Since so many small businesses are going to be dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 for some time, we wanted to get some insight from our incredible CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs.
They have generously shared their best tips for small businesses in these unprecedented circumstances. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Handy Tip for SMB Owners!
You’ll probably need a quick influx of cash as soon as possible. So, before the relief funds arrive, you'd be wise to:
- Consult your accountant to find out if you can be expecting a refund for 2019. If so, file your taxes as soon as possible to get this much-needed boost.
- Otherwise, buy yourself some much needed time by taking advantage of the tax deadline extension. You have bigger fish to fry right now and can deal with the payments once you've bounced back financially.
Thanks to: Jagoda Wieczorek of ResumeLab.
2. Move Online & Give Bonus Value
I quickly moved my music school online and did my best to keep the schedule, content and quality as consistent and strong as always, even providing fun bonus content and keeping everything upbeat. Both child and adult students appreciate keeping their routine intact and also having some semblance of normalcy, fun and distraction in these extraordinary times. Any way you can, move online and provide extra value; it is really appreciated, now more than ever.
Thanks to: Mike Walsh of Mike Walsh Guitar Lessons.
3. Take This Time to Restructure
Take this time to look at your business model. Does it have the ability to grow, develop and/or survive in a changing or uncertain environment? If yes, look at the weaknesses you have and strengthen them; if no, take this time to restructure, re-calibrate and rethink your future business life, plan and direction. Also, check in with your local area Chamber of Commerce and SBA offices for updated information on grants, loans and support resources.
Thanks to: Jay King CEO / President of CBCC of CA Black Chamber of Commerce.
4. No Marketing Isolation
If your operating budget still supports marketing right now, be sure to stay in front of current & prospective clients/customers with marketing campaigns. People may need your product or service today or when their own business picks up again. Be top of mind with helpful social media posts and blog articles, offer free tips or consultations, or maintain your ad buy. Be a reliable resource today and encourage your clients to do the same. And, update your branding if it's been on your to-do list.
Thanks to: Caryn Starr-Gates of StarrGates Business Communications.
5. Sharpen the Tools
What tool do you use every minute of every day to shape the world around you?
If you said your brain - ding, ding, ding!
So, what are you doing with all this uncanny time that has now become available?
Well, the response I heard from one of my mentors was - "take a class"
There are so many classes and training sessions available on demand. My goal is to learn something new or enhance a skill I have every day.
Thanks to: Kevin Huhn of Make Media Matter.
6. Focus On Cash Flow, Not Profit
Focus on cash flow, not profits, during uncertain times. Determine your "burn rate". This is your net cash outflow each week or month. Divide your cash balance by your burn rate to estimate how long your cash will last. Better yet, run a cash projection to closely monitor your cash.
If your cash may run out in 3-6 months, find sources of cash. If you have strong cash balances, identify what investments to make so you can reap profits during the eventual recovery.
Thanks to: Rob Stephens of CFO Perspective.
7. Don't Let This Make You Crazy!
My shop is in a small town filled with restaurants & bars. They are all shuttered save for takeout. The streets usually crowded with town walkers are quiet as can be. I could be crying or whining or going crazy. But, I'm not. Instead, I am getting paperwork done. I am writing content for the future. I am staying relevant.
Outside of my own work, I am buying gift certificates & takeout from my favorite places. Small gestures mean so much to my business, so I know it means just as much to those.
Thanks to: Roberta Perry.
8. Think How You Can Help
Think how your business can adapt and help the current Coronavirus crisis. Is there something needed that you can provide?
For instance, a Gin distillery recently started making hand sanitizer from their facilities.
Not only is this good publicity, but you may be able to earn money from a new helpful product or service. That makes it a win-win.
Thanks to: Jon Rhodes of Narcissisms.
9. Training & Feedback
The best way to keep a remote worker productive is to have proper training program that offers employees guidance on how to do their work from a remote location. To this end, we have been trying to make sure that we push out resources and other educational content to our employees. Receiving feedback from remote workers is also essential in order to resolve problems. A company must have systems in place to receive and respond to a remote employee's experience.
Thanks to: David Reischer of LegalAdvice.com.
10. We Need to Breathe
Everyone take a breath, okay, now take another!
We will get through this, but it is going to take communication, leadership and creativity. Our role as leaders right now is to listen. To really hear and understand our people, our clients and our suppliers. To realize everyone is unsure and in a position they have never been in before. Being human with each other, cutting everyone some slack and working together is how we will get through this. Wishing everyone health.
Thanks to: Ben Baker of Your Brand Marketing.
11. Build Your Relationships
Strengthen your existing business connections and build new ones. They are a source of info, resources, ideas and encouragement. Now is absolutely the time to reach out and help others however you can so that you can get help in return. Share ideas widely, reach out to new people, reconnect, be generous with encouragement and ask others in your network to do the same. You'll survive better now and you'll be a much stronger business and person when we come out of it.
Thanks to: Beth Bridges of The Networking Motivator.
12. Don't Be a Hero
We live in a hotbed of uncertainty filled with very high levels of anxiety. Every small business should have an emergency business plan in place. Now is the time to implement that plan. Look for ways to market your products and services to people in the comfort of their homes, from the comfort of your home. Take your message to social media. Sell on Marketplace or Etsy and other similar sites. Offer community support using your business as a hub. Ex. open it to truck drivers and provide snacks.
Thanks to: Robyn Flint of USInsuranceAgents.com.
13. Re-evaluate Everything
In situations like these, it makes sense to look at everything. Reassess your debt positions to see if you can improve financing options. It is an opportunity to re-evaluate cash outflows and prioritize importance. Improve efficiencies and work flow to come out the other side of this challenge nimble, flexible and ready to hit the ground running.
Thanks to: Brad Burns of Wayne Contracting.
14. Keep It Safe
The one suggestion I have is keep all your staff safe online, keep them connected securely as they work from home, with a secured network, With folks working on generic unsecured linksys routers and wi-fi, the first item is to change the security password on the device, then add a VPN and a good strong security tool such as Symantec or McAfee.
The safer you make them, the safer your staff and customers will be with all the attacks that have increased by a 3x in the last month.
Thanks to: Christopher Carter of Approyo.
15. The World is Moving to Virtual
Instead of thinking about all that's wrong right now, turn it around and think about what you can teach those around you. If you own a restaurant, how about a cooking tip? If you cut hair, how about how a tutorial on selecting the right haircut to highlight your features? The world is moving virtual, what can you do to add to your online presence? Start that Instagram. Create a blog post. Record a video. What can you do to contribute to a new virtual world?
Thanks to: Lori Osterberg of VisionOfSuccess.com.
16. Let's Meet Online!
I have had more Zoom and Skype calls in the past 15 days than the prior 6 months! Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc. is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. So, first and foremost, I am trying to help small businesses to be flexible and open minded, so we can keep working together during the crisis.
Thanks to: Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls.
17. Adversity Creates Opportunity
Now is the time to find where you can fulfill needs. Avoid the panic that most leaders face as they scramble to deal with the current business environment. Instead, assess where you can make the most of it. Now is a great time to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and then review your PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technology) to find where your strengths align with the external opportunities. Let the stress created by this pandemic drive your innovation.
Thanks to: Dan Paulson of InVision Development International.
18. Pivot, Embrace New Ops
Let's face it, marketing in the world of uncertainty is a challenge, so you can either let yourself be paralyzed or you can look at your business, examine the landscape and pivot to embrace new opportunities. Is there a line of business that you've been wanting to explore? Do it... now is the time to try since the opportunity cost is low if your existing line of business has eroded. Don't waste this opportunity. Try something new, but don't completely give up on your existing line of business.
Thanks to: James Hills of Men Who Blog.
19. First, Start With This Math
When everything in your business changes so dramatically and so quickly, the best way to adjust your marketing and advertising planning is with some very easy-to-use advertising math I developed called "The Barrows Popularity Factor".
You can use the math to help you test and analyze and adjust your marketing and advertising in good times and in bad. You can see more about the math at www.barrows.com/bpfinfo.html.
Thanks to: Robert Barrows of R.M. Barrows Advertising.
20. Refine Your Business Strategy
It is challenging to focus on refining your long term business strategy in a time of uncertainty. However, don't miss out on this opportunity to pause - step back and look at the big picture. Think about patterns of the past and what core things will maintain true in the future. For instance, while the cruise industry is in peril right now - people will still want to cruise in the future. While there might be new keywords to attract people, examine the type of traffic from existing ones, etc.
Thanks to: James Hills of Cruise West Coast.
21. Follow the Lead
America's largest companies have PR people who know what to say in times of crisis. By now, you've probably received many "notes to our valued customers". Try to capture the tone, the nature of the assurances, and perhaps even some of the verbiage. Then, send out emails to all your own customers, expressing hope and offering a lagniappe for the day when it truly is "business as usual".
Thanks to: Marlene Caroselli.
22. Be Proactive!
My #1 piece of advice is to be proactive. Talk to your employees, talk to your vendors, talk to your customers, and most important, talk to your family. What's most unique about today's battle with COVID-19 is that its impact is agnostic to industry, geography, company size, etc... Everyone is being impacted and the best thing to do as a business owner is to talk about it. The problems you're facing are going to be the same problems that everyone is facing. TALK ABOUT IT!
Thanks to: Matthew Gillman of SMB Compass.
23. Act On Facts, Not Fear
In this unprecedented time, it is far too easy to give into panic and make moves on the fly, which don't support the long-term goals or health of your business. My best advice is to take a deep breath, review all of your finances and talk to your banker and accountant to get a handle on where you really are right now. Then, breathe again and make projections and plans based on financial facts and how you think your business is going be impacted based on the information you have available to you.
Thanks to: Gaynor Meilke of The Bona Fide Business Guide.
24. Do, Don't Delay
Fear can be paralyzing. It can stop business leadership from being decisive. It can impede or critically delay taking the steps necessary to stay relevant and afloat during a crisis. Each business is very different (even in the same industries) so the "right" choice is not absolute. However, doing something is better than doing nothing. Pick a direction, move forward-and if necessary, pivot/experiment again. Just keep learning-and keep doing better.
Thanks to: Stacy Robin of The Degania Group.
25. Close Your Eyes...
Close your eyes and picture a world where your customers rarely leave their home. What does your company look like now?
Thanks to: Barry Moltz of Shafran Moltz Group.
Carol Roth is a national media personality, "recovering" investment banker, dealmaker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation.
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