How to Adapt Your Business in Times of Crisis
When a disaster strikes, many small business owners have to change how they do business to survive. The first step is to take advantage of the resources that state and federal governments offer. But then what?
According to FEMA, roughly 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors after a natural disaster. Having a multi-faceted recovery plan, however, can help you take quick action so you're among those that survive. Here are some ideas for what you can do if part of your business has to close or if sales slow down during a hardship.
If your business cannot operate due to a disaster, being able to pivot could be the difference between weathering the storm and succumbing to it.
Beef up e-commerce
If your brick-and-mortar store is unable to operate due to a regional shutdown or severe weather event, selling online could help keep you afloat until you can reopen your doors. If you haven't yet set up an e-commerce division, now is a good time to start. Today's e-commerce platforms make it easy to create an online store without having any technical knowledge.
Start building your online catalog with the products you sell that are in high demand during the emergency or disaster. If customers expect to be stuck home for a while, they will likely stock up on food and household goods, as well as games and puzzles to keep them busy and entertained. A serious weather event that causes damage, such as a flood, may have consumers looking for cleaning or building supplies. If you don't sell products, you can always add gift cards to your website.
Expand delivery options
Another way to pivot your business in an emergency is to change how you get products to your customers. For example, a restaurant may add a curbside pickup option to traditional takeout or delivery within a certain radius.
Retail stores that cannot remain open for any reason can allow customers to buy online and pick up in store. They could offer fast and free shipping, curbside pickup, or even personal home delivery. By being flexible and willing to change your business model, you can adjust to the new realities of the market as well as the changing needs of your customers.
Service providers that can no longer meet with customers due to health or safety concerns can shift their businesses online by leveraging technology. If you normally meet customers in person, consider offering consultations via videoconference. Or if your business sells classes, such as a fitness studio, offer live-streaming for members until your facility is open again.
During the interim, consider discounting your regular fees so that your customers feel they are getting a good value. You may even find some of your customers prefer the new method, giving you a new service to offer after the emergency is over.
Work from home
Another way to adapt to an emergency is to equip your staff to work from home. When physical offices have to close, many businesses can still operate. You can start by identifying the roles that are best capable of working remotely. For example, your marketing team could continue to perform customer outreach, especially sharing the news of any changes to your business.
Make sure employees have the tools they need, such as laptops and access to software platforms that help them do their jobs. Then set expectations, such as regular working hours, communication methods, goals, and cybersecurity. Be flexible as your team adjusts to working from home, but staying connected to work may help them cope if the emergency brings a sense of uncertainty with it.
If your business cannot operate due to a disaster, being able to pivot could be the difference between weathering the storm and succumbing to it. Fortunately, small business owners are often resilient and nimble. By rethinking your business and how it operates, you can continue to serve your customers. Be sure to take care of yourself and your employees. When things get back to normal, you'll be stronger than ever and ready to tackle the next challenge.
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