As of Nov 2020, 28.8% of small business have closed, with a 31.3% decrease in revenue for those who remain. As giants of the digital world such as Amazon, Netflix, and Grubhub are seeing record earnings, small businesses are taking the hit the hardest.
That’s not to say it has not been a dreadful scenario for many large businesses, but small business by definition have some unique challenges to overcome. As a small business owner myself, I wanted to provide some recommendations and thought provoking questions all small business owners, including myself, can consider for maximizing its success during a restricted marketplace. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it has been extremely helpful thus far in our survival.
Recommendation #1: A website with e-commerce abilities.
Now is not the time to be relying on walk-ins and high-rent district store frontage. People are working from home and relying on digital media, not square footage, and that’s a good thing for the bottom line of many small businesses who can rid the expense of that commercial space and move online. More people than ever in history are using digital commerce to acquire their normal goods.
The time savings aside, the ability to avoid large crowds and not be forced to acquire and don protective gear is making the hurdle to enter e-commerce less daunting. Baby boomers and the elderly who historically represent a smaller portion of the e-commerce demographic are coming out in force for products previously only in-store, and that’s really good for you. If you have a website.
If you’re still on the fence realize that it has never been more business-friendly to start a website. Find a domain name that is not already occupied, pick a web host capable of e-commerce, and go from there. Talk to the other businesses in your sector and simply learn from your competition. Go to sites that seem in the style you would like and scroll to the bottom. You may very well find the host used (Squarespace, WIX, GoDaddy, WordPress) and go from there with a template that fits your style. With powerful ad and analytic integrations in the websites, it will be easy to reach your audience with products and services directly to consumers on social media and via emails.
Do you know your audience’s key demographic and how to best reach their needs? It may have changed, and you need to know, or you will lose business to a competitor who fits their needs better.
Recommendation #2: A safe path of product to the consumer.
A popular cable service provider came out to one of our business sites to install cable and on multiple occasions, I was met with a consistent message: Stay back 6 feet. We will and we expect you to as well. The company called and performed a questionnaire before scheduling the service and asked if anyone had contact with anyone known to be positive with COVID. They also affirmed the position of their installers needing 6 feet of space at all times. When they arrived, the truck even had a large decal noting the social distancing measures.
What we can learn from this: A consistent message speaks volumes to the consumer. One can easily extrapolate that if the company, by making all these efforts for each installation reduces the risk of person-to-person contact, regardless of the person, and thereby provide a sense of safety in the path of the product to the consumer, can reassure the safety of conduct business with them. This company did it right, and they probably didn’t like having to take extra time and resources to ask a questionnaire and put graphics on their vehicles, but that’s the price of doing the deal.
How can you both perform and also educate your audience of the measures you are taking to mitigate contact?
Recommendation #3: A team of experts to promote and develop your business.
I can’t stress enough how important a team approach is during this time. And I don’t mean having a bunch of employees. I mean having a bunch of experts who add value to your product. The inevitable outcome is the consumer base will increase if you provide the product with the right innovation and the employees come with the right model as you scale the improved product to market. Newsflash: Nobody can do it all and it come out perfect. Companies that you like and follow will typically have a small team of experts to guide and perfect the product behind the brand name. Those who do not, and rely only on a one-man or one-woman team, come across in most cases as sophomoric.
An example: Skills On Point has a team of over 30 expert instructors to guarantee the audience is met with expertise in the unique areas of training. We have a marketing team, and media team, a product throughput team, a manufacturing team, and we have multiple revenue streams as a part of that which ebb and flow to meet the needs of our market flux. There is simply NO WAY to do this alone and provide a quality product that hits the market as a professional-grade item.
What is the one problem you perceive your business has and what additional person or team could you see fixing that?
Recommendation #4: Simplification of services.
To paraphrase Sabra Suby, the author of Sell Like Crazy, businesses have certain products that are high revenue earners and constant sellers, accounting for a high percentage of your actual revenues and some products that you add to complement the line, but do not sell or profit nearly as much. Now is the time to take the products you know that sell well for your small business and exploit that market space. You’ve seen smart retailers already doing this if you are paying attention.
Restaurants are serving a smaller menu to capitalize on the supply chain with bulk purchasing arrangements and expedite the drive-thru service since their demand has increased since in-person dining is decreased. Food trucks are popping up all over around me with the same concept: be an expert at one thing and know your product chain well.
This can be applied to nearly every industry. Separate the winners from the losers unless inseparable and focus on the winners in this market. Everyone looking for your low-overhead products can likely find them in another space without abandoning your best products, and since you operate with a better margin, that gives you flexibility to offer better sales incentives.
What is your best-seller and what is the highest margin product you offer? How can you simplify?
Recommendation #5: Reinvention of your business model.
Not all businesses are needed, some are simply luxuries. If you find yourself concerned about the ability to make a big change, now is the time to do so without any apologies required. We all get it, times are tough and successful businesses have to pivot to the market demand. If there is something you CAN do, and you fail to consider it, don’t be surprised if you lose out on a very good escape from impending failure.
Many employers who read the need and pivoted their business to support the unique needs during a pandemic have seen consistent return on investment with things like wholesaling and medical supplies through their storefront, consulting others in e-commerce, affiliate marketing, or other things that use your existing knowledge to help other less-prepared businesses. And if you are fortunate to be in a well-capitalized position, this might be a perfect time to acquire some interests or develop your team in new directions.
Use resources like local business experts and mentors, the Small Business Administration (SBA) website to find what may help you do this successfully. Also realize that once you decide on your vision, you need to set a clear vision and retrain your team. Confirm your supply chain supports your vision as well. It’s a great idea to be a independent distributor of hand sanitizer, but you may run into difficulty finding wholesale hand sanitizer with enough margin for profit at retail.
When all else fails, consider your financing and capital options. Rates are at historic lows so if you ever had the need to dip into equity or consider adding investors, now may be the time. Wise idioms like “A penny saved is a penny earned” ring true when every sale counts. Save your pennies and make reasonable cuts where necessary, making your goal to be as generous in this time for other businesses and people. There is nothing more powerful than to grow your business with a great product and a great audience to be your mouthpiece.
Hopefully this list helps and it’s nothing but a starting point. Pay attention and keep your feet moving. The hits are likely to keep coming.
What is needed in a pandemic that YOU can provide?