The narrative surrounding small business throughout 2020 has been one about struggle. This makes perfect sense, given the harsh impact that COVID-19 and the economic recession have had on small businesses both in the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world. In many if not most cases, it’s all a small business owner can do to hang on at a time like this, with hopes that 2021 will bring about easier and more prosperous times.
These are difficult circumstances we’re perfectly sympathetic to and understanding of. At the same time however, a cautious or timid mindset can be detrimental to a business’s long-term prospects as well. Even if survival is the main idea for now, business owners should also be looking at this challenging time as an opportunity to make changes — and to emerge from the pandemic with a better, more dynamic organization than before.
Thinking along these lines, we want to suggest five “power moves” small business owners should consider making in the time of COVID-19.
1) Do a Market Research Push
If you’re running a small business, chances are you may not have done much market research in the past. A lot of smaller companies never really do — partly due to a false assumption that this is something only larger enterprises have the resources. As is conveyed by a SmallBizTrends guide to market research though, this is actually not something that revolves around extensive or pricey resources. You can do effective market research with surveys, in-person interviews, email campaigns, and general research. And if you use your down period during COVID to put together a real push in these areas, you can emerge from the pandemic with a better understanding of your consumer base — and likely an edge over your competitors!
2) Perfect Your Virtual Operations
Like many other business owners, you may well have had to “go virtual” because of COVID-19. This has been a burden for countless companies, but at this point it’s time to look at it as an opportunity. A properly run virtual operation can be incredibly efficient, and may actually make your business more productive and more versatile than it was. So rather than treating virtual work as an obligation, use this time to try different things and turn it into a fine-tuned, perfected operation. This is something our discussion on ‘How to Manage Virtual Teams’ touched on, in a way — noting the importance of new technology, sound communication, and the right team. But in an even broader sense, you should use this time to figure out how every aspect of the business can be run more smoothly in a virtual manner.
3) Make Your Business Official
A lot of small businesses today are more or less unofficial personal ventures. That is to say, people do work and bring in money, and perhaps set up websites, but never bother to form businesses in any kind of official sense. This can work well enough in some cases, but there are also distinct benefits to adopting more formal structure. In an article by ZenBusiness about LLCs, some of the more common small business structures are discussed in detail — specifically, corporations, sole proprietorships, general partnerships, and (of course) LLCs. And while there are differences between these structures, it is clear that they offer various benefits. The right structure can make it easier for your business to grow, take on employees, and even save money on taxes. Given these perks, coming out of COVID-19 as an official entity can certainly qualify as an effective “power move.”
4) Seek Out Capital
The popular assumption is that COVID-19 has made it nearly impossible for small businesses to secure funding. In many cases this is absolutely true. Finances have gotten tight for a lot of would-be investors, and a lot of small businesses that would be fundraising have had to put these efforts on hold. At the same time, assuming there’s no funding to go around is a mistake! Indeed, it may be the ultimate power move to use the COVID slowdown as a time to seek out capital with which to boost your business. You never know when you might find an investor tempted by your pitch. For that matter, you may even be able to take advantage of some of the grants and relief efforts circulating for small businesses, though that will depend on your business, its location, and the local government. .
5) Establish a Bigger Social Media Presence
Another strong step you can take while business is interrupted is to ramp up your presence on social media. This can seem like a big task, but if you know the networks most relevant to your audience, you can focus energy on just a few platforms and significantly escalate your activity. Forbes’ take on social platforms for business recommends Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram for starters, and of course Twitter and Pinterest can be of use as well. But even within this selection, you can likely find one or two networks through which you can drive engagement most effectively (something that may show up in your market research). Find your space, build up your channels, and start engaging with consumers, and you’ll have done something very productive with long-lasting implications during this disruptive pandemic.