In the era of the coronavirus, small businesses have been faced with challenges like at no other time in recent history. Business owners are learning things about themselves, their staff, and clients in an abbreviated amount of time, and what they've come up with will change the way they do business well after the coronavirus gets under control.
Here are three things small business owners are doing to cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.
Communicate clearly and openly
When a crisis like this occurs, business owners' thoughts go first to their people. Employees need to know where they stand. With that in mind, Amanda Ma, chief experience officer of Innovate Marketing Group, says she "immediately put a plan in place to ensure our team is taken care of. Not laying off anyone or reducing their hours." Proactive communication is key to reassure her team that they'll come through.
Certified financial planner and founder of personal finance site The Ways to Wealth R.J. Weiss went one step further, to be honest with his team. "When members of my team started fearing for their jobs, I opened up the financials to employees." He now provides regular updates. "I see no benefit to keeping team members in the dark about the true challenges we're facing."
Get creative with engagement
With social distancing and physical places of business forced to close, business owners are coming up with new ways to communicate with and engage their clients and employees. Creative uses of technology are saving the day.
Antonio Giuseppe Di Pietro, Italian attorney and founder of Di Pietro Studio Legale in Milan, realized that clients didn't understand what their legal team was doing without the usual constant board meetings. In response, Di Pietro's team created and implemented a project management dashboard so their clients can follow tasks, add queries, and have oversight over the timesheet and accounts. "This approach was incredibly beneficial in the relationship, and we'll definitely keep this as a tool for the future." They are even expanding the dashboard to include the transmission of the compliance reports to the Board of Statutory Auditors.
Video conferencing has changed the way Mark Evans, owner of Summer Camp Hub, is doing business. "Most of the time, we travel from camp to camp, but now we are only offering consultations by video conference, which has led to an increase in business." Since his team doesn't have to travel, they can work with more camps than before the coronavirus. They're saving money, and they're signing more clients than ever before.
When it comes to engaging employees, video conferencing is the next best way to meeting in person, true, but Neal Taparia, co-founder of SOTA Partners, found that not engaging for at least a couple hours every day leads to an increase in productivity. "We found that between the chaos at home and remote meetings, our team needed time to focus. Now, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., every day, we have 'no meeting' hours." His team loves the practice and they have a sense of autonomy without constant oversight. "It's likely something we'll follow when we return to normal."
Change your mindset
The most important things business owners can do are assess what's happening and create plans to ensure they can withstand another disaster.
"I learned that people can adapt to situations that arise. We can push through," says Jeannette Paxia, founder of Pax Health Coaching. "I am going to stop looking at challenges as insurmountable. Look at all we've adapted to."
Designer Pablo Solomon says he and his designer wife, Beverly have always "lived below our means and above our fears." It's how they survived decades in their business. Their sage advice? "Use this experience to develop the discipline to save and invest for your future and for tough times."