will need to make changes to your old business model and your business plan.

For those in the restaurant industry, you will have to consider providing delivery service to get more business during these times. Other businesses in other industries should also look into e-commerce to gain new customers and regain old ones.

Reexamining your business plan will help identify the strengths and weaknesses of your small enterprise and determine your next steps. If you don’t know where to start, don’t hesitate to ask help from experienced mentors. The US Small Business Association offers remote mentoring programs to help struggling small businesses survive and thrive during and after this crisis.

Pay attention to what is happening in your industry too. Take note of how other businesses are weathering through this storm, and try to apply the strategies that work for your own small enterprise.

Improve your services and communication

Take this opportunity to create a better version of your small business. Innovate your services to cater to the changing needs of your target market. Whether it’s offering a delivery service, creating an app, or launching an e-commerce store, it’s vital to step up your operations to keep up with the changing needs of the market.

E-commerce activity has risen during the second quarter of this year around the time when lockdowns were enforced. This may permanently alter the way consumers shop. If you’re running an e-commerce business, it’s important now more than ever to streamline your shipping process with a software to create a better shopping experience for your customers.

Another thing businesses need to evaluate and change is how they communicate with customers. Generic communication that doesn’t acknowledge the impact of the pandemic will sound tone-deaf and out of touch with the current situation. Your customers, even the most loyal ones, may find this type of messaging insensitive and callous and turn them off.

Many people are stuck in their homes with only the internet and a social media platform to keep themselves updated and entertained. It’s not an option for businesses to keep quiet about and stay indifferent to what’s happening. If you want to stay connected with your audience, you need to work on maintaining your communications and staying positive while acknowledging the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives.

Create a safer and better workplace environment

The coronavirus is still in the country, but many businesses are already opening their doors. For many, staying closed is not an option. If you’re reopening your business, you must ensure that your employees are safe. Prepare for reopening your business by implementing rigorous health and safety protocols.

Get your shop professionally cleaned and sanitized before reopening day. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to your employees. Require everyone who enters your shop to wear a mask. Make sanitizers and handwashing stations readily available. Create a health-monitoring program, and provide health and safety training for all employees.

For companies that have turned to remote working, employers need to take measures to ensure employees stay engaged. Strategic leadership is key in keeping workers motivated and engaged during these times.

Every person has probably been affected by the pandemic in some way. Employers should strive not to add more fear and anxiety. Instead, they should give their employees empathy, confidence, and assurance. Great leadership, open communication, and understanding are much needed during these difficult times.

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