There’s no point in beating around the bush—the last couple weeks have been hard for everyone. Between crashing markets and nationwide shelter-in-place orders, millions of Americans have found themselves facing uncertain futures.
But with all the talk of government bailouts for corporations and working Americans, there’s one group of people being left out: small businesses. We’ll likely receive the same personal allowances as everyone else, but let’s face it: our businesses have a lot more bills than our homes.
Some of us might be able to survive a few weeks of closure, but what if this lasts more than a month? What if it lasts three months or more?
Your savings might not be strong enough to weather that storm, but what if you could keep some sort of cash flow coming in so you aren’t stuck at zero?
Now, I don’t want to pretend like we have all the answers to this problem. We’re dealing with this for the first time too—and we’re just as scared as you are. But we’ve seen some pretty ingenious ideas floating around that we think are worth sharing, and have even come up with some ideas of our own.
Here are some of our favorite things we’ve seen.
Talk To Your Landlord
When the revenue starts drying up, your mind starts to race. Your bills don’t care that your accounts are dwindling—they just keep piling up. How are you supposed to keep up?
It’s easy to look at your rent invoice and feel like it’s just a cold, impersonal number that is completely removed from world events. But there are people on the other side of those checks—people who are going through the exact same chaos and anxiety that you are.
And if your company goes out of business, your landlord is going to feel the hurt too—your success is in their best interest.
Be upfront with them about how the crisis has affected your ability to keep with your bills. Even if you and your landlord have butted heads in the past, it’s worth asking them what they can do. Remember: they’re in this mess too.
You may be able to contact your utility company, loan holders, and anyone else you pay each month. Many banks, electric companies, and more have already announced deferments for struggling businesses. But, you have to ask.
Pivot to the Virtual Space
The widespread adoption of social distancing measures and bans on non-essential travel have put a big honkin’ obstacle in the way of brick and mortar stores. For many of us, if our customers can’t come to our location, then our customer-company interaction comes to a standstill.
But as the mass adoption of remote working and elearning have shown, a lot more industries can be transferred to the virtual space than previously thought. Offices have been adopting Zoom en masse. Even craft bars in our area are offering growler fill ups and delivery so they can still get their beer to their customers.
In our case, it was an easy transition to put goods from our local gift shop. But since most of our revenue came from in-person classes, that was more of a challenge.
And so, we’ve introduced virtual classes that include video instructions and material kits that students can do at home. We’ll even deliver!
Think about how you can pivot your own business to the virtual space. Familiarize yourself with video editing programs (iMovie is good if you have a Mac. We’ve been using Shotcut on Windows). Find a good screen recording program. Figure out what parts of your business can move online and focus on those.
You might need to slightly shift priorities for a bit, but that’s okay. These are extraordinary circumstances—you can adjust your business plan for a little bit before we go back to normal.
Control the Scroll
When everyone is stuck on lockdown, they’re going to be spending much more time scrolling through their newsfeeds.
While they won’t be able to come to your shop during this time, you can come to them via that endless scroll.
Create content to catch their attention and keep your company in their minds. It doesn’t have to be completely related to your company—relatability is key these days. Just look at Jimmy Fallon’s at-home editions of The Tonight Show.
Show your followers how you’re spending your time while on lockdown. Don’t be afraid to be a little rough around the edges. In fact, leaning into the DIY ethos might endear you to your audience.
Know Your Options
With COVID-19 reeking havoc on every part of the market, a lot of entities are looking for creative ways to help small businesses that are affected.
In addition to the relief bill being debated in Congress, many states have opened the restrictions on unemployment to include small business owners and independent contractors. Also, the Small Business Association is providing low interest disaster protection loans, and they’ve been clear that the coronavirus pandemic counts as an eligible disaster.
Even the dating app Bumble is giving out small grants to local businesses nominated by their users.
There are also many communities organizing impromptu benefits for disadvantaged businesses, from GoFundMe campaigns to gift card databases. These are harder to find, since they vary greatly from place to place, but all across the country, people are mobilizing to support local businesses in their community. Ask around in your own community and see if there is anything that can benefit you.
Lend a Helping Hand
As we keep saying, everyone is hurting now. We’re all anxious and scared and feel helpless. First responders and other essential personnel are overworked, understaffed, and under supplied.
But there are ways you can help. You can pick up groceries for at-risk neighbors. You can sew mask covers to donate to local hospitals. You can mobilize the resources at your disposal to help those who are especially hurting.
However bleak it seems now, this shadow will pass. It may take time, but a day will come when the specter of pandemic isn’t hanging over our heads any more.
So keep your head up, stay safe, and look for ways you can continue to engage with your community. God bless.