Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has already hit small businesses hard. What’s worse is that some experts are saying this is only the beginning. Whether the pandemic ends within a month or two or stretches into the long-term, small business owners need to be ready to buckle down, reassess and make changes to their business strategy in order to weather the storm (and beyond). Some advice:
1. Analyze your ongoing burn-rate in both normal scenarios and ‘bear-bones’ scenarios.
Look at where your business is currently spending money, and consider which expenses are avoidable (some are likely even entirely avoidable after a crisis). Think about excess marketing, rent, the size of your company and other expenses that may be reducible without affecting the quality of your business. Efficiency is crucial to being successful and outcompeting rivals. Many businesses run with lots of excesses, and this is the perfect opportunity to get a leg up on them by running more efficiently.
Consider where you can optimize your burn rate. Perhaps there are some areas where you can reduce spending and make up for that by increasing your own effort levels. Make sure that any optimizations you make are well thought through. As a CEO/owner you only have so much time and bandwidth. The key is to run as lean as possible without sacrificing quality.
2. Think about adapting to current market trends in a complementary way.
Current market trends are going to be difficult to understand and predict, but this might work to your advantage. If you quickly spend the time to understand the current landscape of your market and the world, you can reoptimize your business’s positioning. Maybe your business can provide its product or services more remotely than you thought. Maybe a brand repositioning is even in order. If you’re able to capitalize on this now, then when quarantine lifts you may have an entirely new revenue stream to leverage or a whole new business pathway. Your business could transform from one that is focused exclusively on in-person services and sales to one that approaches those sales from two angles: in person and/or online.
3. Look at your competition – what are they doing and what can you learn?
Some businesses are suffering more than others right now. Study the ones that seem to be making it through this crisis and learn what they’re doing differently. Look at both your indirect and direct competition for the best understanding of what others are doing and which strategies seem to be the most effective. While some strategies may not apply cross industry use what you can and shift these strategies to fit your own needs.
There are countless opportunities to adjust the macro strategy and positioning of your business in order to better match the competition. If you understand how your competitors position themselves during and after this crisis then you can get ready to have an advantage as businesses begin to return to normal operations.
4. Consider the value of your time—is there something you can be doing, related or otherwise, that is a more valuable use of your time?
One of the hardest things to come to terms with as an entrepreneur is knowing when a business pursuit is worth it. This pandemic is an excellent opportunity for introspection. Assess your business, look at how much time you’re spending, and understand how much money you’re generating (or could be generating). Then earnestly ask yourself: is this pursuit the best use of my time?
In the short term, it may not make sense to continue putting the bulk of your time and resources into your business. If you can temporarily reduce your burn rate to zero (or near zero) it may make the most sense for you to look at other areas to make money (freelancing, for example) and then lean back into your business when the timing is right.
5. Think about the mid-term—is something changing in the way your customers are thinking?
While the short-term will continue to be dominated by the pandemic, it is important to think about what happens in the midterm as well. Are your customers going to change how they think or act even after the pandemic passes? Maybe some of them will end up preferring using services or buying products remotely even after quarantines lift.
You must consider whether traditional business models are going to continue making sense after things “return to normal”. Take for example limited capacity experiences like theaters, airplanes, and cruise lines. Each of these sectors will have to seriously consider how the traditional business model is going to play to customers in this new context. Just like businesses in these sectors ask yourself how you should be shifting your business model and strategy accordingly.
Whatever the case may keep this in mind and evaluate the assumptions you’ve made in the mid-term business strategy. Understanding which of these assumptions will hold true and which ones you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
6. Use time at home to read, take courses, and learn—so that when things are a bit more normal, you can fly by whatever competition you have.
The most important thing you can do right now is to listen to medical experts. Keep yourself healthy, make sure you practice social distancing, and keep at-risk populations protected. Following all these guidelines likely means that you will be stuck at home with a lot more free time than before. Do not view this as a setback. Instead, look at this quarantine as an incredible opportunity to majorly level-up as an entrepreneur. Spend your time reading advice from experts, researching other businesses and entrepreneurs who have accomplished what you want to, and dig through the data to gain a better understanding of your market and the competition you face. Take up business coaching, their experts care about your business and they want you to succeed through this pandemic. This is something you’re probably doing anyway. For most successful entrepreneurs reading about business, researching the competition, and improving the self is just a full-time night job. The quarantine gives you an opportunity to condense even more of this into a shorter period. Leverage this to your advantage.
Many of your competitors will be using this time purely as damage control and downtime. You should seize the chance to get ahead and make yourself into the best entrepreneur you can be. If you can, leverage this opportunity so that when the world starts moving like normal again you can fly past the competition.
7. Keep an open mind and stay positive.
The world is a scary place right now. Eventually, things will get better, most things will return to normal, and those things which permanently change are all things that you will be able to adapt to.
Entrepreneurship is always full of challenges and this is no different. Approach it like you approached any other roadblock. The fact that you’re reading this and thinking about how to make it through places you ahead of most.
You’ve got this.
Keep your chin up and keep on keeping on.