In early 2020 many companies were excited to hit the ground running. They had long-range plans for the year; they were geared for big things given the climate at the time. And then of course, for probably 95% of US business owners, those plans were derailed—big time. This is why of course you always need a plan B, though admittedly, there was probably no company who could’ve had a plan B for the first half of this year.
How some business owners made it through the crisis and even managed to thrive in its wake: they enacted a return to startup mentality and many are continuing with this mindset as the nation reopens. The economic freeze not only closed doors but also altered supply chains in major ways. Not to mention, the shift to working from home, homeschooling, and all of the challenges therein, without question caused numerous entrepreneurs to seriously adjust their business models. And again, many found that going “back to the basics,” taking on that startup mentality even if a seasoned veteran within their industry, has been in fact what is enabling them to survive.
Flexibility is essential
Some probably learned this lesson during the Great Recession. 2008 into 2009 saw numerous store closures as well as shuttering of other types of businesses. And like we had this year, layoffs were numerous. Back then, many were forced to pivot quickly. This came by way of shifting to more online sales. Some who relied upon stores to distribute their product found that they had to open their shopfronts to deliver to the consumer.
With the events of this year, flexibility is once again critical to businesses trying to get back on their feet. We’ve seen distilleries shift to making hand sanitizer, restaurants tweaking their business plan, and moving toward takeout and food delivery. When you’re first starting as a business, you adjust accordingly. In many ways, everything is an experiment at first as you slowly come to find your niche. Some things may work to your advantage and others may not. So you go with what works. This “go with what works” mentality is certainly necessary for some companies now as they try and navigate their way through the next few months or perhaps even longer.
Create connections where/when you can
If you look at retailers, for example, creating connections with customers who came into their shop helped forge valuable relationships. That type of interaction is now a bit trickier. With people still hesitant about going to public places and restrictions and guidelines rather prohibitive, those connections are going to be harder to come by.
Online experiences and interactions are likely to become the norm at least shortly. This said, in building relationships you’re going to have to get creative. Trust is going to be key, as is consistency.
At the beginning of your company’s life cycle, odds are you were super focused on customer experience, and while certainly you probably still are, you now need to revert to that early day enthusiasm to reach and attract absolutely every customer you can. Whether an online transaction, curbside, or delivery, ask yourself, what is the customer’s experience of this interaction like? How might they be feeling about our product/service? And what consequently could we do to improve how we address their needs overall?
Not to mention, businesses are going to need to create spaces that allow employees and customers to connect—again, creativity comes into play here, be it a virtual connection or some form of safely distanced one.
Reach out more than you did before
Again, it is about maintaining communication with your customers. Whatever platforms you have at your disposal use them to do so. You might even pick up the phone and call. People are not certain about, well, anything right now. And when it comes to engaging with companies, they need to know things like protocol, what changes have been made, how are you proceeding moving forward from all of this. Some businesses are even sending out handwritten letters to notify customers of changes and regulations that need to be followed. Simple things really can have a huge impact especially at a time like this.
Count the lessons learned
If you made it through the Great Recession of 2008, you probably learned some invaluable lessons—the same goes for the events of 2020. Don’t just put these lessons away either once things are back to normal. You have to persevere, keep the faith, and always take to heart what you gained as a result of the crisis. What new knowledge did you stumble upon? How have you learned to adapt and why is it important? The point is, you can utilize these lessons to make your company stronger, and also to prepare for another such disaster should, unfortunately, something like this occur again.
The key is not to lose heart here. If you have to return to that startup mentality to keep moving forward, then do so. Examine how you got to the point you’re at now and use your best strategies to rebuild and strengthen your company. And always remember that the customers are the reason you’re in business in the first place. Without them where would you be? So everything you do should be focused around catering to your customers who are very likely also going through difficult times at the moment.
First Union Lending has been helping so many small businesses during this challenging time. Our goal is to enable smaller companies to not only survive but come out of this even stronger if possible. We offer short term loans, lines of credit, merchant cash advances, among other loan programs and all are custom-tailored for each client. If you need cash to keep you afloat we are here to help. Just fill out an online application and a representative will be in touch to walk you through the process. Some can have the money in their accounts within 2 business days! It is that easy.