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Saving your small business during the pandemic

Kathy Carter

Contributor

We’re having to face the facts that some businesses, particularly those in consumer-facing sectors, will face a catastrophic spring and summer, due to the world’s health issues. But with uncertainty can come diversity and fresh ideas. Here are some to help inspire you, and perhaps invigorate your small business.

Diversify

A prime example of diversification is the distilleries across the world who have turned to making hand sanitiser, made from high-proof alcohol (some are giving away the product altruistically, but some are charging, albeit ‘at cost’). 

Could you service another market affected by the new ways of working? If you’re in hospitality, could your services/skills/products, for example, be re-packaged to assist the home-education sector? Could you join forces with someone in an aligned field – e.g. a tech company joining forces with a leisure provider, to create digital content for home-workers?

If you’re in retail, could you change the way items are sold or delivered? If your business has had to close down temporarily, e.g. could your service be brought to private homes, or could your experience be offered digitally, or as a home-learning course? Thinking outside the box could be key to keeping the business afloat.

Create Good Public Relations

The aforementioned alcohol distillers created fantastic PR for their brands by recognising a need and filling it (and telling the media). Can you help local charities? If event cancellations mean stock is going to waste, can it be repurposed to help others? There are needy people the world over, in all sectors, including yours. Yes, be altruistic, but with a business head on. 

Create a new opportunity for your brand that could create high-value content online with good SEO ranking. Consumer confidence is key during troubled times and will hopefully be maintained within your brand. 

Check out your business niche’s magazines, websites and industry resources and create stories from your activities that suit the relevant media outlets, or local broadcast and news services. From then on, national coverage may follow organically.

Focus on your marketing

If you’re forced to have downtime, why not develop content to use later in the year? Depending on your product or service, you could, for example, create Halloween articles or memes, write seasonal (e.g. Christmas) articles relevant to your service, or simply develop fact-sheets for your clients or end-users.

Is your website up to date? Now’s the time to refresh it. If you don’t have a blog, set one up and get writing. (It’s OK to write about your current struggles in the hazardous wellness climate – perhaps your musings could help other businesses.) Conduct research on your competitors, make sure you’re up to date with your industry’s keywords and hashtags and use any home-based time to come up with a company battle plan.

Don’t abandon your customers or clients – they’re still out there – stay in touch however you can, via newsletters and social media. They’re feeling discombobulated too – develop your relationship with them at this difficult time.

Seek expert advice

Businesses will change direction, diversify and even fail. Thus, seek advice from industry bodies, Government sources, charities and industry peers. Where is your industry going? How will it change and diversify? Is it time to cut your losses and start afresh? Could you join forces with an aligned brand or service? Is there a way to put the business ‘on ice’ financially, or take out a loan? (America’s Small Business Administration has for example begun offering disaster assistance loans.) Your old business, pre-COVID-19, may not exist anymore. What may grow from this change – what does the new business offering look like?

There are many sources of assistance and advice available for SMEs, for example:

Your insurer – if you have ‘notifiable infections disease’ cover for your business, you should be entitled to make a claim; however, ‘general conditions’ cover is unlikely to be considered, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, other policies could be relevant, e.g. ‘key person insurance’ (e.g. that pays out if a senior worker is unable to work), as well as event abandonment and cancellation cover.

The bank - banks are generally being instructed by their Governments to take a sympathetic approach to SMEs; ask them about credit facilities and loan terms. The European Innovation Council has for example set aside a significant amount of money for ‘Fast-Track EU Funding’, for SMEs whose services could help in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the British Business Bank has set up a ‘Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme’.

Your tax authority – seek out your territory’s tax authority for advice, as these exceptional circumstances may warrant an extension in paying tax commitments.

Your landlord – if you rent a property, discuss rent freezes or other options.

Your business expenditure – some organisations are offering assistance. For example, Facebook has announced a $100 million programme to aid SMEs, in the form of cash grants and advertising credits.

Step Back

There’s an argument that some things are out of our hands. Maybe it is time to consolidate all of the above factors and accept that this is a time of uncertainty and change. (Change is inevitable; growth is optional, as they say). Some people may, for example, choose to spend downtime with friends and family, revaluate their healthcare status, consider their bucket list or ‘pipe dream’ scenario, and leave things in fate’s hands, to a degree.

We have bounced back before, and will do it again. Your business (and local) community will hopefully all work together, with your help, to face whatever the future holds.

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