This isn’t yet another blog post about how to use all this time you have and destroy your long to-do list. This isn’t a blog post telling you to use every moment to your advantage and learn x, y, z and make a thousand dollars in one week. This is a crisis and everyone is going to respond differently, especially those who run businesses and who are struggling financially, physically or emotionally.
Difficult times are an inevitable reality when running a business. Difficult situations are always going to look different, and need different measures to address effectively. Right now is especially unusual with most entrepreneurs finding more time than they’re used to, but fewer clients knocking at the door.
If you’re at home and needing some ideas for how to use this time, or you simply want a reminder that you are resilient in the face of challenges, read on.
Here are some ways to invest in yourself AND your business during difficult times:
Get creative with your offerings
Sometimes difficult situations are the biggest catalysts for change and innovation, so try to look at the current situation critically as a form of growth. If your business offers certain products, get creative with how you can get your products into your customer’s hands, or even the nature of the products themselves. There have been some great examples in Ottawa, such as Freshii offering delivery boxes of fresh ingredients, or yoga studios offering online classes. If you sell products, think about how you might repurpose them to fit people’s current needs at home.
For services, I’ve been amazed by how many businesses and community leaders have quickly moved their events and offerings online, opening up their business for even more expansion once life goes back to normal. Geography is no longer an issue, and expanding your scope for your market might actually open you to new possibilities. There are so many great tools available for free to small businesses, that more than ever it’s possible to engage with customers online in creative ways.
Here are some of my favourites for offering services online:
- Zoom for online meetings (but be sure to set up proper security measures!)
- A booking app, such as Calendly
- Offering gift cards through your Point-of-Sale ( I use Square )
- Instagram Live to keep clients engaged
If you’re stuck for ideas, ask your customers what they need and see if you can fulfill it in some way. You started your business because you are creative, resilient and resourceful - give yourself some credit for that!
Call out to your biggest supporters
With everyone safe at home and browsing the web, there’s been a huge movement to support local and small businesses. Now is the time to engage with your best customers online, get their feedback and ask for their support. Whether on social media, online events, or emails - talk to your supporters directly - thank them and send offers where possible to keep them invested in your business. People want to help, they just need to know how.
Also remember that your business brings joy or convenience to people in your community. People are missing that right now. They are missing their favourite places, chatting with friendly service reps, and visiting local craft fairs, shops and restaurants. If you have the energy, remind your supporters that you are still here, you are ready to serve them now and whenever business goes back to normal.
Engagement online has so much potential right now with more people checking social media throughout the day, browsing the web, and using technology to stay connected with loved ones. Make use of this increased engagement. Now is the time to publish those blog posts, Instagram stories and Tweets. Be personal, give your supporters a reason to stop and look at your authentic and personalized content while they delete all the emails from corporations they haven’t heard from in months and forgot they signed up for.
Spend some time on your business rather than in it
Most business owners understand the concept of working IN your business rather than ON your business. Working in your business refers to the day to day tasks to keep your business running and making revenue - answering emails, stocking the shelves, working with clients etc. Working in your business means taking time to think strategically about growth, your offerings and the future of your business.
If you’ve lost customers or work has slowed down, now might be a good time to write down some ideas and reflect on your current business strategy. With more time to sit at your desk (or your couch), it might be useful to look at your ongoing to-do list to get those tedious tasks done or think critically about which tasks you find yourself procrastinating on.
It’s also a really good time to think about resiliency. If you had to respond to the crisis in some way, reflect on the communications you sent out, the changes you had to make, and evaluate what worked well for you and what didn’t. More bumps in the road are inevitable throughout the life of your business, so think of how you can improve your process to respond to unusual situations in the future.
Financially, it might also be time to review your revenue model, focus on an emergency fund or buffer, and think of other ways to keep your business afloat financially. Does all of your revenue depend on one offering that is no longer possible to deliver? Do you spend most of your time getting clients in person when you could also be looking for them online? Don’t be critical with yourself during this exercise, but try to keep an open mind to different revenue streams, financial planning for emergencies, and financial goals that might better set you up for whatever obstacles come your way in the future.
Get the help you need, and make a habit of getting support from others
Every small business has been affected by COVID-19. Now, more than ever is a good time to remember that running a business is not a solo endeavour. So many people are doing their best to support small businesses right now, and the Government of Canada has announced a variety of programs for financial support for individuals and businesses, with more coming.
When seeking help, go to official sources you can trust, such as the Government of Canada’s Economic Response Plan, your existing business communities or your primary bank. Don’t wait. If you need assistance, look for it now. Whether financial or otherwise, Canadians are amazing at helping each other during difficult times.
Even if your need for help isn’t dire right now, it’s also a good reminder that running a business doesn’t need to be done alone. When asking for help, know that support is available to you on regular days too, and making a habit of asking for help when you could use it, outsourcing tasks, and staying connected to your community will help you and your business in the long run.
Take the time to rest!
You don’t need me to tell you that running a business is hard work! Whether your business has slowed down or paused completely, now might be a great time to indulge in some much-needed rest and time away from the business. This isn’t a typical situation for anyone, so give yourself the time you need to take a breath, feel your emotions and do what you need to do to stay healthy and happy.
While this post offers some ideas on things you can work on at this time, take it or leave it. There’s no need to be productive if it feels like fighting your motivation every single day. There’s no need to think about your business at all if you don’t want to.
Take this time for you, and reconnect with why you started your business in the first place. Your business’ success relies on your energy and enthusiasm, so make sure you take care of yourself before anything else!
Challenges are inevitable, but temporary
As a final note, do what you need to do right now. If you’re motivated, feeling creative and have the energy to focus on your business - amazing! If your day to day work is so exhausting that you’re grateful for the rest, rest up!
This crisis is strange and long, but remember that it will end. And when it’s over, things might be different. Your market might change, your community might change, your revenue streams might have flipped completely upside down. But you got into business for a reason, and you’re still a business owner because you are resilient and able to take what life throws at you. Remember that and you will survive this.
And lastly, if you need someone to talk to or want support, I got you.