Did you know that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year? Small Businesses drive the economic engine of this country, as well as the local and national economies of many other countries around the world.
For more than 50 years the USA has been celebrating National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. But this year like many other events, it has been postponed due to the COVID-19 virus. But let that not stop us from recognizing, celebrating, and supporting small businesses everywhere. They are the heart and soul of communities. We need small businesses to prosper and carry on. We all must do our part to ensure that small businesses are able to survive this current crisis and come out on the other side stronger and more resilient.
Never before has the job of running a small business or independent consultancy been more challenging. And that’s why I’m excited to feature Jill Kovalich as a guest contributor to my blog this week. Jill is a marketing communication professional with deep experience in working with professional service firms (including Accounting firms), and small businesses. I love picking Jill’s brain, as she is a creative, astute and a positive person. Her cup is always half-full and she finds a way to make things work, even in incredibly challenging times like we are going through right now with COVID-19. Jill reminds us that “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette.” Please enjoy her article.
Tips for Adapting Your Business to a Strange New World
By Jill Kovalich
Pivot is the trendy new word. To pivot your business means to change your strategy or process to achieve your goal. For those of you who are business owners, what you have done before may no longer apply to today’s circumstances or to the future. You must be able to quickly change and adapt the way you conduct business now. To survive and thrive in this emerging, strange new world, you must apply creative thinking in order to pivot your business successfully.
In the midst of all this COVID-19 uncertainty it’s a tall order to ask business owners to put aside the intense concerns and pressures they are experiencing to think creatively. But even in this uncertainty there are opportunities waiting for you – if you can change the way you look at things. Now is the time to plan and put into action your new normal. There will be a post COVID-19 world. Do you want to be a player in it or a piece of its history?
“Creativity takes courage.”
“It is not enough to place colors, however beautiful, one beside the other; colors must also react on one another.”
~ Henri Matisse
There is very little good research to help businesses figure out what to do to survive and thrive in unprecedented times like these. Economic recovery doesn’t happen only post-pandemic but more often post-recession. Harvard Business Review published a study on corporate performance during three global recessions from 1980 to 2002.[i] Those businesses that recovered quicker and were more profitable reduced cost selectively, improved operational efficiency, and invested in R&D, new assets, and marketing. Basically, their multi-pronged approach put them in strong positions to survive and thrive going forward. That required changing strategies and processes, or as we call it today, pivoting.
How can you apply some of this thinking to your business? Let’s examine four businesses and creative ways they can pivot. But first, I need you to put yourself in the shoes of different kinds of business owners. For example:
Imagine you are a chiropractor…
If you are a chiropractor, you may be considered an essential business. Chances are your waiting room is not filled with patients. Communication is key to let everyone know you’re open. Maybe you are open only by appointment to ensure safe physical distancing. Contact every client who has been in your office in the past year for treatment. Check on them to find out how they’re doing and how they feel.
This pivot positions you as a vital resource of health and wellness. It also allows you to educate people on the holistic, drug-free methods of chiropractic care. You may not be able to generate paid treatment right away, but soon you are going to really want your clients to schedule office appointments. Expect some price compression. Some patients will be concerned about spending money or may have lost their health insurance. Structure a lower fee for patients whose insurance does not cover chiropractic care. As chiropractic treatment reimbursement is eligible with a flexible spending account (FSA), health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), your patients can use the money that they’ve already set aside rather than draw from cash they use for daily expenses.
What kind of pain are people experiencing now during this pandemic? People are working on laptops at home hunched over a kitchen table. The lack of ergonomics affects posture, necks, shoulders, wrists, and arms. This daily assault on the body will result in physical problems and pain. Use Facebook live to offer one or two videos per week with tips on how to work at home and prevent stress on your body. Offer instruction on daily stretches to manage home office stress and body fatigue.
Imagine you are a restaurateur…
If you own or manage a restaurant, you are hit very hard during COVID-19. This is a great time to reassess your business plan. Can you imagine your restaurant post COVID-19 having a smaller footprint in the seating area? You can flip the revenues: less from tables and more from takeout and delivery. Transition some staff to the kitchen. Build a delivery team and retain the revenue that would otherwise go to delivery service partners. Alter your menu to offer prepared foods and frozen meal options as an alternative to grocery shopping. Offer meal assembly with written instructions or a video. Offer a 5-day lunch menu for kids that parents can receive on Sunday for the week. This allows you to efficiently manage your food order costs, staff, and deliveries.
This new model requires help with logistics. Transition your most organized staff into managing phone call orders, electronic payments, and coordinate packaging, delivery, and pick-up. You may need to add e-commerce to your website for online orders and get a handheld credit card device for pay-at-pickup. Be sure any menu changes are updated online daily.
As a restaurant owner, are you effectively leveraging gift cards to drive revenue? Encourage patrons to buy gift cards for themselves and as gifts for family and friends. Gift cards generate cash now, expand your client base, and encourage people to return to dine when you’re open. This is a good time to research and invest in a system to handle eGift cards and online ordering. According to Toast, a restaurant Point of Sale platform, guests using a gift card spend 33% more than the value of the gift card. So, every $25 gift card purchased could generate $33.25 in sales.
Do you own or manage a fitness center? Offer online videos for recorded or live workouts. This is a way to keep your members actively thinking of your business. People want to return to their gyms. Offer introductory pricing for paying clients who want personal training video sessions adapted to home exercise. One you reopen, crowded Zumba and Yoga classes may not be realistic. Run a survey to see what days and times people are willing to come to a class. Maybe running more smaller classes is the answer. You may find that there are people likely to attend a class on night you would have closed early. Pivot your hours of operation.
Your plan to reopen may include partnering with an industry-adjacent business. Is there a coffee shop or smoothie bar that shuttered its doors? Bring it into your floor plan to lease part of your space. Both of you will benefit by offering more value to your clients with no increase in expenses.
Imagine you own a beauty salon or day spa…
Are you a hair salon with spa services?
Nielsen reported, a in a Forbes article, that the sales of hair clippers rose 166% in April and hair color purchases rose 23% over last year. Over the counter color does not necessarily match what they receive in your salon. If their only option is DIY color and cuts, then here is an opportunity to provide a solution.
It’s time to reach out to every client whose hair you cut or color. Offer custom small batches of hair color specifically for crown part and face framing root touch-up. This is especially in demand by clients who need to cover their gray. Offer video instruction that shows how to use the color touch up kit. Clients can pay online, over the phone, or in person when they pick up their custom color kit curbside.
Offer a video tutorial for fathers and mothers to do at-home haircuts. This is an opportunity to sell a kit containing a cape, comb, and proper trimming scissors. Or recommend what types of haircutting sheers you use. You can make it fun by asking people to post before and after photos of home quarantine haircuts on your social media sites.
People are very stressed right now and need self-care. Offer a mini facial for use at home. Include an exfoliant and moisturizer to brighten up the face. This can make a good gift and a fun mother-daughter in-home activity. It will make them feel special and lift their spirits. Perhaps you can offer a video facial birthday party event. Is there an event planner you can partner with to make this happen?
Don’t Overlook the Basics
No matter what type of business you are in, first and foremost you must communicate. Clients and prospects need to know what is going on with your business. You must remain visible in the marketplace or the community. When it’s time to reopen businesses, it will be so much easier.
Here are 3 items on your communication checklist to do immediately.
First, update your online listings. On your website’s home page, announce how you are open for business, your hours, and how to reach you. Update your Google My Business and your other online listings to show you’re open and direct visitors to your website for more information.
Second, reach out to all of your customers by phone or email. Prioritize this list by those clients you’ve done business with in the past 12 months. Next, reach out to those inactive clients (those who haven’t done business with you in the past 12 months). They know you and your work and welcome the opportunity to reengage with you. Tell them you’re open for business how you’re operating what’s going on with your business. Express concern for your customers and gratitude for their patronage. Avoid being too transactional in your approach and messaging. Remember that the phone is your friend. People are stuck at home and they are more likely to pick up the phone than to open up yet another email. Those feeling isolated may hunger for a conversation with another human. This is a great opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue and develop a better understanding of your customer.
Third, be sure your voicemail recording is up to date. Use a friendly, upbeat message. Immediately say you are open for business and direct them to either leave a message or go directly to your website for more information.
Get creative and try new things
Change is scary, but a successful pivot depends on embracing change. It’s very important to understand that readership of newspapers has gone down significantly over time. The main source of people’s news and information is through social media and online sources. Use your website and social media sites to inform and promote your business. Video is dominating our lives, so step into it fearlessly as you pivot.
About the guest author
Jill Kovalich is a strategic marketing and communications veteran and owner of JMK MarComm LLC. She always looks for the most creative solutions for her clients’ content strategy and branding needs. You can learn more about Jill at www.jmkmarcomm.com. Connect with Jill Kovalich on LinkedIn