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10 Ways to Invest in Your Business During a Slow Time
We don’t need to tell you how the COVID-19 pandemic is turning the world upside down, forcing us to social distance and limiting our abilities to transact business. Businesses have had to reduce staff, change their operating hours, or close completely for the time being. Despite communities rallying to support their local retailers – by ordering gift certificates and restaurant take out – small businesses and their employees are being hit particularly hard by these conditions.
There are a bunch of articles you can find online about what businesses should do now to protect their employees and their digital security. For example, businesses that remain open, at partial or full capacity, are being urged to first prioritize the safety of clients and employees. Recommendations include establishing procedures for disinfecting facilities and setting up remote working arrangements when possible. Due to this shift to remote work, ensuring data security is another topic at the top of the ‘what to do now’ lists.
However, few recommendations have been published for small business owners whose revenue streams have been hit hard or shut off completely due to the pandemic. That is, little advice is out there around what businesses could be doing right now to help them bounce back when they’re able to resume operations and to ensure their future success. But we have 10 suggestions around how small business owners can take control of what’s controllable right now to set themselves up for brighter days ahead!
Work on Your Mindset
It can be tough to have a positive outlook right now, but that’s what you’re going to need to get through this. So, do everything you can to bolster a positive, growth mindset right now. Reduce your news and social media consumption and/or tune in only to sources of positivity and encouragement. Double down on personal development by consuming more inspirational and educational materials, including books, podcasts, and online learning. Feed your mind with ideas and opportunities – and then don’t be afraid to implement any ideas that you get. Now is a time for finding silver linings, innovating, and adapting quickly.
Check Your Finances
Review your accounting and make sure you know your numbers and have an accurate picture of your business’ financial health. Doing this will allow you to make decisions based on data, rather than on your gut feelings or your fears. And start reviewing your cash flow on a daily and weekly basis.
Take a look at your monthly expenses. Do you have some subscriptions you set up a while ago, but you don’t really need them right now? Cancel what anything that’s not essential to minimize the money you have going out. For necessary monthly expenses, consider whether negotiating better terms with the vendor might be a possibility. Suppliers may be willing to cut you a deal, rather than lose you as a customer completely.
Take a look at the funds you have coming in. Do you have outstanding invoices? (Have you sent out all of your invoices?) Reach out to customers and do what you can to get your payments now, which might include incentives for immediate payments. Offering a discount or a value-add for quick payment can help you get your cash now rather than later.
Develop and Improve Processes
Review your business operations. Do you have written processes and procedures for your core activities? If you don’t, begin documenting the way you do business. If you do already have procedures, review them, looking for gaps, inefficiencies, and other possible improvement opportunities. When you reopen or when business picks up again, you’ll be working more efficiently, which will maximize customer satisfaction and revenue, as well as reduce frustrations and job stress.
Audit Your Website
Go through your website, page by page, to ensure it’s operating properly. You want to know that you have no broken links, that pages load quickly, and links lead visitors to the right destinations. Make a note of anything that doesn’t appear to be properly working and reach out to your web team to fix problems and errors.
Check Your Online Listings
Making it as easy as possible for potential clients to find you online has never been more important than it is right now. Don’t get us wrong. It was highly important before the coronavirus reared its ugly head. But now that the current conditions are basically forcing people to spend more time online – working remotely, connecting to their kids’ virtual classrooms – everyone will be relying on online resources more than ever.
You need to verify the accuracy and effectiveness of your online business listing – which is not your website. Google My Business is a key listing for small businesses that help them get found online, but that’s just one of the free business listings and directories available to businesses. If you’re not sure how to check on your listings, shoot us a message and we’ll help you with advice and free tools!
Map Out Your Sales Journey
Do you have a clear sales journey that’s easy to move people through? And if so, do you have it mapped out, step by step? If you don’t, get started on mapping this out. Having a clear journey to follow enhances customer experience and increases your conversions and efficiencies.
If you do already have a clear map of your sales journey, take a look at it and see what you might improve. Are there parts you could do in a more streamlined manner? Are there any opportunities to automate steps in the process? Are there any gaps?
Use the extra time you have available to you now to ensure you have a rock-solid sales journey when you’re ready to go back to operating at full capacity!
Examine Your Content
Read – no, really read – every page on your website, as well as any written content you have elsewhere (e.g., brochures). Watch all the videos you may have on your site and social channels. Ask yourself if all the content aligns with your company’s unique selling proposition and its sales journey. Here are a few supporting questions to ask yourself.
- Does your website have clear calls-to-action, letting visitors know what to do next?
- Does your content clearly and sufficiently explain your “big picture” – who you are, what you do, and the problem you solve?
- Does the supporting content create enough clarity around the details of how you do business?
If your online content needs to be refined or there are gaps to fill, come up with an action plan to make those improvements now.
Contact Your Customers
Reach out to your customers and communicate what is going on with your business. Whether you are open or closed at this time should be clear on your website. If you are open, publish all the ways you’re ensuring safety for your clients and employees.
If you operate the type of business where cultivating relationships with individual clients is paramount, reach out to them individually with an email, a text, or a phone call. This outreach is not for sales purposes. Simply check on your clients to see how they are doing and let them know you care. This is particularly effective for B2Bs – because your clients are working through the same challenges you are right now.
Decide How to Innovate
The bad news is market conditions just plain stink right now. And they will for a while. The good news is that the crisis is going to usher one of the most innovative times we’ve seen in our lives. When challenges get in our way, people rise to the occasion and come up with creative new solutions. So, how will your business innovate, do something different or better, or integrate new habits to improve business?
Look at what is working right now and begin to come up with a plan for how you will be better.
Take Action NOW
It’s challenge time! Everything is rapidly changing, and speed is going to be a deciding factor when it comes to success. We all need to come up with and execute ideas as quickly as possible – there’s no time to overthink! Action is going to be the key.
So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to review the list above and decide what you are going to get underway in the next 24 hours! Don’t bite off more than you can chew and try to tackle the whole list! Come up with bite-sized tasks you can do in the next day – and do them. Here’s your initial to do list:
- Pick one or two ways you’ll manage your mindset during the weeks ahead.
- Review your numbers!
- Select one tip from the list above that makes the most sense to you and identify the first step necessary to complete it.
- OPTIONAL: Identify one more task you can implement or delegate in the next 24 hours.
If you need help with any online activities (e.g., checking your listings), have any questions, or simply need some help with accountability, contact us and we’ll be glad to lend a hand!
To hear Jen talk about the four things she did first to give herself peace about business operations during this crisis, tune in to this episode of the podcast.
This is the place to look for loan information from the Small Business Association.