The COVID-19 crisis has turned life upside down for everyone, both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, many small businesses have had to close temporarily, and for some it may be more than temporary.
The silver lining is that this type of crisis can give business owners a chance to reevaluate their business model and the processes they use every day. When everything grinds to a halt, it can be the perfect time to consider some of the details that usually get lost in the busyness.
What options can you consider as the country moves toward reopening? Here are some tips and ideas.
Why Business Model Changes Are Sometimes Needed
They say the only constant is change. That’s definitely true in business, and it’s why companies have to reexamine how they provide products and services at times.
For example, when Netflix was first getting started, they tried to sell their idea and company to Blockbuster. In retrospect, this would have been a slam-dunk for Blockbuster. Unfortunately, they laughed Netflix’s founders out of the room. The rest is history – Netflix is huge, and Blockbuster has one store left.
Why did this happen? Because Blockbuster couldn’t see what was changing in customers’ habits. They weren’t willing to change their business model.
You don’t want this to happen to your business. Instead, be aware of when the market shifts – or when crises arise and show you that additional planning is needed to get through tough financial times.
Review Your Online Security Protocols
One thing that’s difficult to do during “business as usual” is to make updates to your business’ cybersecurity. If your business is closed temporarily, you can use downtime to research new threats out there and what technology you can deploy to prevent problems.
As you review your cybersecurity, consider what kind of device encryption you currently use and if it can be upgraded. While things are slow, update your web browsers, operating systems, and security software. Having clean machines when everyone returns to work will be a huge benefit.
Finally, review the processes you use to keep your employee and customer data secure. Generally your payment solutions provider will have some good security options, and you can look for high-quality HR software that will protect your employee information.
Upgrade Your Technology
In routine times, a technology upgrade is a huge headache. You worry about downtime, interruptions, and low productivity until everything is up and running.
During COVID-19, the forced shutdown gives you a perfect opportunity to review and upgrade your tech. Having updated technology can help your business be much more efficient as everything gets up and running again.
Consider looking for technology that allows you to better personalize your interactions with customers. This will improve customer retention and boost your bottom line right away. You can also use mobile apps to drive additional engagement.
To make your business more efficient, speed up your product fulfillment process. Be aware that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on trucking, from small vehicles to full 18-wheelers. The better you can coordinate with the shipping options available, the better for your company.
Finally, look at apps that can help you run your business better, especially if people are working remotely. From Slack to Evernote, there are a lot of business apps that can make a difference.
Create an Emergency Plan for the Future
The current pandemic is easing, but it isn’t the first time we’ve lived through a worldwide disease – and it isn’t likely to be the last. As a result, you need an emergency plan for future outbreaks and pandemics.
The first part of the plan is how to prevent the spread of disease. You need wide-ranging infection control measures within your company. Assess the risks you face. Clearly, a plant with thousands of workers working shoulder-to-shoulder will have different hazards than a corporate office, which will, in turn, have different risks than a retail store open to customers.
Secondly, focus on creating robust communication that will allow you to function as much as possible, or keep employees in the loop if you have to close. Consider how to have employees work from home and what technology is required to make that a reality. Find ways to provide your products and services online so you can continue to sell even if your location is closed.
Diversify your supply chain as much as you can. You don’t want to rely on one or two suppliers – especially overseas – because disruption can cripple your business. Instead, find ways to have multiple suppliers and flexibility within your contracts.
Finally, build the cash reserves you need to survive through a closure. Do your best to continue to pay staff, be flexible with your customers, and continue to provide whatever products and services you can. Most of all, test your plan before there’s a crisis. Make sure remote work and communication technology work well before you need them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Shift Your Business Model
Direct sales, franchising, advertising-based, and brick-and-mortar stores are all examples of traditional business models. There are hybrids as well, such as businesses that combine internet retail with brick-and-mortar stores.
Changing how you do business isn’t something to be avoided. It’s a normal part of being successful in a variety of markets. Shifting to online sales will help you if travel is limited or prohibited in the future. Having the possibility of a remote workforce will allow you to operate and continue to pay staff even during a crisis.
This crisis has been challenging and scary, but small business owners who put strategies in place to overcome the economic impact can come out better than ever. Get started making these shifts today!