How Small Business Can Survive and Thrive During the Pandemic

The pandemic has fundamentally changed us. It has changed how we connect with friends, family, and colleagues. It has changed how we shop and work. And it has especially changed how we manage and conduct business.

The pandemic has forced entrepreneurs to rethink business strategies, use new approaches to support customers, and lean into technology solutions that bridge the physical divide.  Some small businesses – especially those considered essential – may have experienced unprecedented growth as demand for their goods or services increased. And though new vaccines and therapies are arriving to help people, the effects of the pandemic will be with us for the forceable future. For entrepreneurs to successfully manage, pivot and survive during the new normal of the pandemic, they should keep in mind the following tips to be agile problem solvers.

Innovate daily

Whatever your small business is, chances are that the pandemic has created challenges for your operation. Perhaps supply chains are disrupted, or in-person meetings postponed. Suddenly, entrepreneurs are finding they have to conduct business in new ways or workaround roadblocks to unleash new opportunities. Innovation during this time is critical to overcome challenges and find solutions.

For example, if you own a business that caters to consumers’ desire to live a healthy lifestyle, there are various creative ways to reach your customers: from creating digital content, advertising in your community paper, speaking at a virtual event, leveraging social channels and targeting health-minded groups to sending emails to your entire contact list– you have the chance to share a solution to a growing need.

Or if you are a t-shirt maker and suddenly find your sports orders dwindling due to youth sports limitations, pivot quickly to lean into your existing strengths. You may already have the equipment to create products that are needed. Turning your manufacturing prowess, raw materials and equipment into masks or apparel that can be worn by essential workers, or employees working out of their homes can create a product in high demand that people can quickly purchase.

Entrepreneurial innovation has always been an important driver of success, but during a pandemic it is essential. You have to be willing to turn on a dime, to find ways around barriers. The bottom line is nimbly shifting to find new ways to conduct business, could be the difference between life and death for your business.

Foster connections

Everyone is facing challenges these days, from working from home while homeschooling kids to dealing with supply shortages and balancing the boredom of restricted activities. Now more than ever, your customers need to know you are there for them. Take the time to check in with customers, not just on their orders, but on their lives to see how they are doing beyond the business transaction. Now is the time to reach out genuinely. Give yourself a target number of people to connect or reconnect with – former clients or prospects. Start the conversation by seeing how they and their families are holding up during the pandemic. Ask them if there is anything you can do to support their business. Let them know you are here for them and are happy to help them in any way you can. Ask them what their biggest challenges are during this time. They will appreciate the ask. Just listening is a fantastic gift to anyone, especially customers who may not have someone to share their concerns.

Entrepreneurs are often part of networking organizations – from their local Chamber of Commerce to industry or community-specific groups. Many of these communities have reduced or stopped in-person meetings and have gone online. Many small business owners might forego an online discussion because they think a virtual meeting is not worthwhile. Now is the time to attend as many group meetings as possible to continue to build your network. Calculate how much time you previously traveled to an office each day or to visit with clients. That time you saved has value and can be used to build your community online.

Video conferencing tools offer lists of attendees and chat options during meetings and opportunities to speak and share perspectives. Take the hours saved from less travel time to further build connections within your community and/or network. How about pitching yourself to speak at these meetings – offering solutions for businesses? Chances are there are occasions to fill a meeting’s speaker spot and provide your insights to share with your colleagues. If you never previously sought a leadership position at a networking group, now is a great time to garner a more visible and responsible role in an organization. Leadership positions can help you build deeper relationships with other business leaders and find shared passions that may open doors to new sales.

Leverage technology

For many entrepreneurs, their laptop and phone have suddenly become their office and business hub almost overnight. Owners were instantly thrust into the world of video conferencing and found themselves scrambling to add video call options and other technologies to increase their efficiency and ability to keep their businesses thriving when away from the office. Some owners who previously relied on support to help manage their technology became instant experts at troubleshooting tech challenges and upping self-sufficiency.

One study has shown that 73% of small businesses are unaware of digital products, including online payment processing, online productivity, e-commerce websites, online marketing and other tools to help them reach worldwide customers. The speed and need for increased digital adoption have never been greater. Many of the best video conferencing tools are being made free to small businesses to support them during these unprecedented times. Microsoft Teams has a 6-month free trial, and it allows not only for video calls and chats but also for cloud storage. American Express’ Stand for Small has a list of numerous free trials and resources for entrepreneurs, ranging from free trials of e-commerce sites to low-cost advertising and marketing tools.

Technology is essential to run your business; it is critical to maintain and increase your connection to customers. A recent survey revealed that 50%+ entrepreneurs rely more on digital tools to communicate with their customers, find new customers and sell products and services online during the pandemic.

Think of others

With so much pressure to stay afloat, adapt and evolve during these times, it can be easy to forget to help those less fortunate in your community. Perhaps you have a product that can be shared with front-line workers. Or you sell food or nutrition products that can be donated to woefully under-resourced food shelters. Another way to give back is to share your expertise to train others or offer budding small business owners advice. Whatever you can do, giving back rewards us in so many unexpected ways.

The pandemic has brought incredible challenges in its wake. Everything is disrupted and going about our daily lives has evolved. The new normal – from mask-wearing to remote learning and working – has also forced us to rethink how we do business and how we can best serve our clients. We need each other now more than ever. Our ability to connect in new ways, empathize with each other, and build community and connections makes us stronger, more agile, and perhaps even more successful.

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