It has been almost a year since COVID-19 wreaked havoc on our world in a way we have never seen in our lifetime. While the human toll has been unbearable, the pandemic has placed a massive burden on small businesses. These include additional safety protocols, loss of customers, and government shutdowns.
While there is no timetable for when the pandemic will end, there are signs of hope. Multiple vaccines have made their way into circulation. With the increase in vaccinations, cases should drop, and our world can return to some normalcy. When that happens, your business needs to be ready to hit the ground running.
Do I Need That Large Office?
One thing we have seen throughout the pandemic is the ability of companies to adapt quickly. Many created remote work options for their employees that have been used successfully. Investments have been made in computer hardware, software, and other tools to bring the office to someone’s home. And employees have gotten comfortable with the new structure (and working in their pajamas).
The question now becomes, do I need all that office space when the pandemic winds down? New polls have shown that not only are employees happier working from home but more productive. Allowing employees to work from home or on a hybrid schedule (three days at home, two days at the office) might allow you to cut back on expensive office space. And it comes with happier, more productive employees too.
Reach Out to Customers
Your customer list is valuable. They’re the people that kept you in business to this point. But with the pandemic, many companies have lost touch with their best customers.
Now is a great time to update those lists and form an attack plan to announce your renewed presence. Whether that’s through snail mail, an email newsletter, or a telephone call, it’s imperative to let them know you are back. And while you’re at it, provide a promotion of some sort as a reward for their loyalty.
Check-In On Essential Suppliers
A lot has changed, and those vendors you’d order from in the past might not be around today. Now is a great time to reach out and see where things stand. Can they fulfill your orders? Has their pricing changed? Don’t be caught flat-footed without a supply chain when the business opens back up.
Time For a Rebrand
A fresh start might be the time to put a new face on your company. That can be as simple as changing your outdated logo and marketing materials. Or perhaps revamping a product line and changing which services you offer. These are difficult tasks to pull off during full operations, which is why a lull in business might provide the solution to that problem.
“We have seen many customers contact us looking to change the logo and design of their promotional products these past few months. These businesses see it as a new beginning.”, says Jessica Marshall, President of Custom Comet, a promotional product company out of Portland, Oregon.
Re-opening gives businesses a fresh start when it comes to how they work. It’s the perfect time to revamp inefficient processes to increase profitability. This can include changing workflows, tweaking job duties, and integrating technology to automate processes that used to require intensive labor.
Prepare For a Hiring Frenzy
As businesses open, there will be a hiring crunch for talent. It’s essential to be prepared with competitive offers and the tools to find the best employees. Start early, and you’ll avoid the big squeeze.
This is also an excellent opportunity to reach out to former employees who were let go due to the pandemic. See how they are holding up and if they would be interested in working for you again. Bringing in people who know how you operate can save considerable money that would need to go into training new staff.
Start Marketing and Don’t Stop
The best way to get the ball rolling is with a well-thought-out marketing strategy. Whether that’s turning traditional levers that worked in the past or rolling out something fresh. While money might be tight, the marketing budget needs to remain intact.
When building your strategy, take note that your business and customers’ lives have changed. While your marketing may have centered around bringing in new business in the past, this time, you might be looking at bringing back old customers too. Trying to hit that sweet spot that encompasses both should be your goal.
Don’t Ignore the Past
There is a desire by some to wipe the memory of this pandemic from their conscience as soon as it ends. But it’s not as simple as that. The world has changed dramatically. The pandemic has been a traumatizing event for everyone. And pretending that it never existed can be insulting to not just your customers, but your employees too.
After 9/11, we saw companies embrace patriotism as a way to connect with their customers. The aftermath of COVID-19 will force companies to embrace community and become compassionate. Give customers a reason to feel good about choosing you when this is over.
The pandemic was a punch to the gut for many of us. Something inconceivable a year ago. But there is a lesson to learn from this; we have to do a better job factoring in risk with our business.
This can include looking through insurance policies to ensure you are covered for other catastrophes. Putting contingencies in place for the loss of employees or suppliers. And finding ways to survive downturns in business by creating savings and becoming flexible.
Follow Consumer Trends
The COVID consumer varies significantly from the one we saw just a year ago. They are shopping online more and have embraced new digital services. Just because the pandemic ends doesn’t mean their new habits will too.
Look at changes being made and decide whether they should be used long-term. If you’re a restaurant that now offers curbside pickup, perhaps that’s a service worth keeping around. Or, if your business has converted to online appointment booking, that might be a permanent change you’d like to make. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they like.
Plan Plan Plan
Success in a post-COVID environment requires comprehensive planning. Your business should have a gameplan in place for not just the next six months but the next two years. It should include multiple contingencies with the uncertainty of this pandemic. If you can do that, you’ll be ready to thrive when the sun finally comes back for us all.