A crisis impacts small businesses in many different ways. Of course, a sudden catastrophe can precipitate a loss of revenue and/or unexpected draws and expenses that force small business owners to make hard decisions just to remain financially afloat. But any type of difficulty, whether it be a systemic issue like the current pandemic or civil unrest or a more localized problem, such as damage to an office space and inventory or a health emergency affecting a critical member of staff, can also trigger emotional turmoil that makes productive — a.k.a. “profitable” — functioning hard to sustain. Here are a few tips small businesses can use when faced with a crisis of any kind:
During a period of fast change, which a crisis often brings, it is important to step back and fully assess the situation before taking any action. Rather than immediately rushing into conservation mode, small business leaders should take a breath and systematically evaluate all factors involved so that they can determine the right way to maximize their cash flow while still maintaining the quality of their goods (or service) and the trust of their employees and customers. This might mean cutting back on the marketing budget, but it might mean spending a little bit extra to refocus branding efforts to meet a new demand. The point is to not rush into any decisions without a proper vetting of all possible scenarios.
A crisis is not the time for silence. Small businesses, especially, depend on the loyalty of their employees and customers. During periods of upheaval, it’s important for companies to give evidence to their honesty and transparency by addressing openly the circumstances at hand. This could involve using social media outlets, internal communications, marketing efforts and even office signs as platforms to highlight the company’s current position and the actions it’s taking to weather the storm.
Of course, a crisis often necessitates a reorganization of personnel and/or procedures. That’s not saying that all businesses should always cut back on their head counts or that they should form new policies following a crisis; many can frequently instill temporary shifts to operations that relieve enough pressure that they can survive until the crisis subsides and normal business functioning can return. Options like paid sick leave, bonus suspensions, remote work options and reduced hours are just a few of the ways businesses can restructure their practices in order to meet the demands during an emergency.
Finally, a crisis demands a renewed commitment to education. Small businesses should take the time to review their competition, attend webinars or online courses, read and talk to colleagues. They should consider whether their past practices are appropriate in a post-crisis world. Continuing to educate themselves on current market conditions will (hopefully) enable them to better manage the next recession, the next warehouse fire, the next staff turnover or even the next pandemic!