As if it wasn’t hard enough running a small business before the COVID pandemic came along and made everything so much more challenging. Being an entrepreneur causes you to wear many hats, and perform a wide number of customer-facing, service-providing, and administrative-handling roles. You usually have a good chunk of your life’s savings wrapped up in the venture, and often forfeit time with loved ones for “just a few more minutes” at work.
When it works, the rewards can be abundant. You get the joy of knowing you can do it, and reap the financial rewards. But, as we saw in 2020, things can quickly take a turn to the dark side. Many small businesses simply could not stand the pressure, and sadly closed their doors. Some turned creative, and figured out new ways to provide curbside or delivery services. Those with home businesses may not have had the pressure of rent and insurance payments, but their clientele could have cut back on their services as well.
As with every major upheaval or disruption, there should be an “after” time of reflection and analysis. Here are some of the big mistakes entrepreneurs made during COVID:
- Not having enough cash on hand: Money is always tight in a small business, so it can be hard to put anything away for that fabled “rainy day.” But rain it did, and how. If you were able to come out the other end of the pandemic, use this lesson to start saving now.
- Being out of touch: When things are going well, it hardly seems worthwhile to stay in touch with current customers. But, when things are bad, it might be too late to draw them back into your circle. Keep constant streams of communication going to your current clientele through email and social media, and you could even send an old-fashioned “Thank You” card if you have a street address.
- Not being prepared: With a family, we are always taught to have an emergency preparedness plan, but somehow we don’t seem to apply this same logic to our business. It is certainly not pleasant to think about disaster, but do have a plan in mind that can help you keep in touch, keep working, and avoid those business interruptions.
Positive Small Business Takeaways from COVID
While there are very few good things that can be said about an event that caused such destruction, some lessons that can be taken from these experiences include:
- Learn the magic power of Zoom: Many people love the in-person interactions of business but, when push came to shove, we quickly learned how to utilize the power of Zoom and other videoconference capabilities to our advantage! The internet was sizzling with meetings, sale presentations and product demonstrations. Even retail establishments learned how to use video communications to help consumers “shop” with them.
- Stay flexible: When you started, you probably had a specific vision for your small business, but rigid adherence to one goal can be harmful. This is the perfect time to think about different ways you can provide your product or service, communicate with customers, or manage your staff.
- Make sure your business in findable: The first place consumers turn for information is their mobile devices, and that works to the advantage of small businesses. Now is the time to review your online presence to make sure it is current and searchable. Look at your website and all social media channels, as well as local review sites. Ask someone to search for your business on their smartphone to see how easily it can be found.
- Use what you know: The big advantage of small business is that you have a personal relationship with customers, which means you should know a lot about them. Use this knowledge to offer additional products and services suited to your target group, and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals.
For further support, reach out to the Small Business Resilience Hub from SCORE. Take advantage of remote mentoring, resilience training, and a resource portal to help your small business survive and thrive. Good luck!