5 Ways to Help Your Small Business Survive During the Pandemic Don't be afraid to ask for help, either for your business, your staff or yourself.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Covid has been the ultimate disrupter to the global economy. Fortune 500 companies and small start-ups alike have felt the blow, but it's the small businesses that have suffered the most.
Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy. According to the World Economic Forum, small businesses are responsible for employing nearly half of the private sector workforce. However, during these volatile times where social distancing measures have been put in place and mandatory shut-downs have happened, many small businesses have not been able to survive.
In September, Yelp released its latest Economic Impact Report revealing business closures across the U.S. are increasing as a result of Covid. According to Yelp data, permanent closures have reached 97,966, representing 60 percent of closed businesses that won't be reopening.
"Overall, Yelp's data shows that business closures have continued to rise with a 34 percent increase in permanent closures since our last report in mid-July," Justin Norman, Vice President of Data Science at Yelp, told CNBC.
These reports can give everyone a feeling of doom and gloom, but here are five ways to help your small business survive the pandemic.
1. Become truly social on social media
As someone who works in business development, I highly rely on meet-ups to help foster my relationships with clients. But when Covid caused the U.S. to shut down back in March, I found myself feeling isolated from my business relationships. That's when I realized that I needed to become truly social on social media.
According to Smart Insights, more than half the world uses social media. Social media users are now spending an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day multi-networking across an average of eight social networks and messaging apps.
With this high usage, social media has become a lifeline between businesses and their customers. When businesses use their social media to bring free value to their potential customers, that's how they will continue to build and maintain their relationships.
Also, businesses must go beyond just posting creative content on their social media platforms. They must also interact with their followers. Following back your potential customers on social media can do wonders for building online relationships. Liking posts and responding to comments will further build the relationship. Validating your followers by doing these simple steps can turn them into potential customers or clients.
Although these items are easy to do, it's surprising how many small businesses and brands only post content on social media, but don't actually socialize with followers in return. Building relationships with customers through social media is a give and take. As in any relationship, it can not be one-sided.
2. Learn how to pivot
With the volatile economic climate and the ever-changing rules of re-opening the economy, business owners need to learn how to pivot. Pivoting means that you shift to a new strategy to address something that may not be working well within your company. Pivoting can be something as simple as a company changing its platform from software to an app. Or it can be something as complex as changing their entire business model.
Starbucks did a major pivot when they went from selling coffee beans and espresso makers in their store in 1971 to a full-blown coffeehouse that brewed and sold their own coffee in the mid-1980s.
Flexibility in a company's strategy and knowing when it should pivot can be crucial in both surviving and thriving in the marketplace.
3. Optimize business spending
There is no better time than now to reevaluate how money is being spent in your business. Reducing costs is the most impactful way to continue pursuing business goals during these uncertain times.
A specific example of how business owners may better optimize their business maybe switching from print ads to digital ones. Investing in digital marketing can give businesses an opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of their monthly marketing expenses, while also providing more targeted and precise reach to their ideal buyers.
Another example of optimizing business spending is shopping vendors. When businesses let their vendors know that they are shopping around for better prices, this gives the vendor an opportunity to give the business a better deal. Or it gives the business the opportunity to find a better deal elsewhere. Either way, it can prove to be a great way to save money for the company.
There are several ways to optimize business spending. Do a close evaluation of where all of the monthly expenses are going and then see where and how the company can make cost-effective changes.
4. Get help from your local government
It's important for business owners to know that they are not alone during these critical times. Reaching out to legislators is a good way to find out what resources are available to help.
According to the National League of Cities, "Cities are creating simple, user-friendly websites that act as a one-stop-shop for resources, tools, and information for small businesses. The best sites are updated daily with relevant news from City Hall and state and federal agencies."
Another excellent way to get support is to join a local task force that focuses on small businesses and the issues at hand. Getting involved is the best way to be an advocate for your business and your local community.
The only way to find out what your local government has to offer is by reaching out. Business owners should not hesitate to do so.
5. Get mental health support for yourself and for your staff
The pandemic has not only put people's physical health at risk but also their mental health. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, KFF Tracking Poll conducted in mid-July, "53 percent of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus. Many adults are also reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping (36 percent) or eating (32 percent), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12 percent), and worsening chronic conditions (12 percent), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus."
A business owner can not tackle the well-being of their company without first tackling the well-being of themselves and their staff. By giving social support to one another during uncertain times, it will help to build a closer community within the organization. It's important to continue open communication, company updates, as well as offer resources for mental healthcare for yourself and your staff to help alleviate vulnerabilities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several resources to help cope with stress during the pandemic.