20 Apr 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Prepare for a Post-COVID-19 World
The devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit small businesses in the U.S. especially hard. Many were forced to shift to a remote work model, and some had to drastically curtail operations to reduce expenses. Others ended up having to close up shop completely as much of the country faced widespread shutdowns.
While many small businesses are still struggling, the successful vaccine rollout and declining case counts are shining a much-needed light at the end of the tunnel. But what will a post-COVID-19 world look like? How will small businesses adapt to a very different economic climate?
Although it’s hard to predict how the recovery will transform the way small businesses operate, experts agree that it’s not too early to prepare. Here are five ways small businesses can adapt and move forward safely and sustainably in anticipation of better days ahead.
1. Develop a Plan to Safeguard Your Business
Even though the nation may be on the path toward recovery, with restrictions being lifted daily, the threat of the virus still looms large. That’s why it’s more important than ever develop policies and procedures for keeping employees and customers safe.
From general hygiene practices and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), to employee health monitoring and illness guidelines, it’s vital that small businesses establish new safety policies for the post-COVID workplace.
Government agencies and public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are a good start to obtain workplace guidelines and to learn how to best prepare your small business for the long-term effects of the pandemic.
2. Identify Opportunities to Recover Past Customers
The economic effects of the pandemic have not only impacted small businesses, but their customers as well. Consumer behavior continues to be influenced by public safety concerns and less disposable income, among other factors.
An important step in getting your small business back on track is to rebuild trust and loyalty among past customers who have fallen off the radar. This may include re-engaging with them via increased online communications and special incentives, and pivoting operations to meet their changing priorities.
For example, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, local restaurants that have been able to shift quickly to online checkout, and implemented flexible delivery and pickup options, have been the best equipped to survive and even grow during the pandemic. It’s this kind of responsiveness to changing customer needs that will help small businesses recover across all sectors.
3. Reconnect with Suppliers
Many small businesses continue to experience pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. If your business is reopening or restarting operations, it’s vital that your suppliers are ready too. This means reconnecting with primary vendors to determine their near-term availability and scheduling, and reaching out to new suppliers if primary vendors are not available.
To keep operations running smoothly as the recovery progresses, it’s also important to address and update supply chain and inventory control strategies, and create a backup plan in case of another disruption. By developing strategies to protect against delivery interruptions and inventory gaps, you can better assure continuity in your business operations.
4. Continue to Incorporate Digital Tools
If one business positive came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the realization that digital tools can not only help companies stay afloat and organized remotely, but in certain instances, they actually improve efficiency and productivity. The remote meeting, in particular, which was already gaining momentum prior to the outbreak, will continue to find traction as businesses realize the significant cost and time savings involved.
Most experts agree that the pre-pandemic in-person workplace will never be the same, and that some type of hybrid in-person/remote model will likely become the new normal. If that is the case, businesses’ reliance on digital tools will continue to skyrocket, as they have since the beginning of the pandemic.
This means a higher need for advanced analytics and other digital support tools, as well as increased use of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to engage with customers, who are spending more and more time online.
5. Consider Small Business Funding Options
It’s no surprise that the biggest obstacle most businesses have faced during the pandemic – and will continue to deal with as they start to reopen – is finding financing. The ever-present challenge of meeting near-term fixed operating costs – including rent, utilities and insurance – remains front and center.
Small businesses need working capital now more than ever to get up and running again, but access to funds has proven to be challenging. While many have benefitted from Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) government loans, others are still waiting for funding, and some simply need additional support to re-open successfully.
A traditional bank loan may be even harder than usual to come by because small businesses attempting to reopen in this uncertain economic climate are considered very high-risk. Because of their fast approval and flexible lending terms, alternative lenders are proving to be a viable option for much needed short-term working capital during this time of recovery.
As we move out of the pandemic and into the “new normal” of recovery, small businesses will need to continue to adapt and change in order to survive. Taking steps to position your company for success now will help ensure a brighter future.