It’s no secret that many small businesses are struggling to cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The full economic impact of this virus will not be known for some time, but small businesses in the United States and abroad are going to feel strain in supply chains, customer demand, and in their own workforces. Indeed, many organizations already have. At the same time, adapting to new risks and challenges is an inherent part of doing business, and hardships can be opportunities for innovation, improved businesses processes, and sometimes even growth. Here are a few suggestions for helping your company stay strong through this crisis.
Back to Basics
In times of hardship, it is essential that resources are devoted to the most critical tasks. This is probably not the best time to explore a different product line or hire staff for a new division, but it could be an opportune moment to improve things you’re already doing. Especially if you need to cut expenses, review your business activities and pare down to what is most needed for the coming months. Delivering key products and services to customers, and maintaining a bare minimum of cash flow, must be your priority. Show strong leadership by canceling or postponing any activities that do not directly support those efforts.
Strengthening Customer Relations
A challenge of this nature—one that is affecting basically everyone in the country—can be an opportunity to reconnect with your customers and communicate how much you value them. Andrea Thomas, professor of business at the University of Utah and former SVP of Walmart Stores, offers this guidance on your communications with customers in times of crisis:
- Recognize that customers are also under stress; be patient and empathetic with them.
- Adjust tone of language across all communications: posted signs, emails, and direct conversations should all reflect sensitivity to the crisis.
- Communicate frequently and transparently to build trust.
- Devote more resources to “lifetime” or most valued customers (Leavitt, 2020).
In addition to improving external relations, a crisis of this magnitude can also be an opportunity to improve your employee relations. Many people who report job dissatisfaction do so because they do not see meaning or purpose in their work (Hedges, 2014). A shared challenge can reenergize employees and renew their commitment to the work. Make sure your employees understand the value of their work and how vital they are in your company making it through this struggle. Help them see the positive impact of their contributions on customers, fellow employees, and the company in general. Additionally, this may be a chance to discover new leaders within the organization; many businesses are facing new tasks because of this crisis, such as increasing their social media presence and developing e-commerce activities. Put employees with leadership potential in charge of these projects, and let them show you what they’re capable of.
All of us at NiteHawk are in the trenches here with you, and we wish you and your business all the best in this difficult challenging time.
Hedges, Kristi. 20 Jan, 2014. 8 Common Causes of Workplace Demotivation. Forbes.com. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2014/01/20/8-common-causes-of-workplace-demotivation/.
Leavitt, Mike. 3 April, 2020. Navigating COVID-19: How to Save Your Business. Webinar recording available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbz0SgEHMlM.