It’s no secret that COVID-19 restrictions have presented small business owners across the country with unanticipated challenges—according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, 85.5% of small businesses experienced a moderate or large negative impact between April 26 and June 27 as a result of the pandemic.
With restrictions partially or completely lifted in a number of states, many small business owners are keen to open their doors (safely, of course) and get on the road to recovery. But how do you find and hit your new stride if you’re operating under ongoing restrictions?
To make matters more complicated, restrictions vary by state, ranging from severe actions, like mandating the closure of certain types of businesses, to no restrictions at all. Other restrictions include:
- Delivery and takeout only for restaurants
- Reduced opening hours
- Limits on the number of people allowed in-store
- Mandatory or recommended use of facial coverings
- Increased cleaning and sanitation protocols
- Stay at home orders
In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, some business owners have also opted to implement their own restrictions or even keep their doors closed in the absence of official government mandates.
According to the CDC, the decision to reopen your business should be based on the level of disease transmission in your community, as well as your readiness to protect the health and safety of your employees and customers. For details about workplace health and safety recommendations, visit the CDC website.
Adversity ushers in innovation
Economic upheaval like what we’re experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can be devastating, but it can also generate a surge of innovation as businesses are forced to get creative to find new ways to stay afloat.
McKinsey & Company, a global a business management advisor, recommends that businesses focus on four strategic areas of innovation as they reopen:
- Rapidly recovering revenue
- Rebuilding operations
- Rethinking the organization
- Faster adoption of digital strategies
Let’s take a closer look at these areas.
1. Rapidly recover revenue
Small businesses across the country are playing catch-up as they rebuild revenue streams and solidify their cash flow after temporary closures and reductions in business hours. Businesses can do this by:
- Adopting a start-up mindset that favors action over research and testing over analysis. If you have a new idea for your business, try it out instead of devoting weeks or months to analysis and research.
- Put people at the core of your business. Think about how your employees work best and do what you can to help them be their most productive, such as instituting flexible work policies that allow employees to work from home even if your office is open.
- Enhance or expand digital channels and embrace analytics to help you make better decisions, such as adjusting pricing or promotion strategies based on new consumer behaviors.
- Understand what customers value in the “new normal” and develop new products and experiences based on these insights.
- Identify and prioritize new revenue opportunities, such as launching targeted ad campaigns on social media to win back customers, developing new customer experiences based on health and safety, retraining your teams to support remote work, creating flexible payment terms, or automating processes whenever possible.
2. Rebuild operations
The pandemic has radically changed patterns of demand for products and services while also exposing trouble spots in global supply chains and service networks. McKinsey has identified five themes that are emerging as businesses adapt and rebuild their operations around these new realities:
- Redesigning operations and supply chains so they are more localized and better protected against future shocks
- Making it easier for their business to operate online, such as remote working for employees
- Increasing transparency in how the business prioritizes and spends money
- Embracing the future of work by supporting the transition to remote work and the rising need for analytical and tech support
- Shifting operations to remain competitive, such as accelerating product development, recreating the customer experience, embracing customization, and improving sustainability
3. Rethinking the organization
Deciding who you are as a company, how to work, and how to grow will put your business in a strong position to weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Companies that have adapted well often have a strong identity with a shared sense of purpose that has allowed them to navigate changes in how their business works, with a greater interest in matching employee talent to the most critical challenges they are facing regardless of hierarchy or experience.
4. Faster adoption of digital strategies
We’ve all moved online quickly since the start of the pandemic, whether for work or for our personal interactions. To keep up, small businesses are refocusing their digital efforts to reflect changing customer expectations by creating satisfactory ecommerce experiences and allowing customers to complete everything they need to do online, from initial research to purchasing a product to conducting returns. Businesses are also increasingly relying on data, IoT, and artificial intelligence to cope with changes and make decisions based on forecasted demand and available assets.
Creative Opportunities and Ideas for Small Business Alive Under Restrictions
Here are a few practical ways for any business to keep operating under COVID-19 restrictions:
- Focus on your online presence by improving or updating your website (or building one from scratch), or by creating fresh content that will help people find your business when they do start shopping again. Consider offering your usual services online for a reduced fee if the nature of your business allows you to do so.
- Make sure it’s easy for potential customers to find you by claiming and updating your free Google My Business profile. Take advantage of new features, such as takeout and delivery attributes, post updates, and keep your customers informed of any changes to your business.
- Look for ways that your business can help people adapt to the new reality. Can you engage your audience online with live streams, classes, workshops, or even augmented or virtual reality?
- Consider pivoting your product offering to serve more immediate needs, like these distillers that have shifted to producing hand sanitizer instead of liquor.
- Investigate subscription models to create an ongoing source of revenue, such as monthly gift boxes or special access to live streamed events.
- Collaborate with other small businesses, especially businesses with offerings that complement yours, to create new initiatives that will benefit both businesses.
- Launch targeted social media ad campaigns to win back customers and engage with potential new customers.
Small business opportunities for retail businesses
- Build a website that allows you to sell items online. People are buying online more than ever, so while it may take some up-front work and a small financial investment, you’ll be able to continue selling things online once things return to normal.
- Offer in-person or online personal shopping appointments to limit the number of people in your store at one time, prevent line-ups, and make it easier to maintain physical distancing.
- Host shopping parties on Zoom or other video calling apps.
- Search for temporary revenue streams, such as selling gift cards for later use. Some local organizations have created directories where customers can purchase gift cards from local businesses, enabling people to patronize these businesses without physically visiting.
- Offer free local delivery to encourage people to purchase without having to enter your store.
Small business opportunities for restaurants
- Improve takeout and delivery services to make it easier for customers to place an order, such as creating a branded app where customers can place an order and save their favorites for fast reordering in the future.
- Offer grocery baskets and prepared meals to encourage people to cook at home and limit food waste.
- Host online events to engage customers if dine-in isn’t available in your jurisdiction, such as live-streaming live music on patios or in closed or limited occupancy dining rooms.
- Offer cocktail boxes and host a virtual happy hour for customers to follow along online.
- Share recipes and cooking tips to stay top of mind and build loyalty with your loyal customers.
Small business opportunities for offices
- Implement flexible work policies to enable employees to continue working from home even if your office is open.
- Maintain social connections while employees are working remotely by hosting informal huddles that don’t focus on work-related topics, but instead are designed to generate a connection, combat isolation, and improve productivity.
- Make an effort not to host too many online meetings if possible—it can be interpreted as micromanagement.
Small business opportunities for medical businesses
- Improve or expand secure online appointment options even if your practice has reopened.
- Digitize online intake forms so people can complete paperwork at home.
- Offer online appointments to safely guide patients through self-guided treatments such as massage therapy, stretching, or strengthening.
Regardless of what kind of business you operate, all of these ideas require capital to implement. If you’ve been operating under restrictions and have experienced a decrease in revenue or don’t have the cash flow to invest in new strategies, there are many funding options available to you, including federal and state funding and alternative online lenders like Greenbox Capital.
Alternative lenders offer a number of advantages for businesses impacted by COVID-19, including:
- Easier qualification criteria with less paperwork to gather
- Faster review and approvals, with approval in as little as 2-5 business hours and funding in a little as 1 business day
- No restrictions on how your funds are used—use them for payroll, everyday operating expenses, or to kickstart new ideas
- A variety of funding options are available to suit your business’s needs, including merchant cash advances, invoice factoring, collateral loans, and business lines of credit
- Businesses with low credit can receive funding. Instead of focusing on your credit score, our Funding Advisors will review the overall health and potential of your business
- Businesses in high-risk industries can also receive funding
As restrictions on business operations are partially or completely lifted across the country, many business owners are reopening their businesses and beginning the hard work of recovering from temporary closures or service reductions.
Many businesses may not have the capital they need to adapt to the new normal or invest in new products or services. Federal and state funding options are available, but many businesses have already exhausted these funding options. If you’ve run out of federal funding or didn’t get approved in the first place, you still have a number of options, including alternative online lenders like Greenbox Capital.