COVID19 Through the Small Business Lens
Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Most of the American workforce is hanging out at home, watching Tiger King, and keeping their kids from killing each other. They’re wearing pajamas, scrolling through social media for hours, maybe tackling some house projects, and hanging out with friends on video chats. On a more serious note, they’re worried about their jobs. They’re filing for unemployment. They’re telling their families about pay cuts. They’re worried about their elderly, pregnant, or immuno-compromised loved ones. It’s a strange and sobering time.
Small business owners across the country are facing a different set of fears - with an added layer of responsibility and stress. They’re working around the clock to make huge business decisions and salvage what they can - for themselves, their families, and their workforce.
We’ve talked to them. We’re helping them make decisions on small business loans. We’re revamping their marketing strategies. We’re creating COVID-related graphics and posts and email blasts and website updates. We’re brainstorming innovative ways to pivot their products and services to accommodate the cliff our economy just jumped off of.
At KORE, we have a unique opportunity to both (1) own a small business, and (2) work directly with small business owners. We have clients across a variety of industries and, as we’ve spoken with them over the last couple weeks, we’ve noticed some common threads. We want to share these as a way to shine a light on their current reality, help people have a better understanding of what they’re facing, and give small business owners the reassurance that they aren’t alone!
Small business owners face extreme uncertainty.
Nobody can accurately predict where this virus is going, when it’s going to peak, when we’ll be back in the workplace, or how bad the damage will be. They’re asking themselves:
How do I manage a remote workforce?
What percentage of my staff is going to get coronavirus?
Will I be able to pay my vendors?
Will my customers and clients be able to pay me if they’re unemployed?
Even if we can re-open, what will my staff do if their kids can't go to school?
What are my finances like?
How will I be perceived if I have to implement pay cuts or layoffs?
Business owners - your role can be isolating, but know you’re not alone in the unknown. You don’t know the answer, but neither does anyone else! And that’s okay. Everyone is doing their best.
Small business owners are in “fight or flight” mode.
When you build a business from the ground up, you have emotional ties to that business. Right now, small business owners are having to separate their emotions from the business in order to make necessary decisions. They’re having to either fight to keep their doors open, or try to shut it down quickly before they suffer further financial consequences. Nobody wants to feel responsible for laying off a soon-to-be-father or preventing a waitress from making the tips that feed her family. But, making decisions based on emotion during a pandemic could cost a business owner their business. They must act, and they must act now. They don’t have much information to go off of. They’re taking leaps of faith.
Small business owners are trying to decide how best to communicate with their team.
They want their team to remain confident in the business. They want to encourage positivity. At the same time, they’re trying to determine how transparent they should be. Should they say they have no clue where this is going? Though this may elicit fear, will it help “soften the blow” when it’s time for layoffs? What if I scare them, and then the virus situation ends faster than we anticipated? How candid should we be?
Not only are they having to make decisions on behalf of the company - they’re responsible for relaying those decisions to the team in the right way. Though we may not like the direction they’re taking, we must respect the difficult position they’re in and try to see COVID19 from their point of view.
Enough with the “doom and gloom.” There are brick walls popping up all over the place for business owners right now. We get it. But, there are also a lot of unique opportunities. Let’s talk about them.
Small business owners are pursuing innovation and creativity.
Every business owner we’ve talked to has revised their strategy. Customers have new pain points. What are they struggling with as a result of this pandemic, and how can the business help? Small business owners are finding creative ways to stay engaged with customers. Whether it’s beefing up social media presence, delivering products directly to a customer’s doorstep, or offering services remotely, this is the time to be innovative. This is the time to provide value. This is the time to focus on what works and cut out what doesn’t. The innovation and creativity brought about by this pandemic could change the world for the better!
Warning - The businesses who sit on the sidelines of innovation, while everyone else is out their hustling, will suffer. Don’t sit on the sidelines! See this as an opportunity to create positive change.
Small business owners are realizing the importance of healthy financials.
We talk to small business owners until we’re blue in the face about the importance of organized financial data. Those who have an established accounting system, separate their personal and business transactions, have an appropriately-organized chart of accounts, and reconcile their bank accounts on a monthly basis are VERY relieved right now. Their discipline is now giving them the ability to make educated decisions on the future of their business because they have reliable and up-to-date data to work with. They can apply for SBA loans with ease, because they’ve got the numbers they need. Good job, folks!
Unfortunately, the small business owners who haven’t kept up with their finances are kicking themselves! Many small businesses will be relying on government assistance to get through this. If a business can’t accurately report their financials on that loan form, they ain’t got a chance. It’s just the truth. (Excuse my southern accent coming out). If this pandemic teaches owners anything, it’s the importance of knowing the finances inside and out. (Read about the importance of cash flow during COVID19 here).
So what’s the takeaway here?
The businesses that survive this pandemic will come out leaner on the other side. They won’t be wasting money on unnecessary expenses. They will make wiser financial decisions. They will have new processes in place that allow them to work more efficiently. And even if they have a big hole to climb out of thanks to COVID, they’ll be better prepared to make the climb. It’s really easy to rattle off the negative impacts this virus is having on our world. It takes work to focus on the positives - but having a positive mindset will help you push through this temporary trial.
If you’re a small business owner and you need some support, give us a call. If you work for a small business, take some time to consider what the owners are facing right now. Be understanding, provide innovative ideas, make suggestions for easy cost-cutting strategies, do your part, and know that we’re all in this big messy pandemic together.