Running a business can be an adventure during the best of times. Now, the coronavirus pandemic is presenting business owners with a host of new challenges as they reopen, including complying with public health guidelines, changes in consumer behavior and an uncertain economic outlook.
If you’re unsure of what to do to stabilize your revenues and keep customers engaged, these five tips can help put you on solid footing for the future.
1. Manage your cash wisely. As you resume operations, continue to keep a laser focus on the books—and especially on your cash flow. For instance, if your business is inventory-heavy, you might revisit the size and frequency of your supply orders. And consider stretching your cash resources by taking full advantage of your suppliers’ payment terms. If they request payment in 60 days but you’ve typically paid in 30, you might send your payments out a bit later. On the receivables side, stay in close contact with customers—especially those with overdue payments.
2.Have a plan for the future. Strategize about how you’ll adjust operations if your area slows or reverses its reopening due to public health concerns. Can you make prudent investments in inventory in case supply chains are disrupted again? Do you have a plan for your employees if staffing needs change? SCORE provides free business mentoring, including scenario planning, and its services are available remotely.
3. Engage employees and customers throughout the process. Your employees have their ears to the ground. Ask them what they’re seeing and hearing from customers, and whether they recommend any changes to processes or products. As your plans evolve, keep employees and customers informed in as close to real time as possible. Check in on employees’ emotional health, and be as flexible as possible with the challenges they may be facing outside of work.
4. Address your digital systems. Months of social distancing have changed consumer behavior and workplace best practices. Many of these trends will have lasting impact. Focus on the shifts that are most relevant for your business. For instance, professional services companies might look for ways to enhance their businesses with cloud technology and other digital tools. Retailers might prioritize assessing digital payment capabilities, particularly options for contactless in-person payments. And consumer-facing companies might invest in an up-to-date website, an active social media presence, and/or a thoughtful communications strategy to stay top of mind even when customers are at home.
5. Be ready to pivot—again. Businesses have responded to the pandemic with impressive ingenuity. But it’s not time to rest just yet. To identify potential opportunities, monitor key data points such as sales, return on investment and other business metrics for early indications of strong interest in certain products or services. Be prepared to adjust business practices, such as curbside pickup and in-store traffic flow, as the public health situation and social norms evolve.
To access additional financial education resources for entrepreneurs, visit our Financial Education Center.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice such since advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.