by Itamar Gero, founder and CEO of SEOReseller.com
Uncertainty and fear have been going through people’s minds as the pandemic continues to affect most aspects of human life around the world. The US economy has not been immune to this. In fact, the last few weeks have been particularly devastating for the market.
According to ABC News, another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, adding to the approximately 10 million people who have already filed for benefits amid the outbreak.
Maybe because they have often been called the backbone of the American economy, small businesses are among those with the heaviest burdens to bear. According to a report by the US Chamber of Commerce released on April 3, one in four small businesses has already temporarily closed, while two in five of those remaining open also plan to shut down temporarily in the next couple of weeks. These numbers are disheartening considering that there were 30.7 million of these enterprises in the country in 2019.
The sad reality is, some of these small businesses may never open their doors again.
But all is not lost. If you own or manage a small business, there are still things you can do now to survive, and maybe even thrive, through these tough times and in the future. The important thing is you start today.
A Change in Attitude.
The odds were always difficult for small businesses even before the pandemic. According to the numbers published by the Small Business Administration in 2018, 20% of these enterprises fail in their first year. Only around half survive through their fifth anniversaries. And only one in three make it to their 10th year. Risk is a big part of entrepreneurship and the current struggle just represents a new type of risk, one that is unprecedented and unpredictable.
But with risk comes opportunity for those who are willing to find it.
The first thing to do is to change your mindset. Times are hard right now but giving into panic and hopelessness won’t help anyone – not you, your business, nor the people who work for you. Keep an open mind and maintain perspective. You’ll only be able to recognize solutions if your mind is clear.
Focus on the things that you can control. Ponder on these:
- You can’t do anything about the pandemic. You can, however, make sure you do your part in keeping your employees and yourself safe from the disease.
- You can’t save the economy, but you can work on your business and hopefully save it from the circumstances.
- You can’t control how many people will queue up when you try to get a loan from the bank, but you can be there the minute they open to increase your chances.
This simple mindset shift will help you sort what you can and cannot do in your current situation and help you focus your efforts on solutions instead of hindrances.
During this time, it’s also important to safeguard the morale of your employees. It’s always imperative to be honest with your people about your status and what the future may hold for all of you. But even if you have to deliver dire news, you can do it in such a way that preserves their confidence knowing your business and their employment can get through this.
Many small businesses have to let people go to survive. This is inevitable given the current situation. But thinking in the long-term, if you have the ability to hold on to your people, they will always remember that in the future. These tough times will define what kind of business you run and what kind of leader you are.
Asking for help can be difficult for many business owners. This may give you a feeling of having failed in your decisions and directions. But if there ever is a situation that calls for aid, this is it. Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, and even social media for any help. You’ll be surprised by how much society has shifted its belief regarding this with the rise of crowdfunding and other similar platforms.
Available Financial Assistance.
Speaking of help, the Federal Government has allotted upwards of $2 trillion to help those struggling in the US economy. This massive relief effort is targeted to bring much needed assistance to workers, corporations, and of course, small businesses.
According to NBC News, companies with fewer than 500 employees may apply for forgivable loans of up to $10 million. Small businesses that maintain payroll can also get assistance for mortgage, rent, and utilities.
But keeping track of all the economic relief options available for your small business can be a daunting task because of how conditions and other factors currently evolve on a daily basis. Inc has prepared a useful list made up of loans and grants offered by the Federal and state governments and private corporations. They keep the list updated so you can check it from time to time. Scan through them and see which assistance your business may be eligible for.
The Small Business Administration also offers coronavirus relief options. On their website, you can learn more about the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP, the EIDL Loan Advance, the SBA Express Bridge Loans, and the SBA Debt Relief.
The PPP’s main purpose is to keep small business employees on the payroll. The EIDL or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance offers loans of up to $10,000 to currently struggling small businesses. The Express Bridge Loan enables small businesses that have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to get up to $25,000. The Debt Relief program will automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of current and new 7(a), 504, and microloans for the next six months.
Although these measures can help keep small businesses alive, you have to understand that the high demand and the unprecedented nature of this issue has left the institutions that are actually making the loans overwhelmed. According to Forbes, the SBA is currently processing 250,000 applications for these special loans.
If you find yourself in the middle of a long application process, stay patient and hopeful. In the meantime, take other steps to keep your business afloat.
Improvements and Adaptation.
Although it may sound callous now, there are still some opportunities for your small business to explore during this time. The simple fact that you have to keep in mind is that the degree of disruption the outbreak has caused makes it virtually impossible for circumstances to fully return to how it used to be. Some would look at this as a disaster, thinking that the previous status quo was conducive for their growth. But you have to think otherwise. Normalcy will inevitably change, and you have to be at the forefront when it does.
For example, remote work has now been adopted even by companies that don’t normally do it or were previously skeptical about its effectiveness. This shift in belief will make this flexible work arrangement more acceptable in the future, even beyond the pandemic. Plus, according to the Harvard Business Review, working from home increases productivity by at least 4.4% and more companies are starting to feel it. The opportunity here is in improving communication channels through the plethora of tools that technology and the internet offer.
You can also take this time to improve different facets of your business.
Training courses for your people won’t only add valuable skills to their repertoires, these courses will also build their confidence, knowing that you are still investing in them despite the current challenges. This will help you fill gaps within your operations that have been created either by losing employees or outsourced partners. McKinsey Accelerate has put together a great article detailing how workplace learning can continue during the outbreak.
This is also the perfect opportunity to add value to your products and services. Improving your customer service, for example, can make a world of difference, especially in a coronavirus-stressed consumer base. By simply making your business more accessible through calls or messages, you can ensure to your clients that you are still there to serve.
Adding value can also mean reimagining your product distribution. Granted, most businesses have put similar plans on hold, but that’s exactly why it’s a good time to do this. What you only used to offer from your brick and mortar store can be delivered instead. You can even tap into the growing ecommerce market.
According to TechRepublic, ecommerce revenue in the US has jumped 37% during the outbreak. Offering your wares online has never been this easy too. Website developers are used to adding transaction features to their projects by now. Big names in the industry like Amazon and Alibaba are also providing smaller enterprises a platform for selling. You should take advantage of these.
Marketing, particularly through online channels, is one of the most important things that you should think about right now. According to Verizon, there have been massive spikes in the use of internet in the last few weeks – and it’s becoming the new norm. This means, there are better chances for your online marketing efforts to succeed. Get the most out of this opportunity by investing in local SEO services. Hiring experts to take care of your marketing campaigns will boost your exposure while you devote your time to other aspects of your business.
Employing SEO strategies for your business now will also give you a headstart for when the pandemic subsides. By then, you’ll have a formidable internet presence and a strong following.
This is easily the most challenging time to maintain and improve your small business. But adversity is where ingenuity and resilience can be most rewarded. The key is to keep calm, ask for help, and improve where you can.
Itamar Gero is the founder and CEO of SEOReseller.com, a White Label SEO digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies — and their local business clientele — all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).