Do you own a small business? Chances are you've been shut down by a combination of government edicts, moral compulsion and practical impossibility during the Coronavirus pandemic. It's easy to despair at a time like this and feel like all our hard work is destroyed. It's hard to sit on our hands and not have anything to work on. But if we're going to come out of the other side of this - which I am well aware is on a knife-edge for many - we need to embrace whatever we can positively do during this time. So here are 7 essential ways to operate during Covid-19.
1) Act with integrity
Many of us will have had to relate to clients who are really struggling right now: being in the wedding industry, I've dealt with so many brides & grooms in the last two weeks who have had to postpone their wedding days. We have a choice in how we handle this and behave on our social media platforms and any other interactions with the public and customers. Now is not the time to whinge or attempt to claw back as much money as possible. It is a time to be compassionate while sensible about what our business needs are. It's a time to act with dignity and submit to government guidelines rather than having a tantrum. Remember that all the actions we take now will determine how our reputation and brand fares over the next few months and whether clients will want to come running back when this crisis has passed. If you have employees, treat them with decency and stay in regular communication with them.
2) Be innovative
Can you pivot during this time? Can you offer online products and services that are perfectly safe to deliver and could represent another income stream? Can you introduce some offers or voucher schemes to help your cash flow and get people returning to buy from you when we are out of the woods? I've gone live with a set of Online Cake & Macaron Classes recently I'm hoping help keep me in the black.
3) Keep actively marketing
Just because we can't be working as usual doesn't mean we can't keep up brand awareness. Social media platforms are a great means of staying active and occupying the forefront of people's minds - so when they can spend with you again, you'll be first on their list! Posting pictures of previous products, sharing stories from your day, rebranding, reorganising your website, interacting with clients - these are all great ways to keep your business active and give you something to focus on, while achieving brand awareness.
4) Use your time productively
How many of us have got envelopes stuffed with receipts to organise or business modules half-finished that we never got round to dealing with? Take this time, this enforced time, to sort out all the stuff that nags at the back of your mind. Once those frogs are swallowed, write down some plans for the future. Ideas for how you're going to bounce back after this with timelines and steps to work towards them can create positivity.
5) Go back and look at how far you've come
Look at the first cakes you decorated or your sales records for your first year of trading and compare them to now. Chart the progress you made, the peaks you celebrated and the troughs you weathered - and remind yourself that this is not the end - you built this business once and you can build it back up again.
6) Take any help you can get
The government is today, 26th March, announcing a package for the self-employed to try and give us parity with employees who have the 80% wage guarantee up to £2,500 while they are 'furloughed'. Do not hesitate to take any help they offer us. It will help keep you buoyant and enable you to do the things I've outlined above so you don't have to get a full-time job elsewhere. If you're struggling to access help, contact your local MP.
7) Eat, sleep, exercise
It's even easier to get low, unmotivated and despairing when we're not physically well. It's really important to keep getting exercise, eating well and keeping to a good routine for meals and sleep so our mental health has the best chance of flourishing too. It may seem cliché but it's never been so important! Ask someone to help keep you accountable if you need it.
These are tough times, but the life of a business owner is never easy. The one characteristic we all have in common is that we keep going even when things seem bleak. We've done it before and we can do it again. Keep going!