The New Normal: Small Business Guidance in a Post-Coronavirus Economy
Dan Levenson May 05, 2020
As small businesses begin to recover from the immediate crisis, they must begin looking forward to what their “new normal” will be. Right now, the majority of small businesses are getting hammered by shock waves from the coronavirus’s impact on the global and national economy. A McKinsey Global Institute analysis, based on multiple sources, indicates that the shock to our livelihoods from the economic impact of virus-suppression efforts could be the biggest in nearly a century.
As the Washington Post comments, “As the pandemic takes hold across America, some businesses are getting crushed, like Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., which closed its doors for at least eight weeks. Others are thriving, like Amazon, which announced 100,000 new hires to help manage the rush of online orders. Still others, like Tampa’s Rooster & the Till restaurant, are adapting — in ways that, economists say, might lead to long-term shifts in how Americans spend, work and live.”
Small businesses that are looking ahead towards a post-coronavirus economy are the businesses that are working proactively to maintain strong customer relationships, adapting to the shifting tides in business practices, and making concrete, data-driven plans for the “new normal” of the future. In this article, we’ll highlight three key moves your small business should be taking now to ensure success in this changing economy.
Proactive Customer Outreach
As our population grows increasingly physically distant from one another, it is a critical time for you and your staff to be reaching out to your customer base and strengthening those relationships. At many companies, as staff moved from work to work-from-home, they experienced a significant decrease in regular workload because their normal duties were performed in the context of the workplace. This is an opportune time to assign customer caseloads, with each staff member making personal check-ins by phone or video conference.
Most ways to build and maintain customer relationships involve some form of regular communication or interaction between your business and the consumer. Some other simple communication strategies that we recommend include:
- Sending email updates that include announcements, promotional offers, or tips of the day
- Posting photo and video updates on social media
- Updating your company blog with positive and/or uplifting news, whenever possible
- Creating valuable resources that can be downloaded from your website
- Take time to respond to customer interactions personally and thoughtfully
As your business moves forward, it’s also critically important that you allot some time to reflect on the past. What kind of systems did you have in place? What was working? And what wasn’t working? What kind of concrete steps can you take to plan for a rapidly-approaching “new normal”?
McKinsey agrees, “Decoding this new normal—and ensuring that the company has a strategy to navigate it—is an important part of the work… Approaches such as using a portfolio of initiatives and planning for decision-making under uncertainty can go a long way toward creating a compass for business leaders to follow.”
For your business, this may include developing a strong contingency plan in case of emergency, doing a thorough audit of your finances, or updating your technological devices and communication tools. The actual details of your plan should be extremely company-specific; what matters most is that you’re acting to advance your business even while things may seem at a virtual standstill.
Adapting to New Business Practices
It’s undeniable that many businesses practices we once relied on are going to phase out over the next few months, replaced by new and evolving business practices. McKinsey reports, “New working and shopping practices will probably become a permanent fixture of the next normal.” And as our working and shopping practices change so will our business practices. As a leader, it is best for you to accept that fact and focus on moving forward. You’ll do much more for your company and your employees by acting with humility and resilience, and looking with optimism towards the future.
At this time, you should be researching and gathering information about what the business practices of the future may involve. McKinsey predicts, “Institutions that reinvent themselves to make the most of better insight and foresight, as preferences evolve, will disproportionally succeed.”
The return to a pre-coronavirus world will take time and will require patience from small business owners. But the companies that will find success are those that are refusing to stop operations, and are instead acting and thinking flexibly about how to survive in a transformed economy. Those that are actively seeking out advice and information are those that will find a way to adapt to a “new normal.” So if you’re interested in more advice about how to thrive as a small business owner in a post-coronavirus economy, reach out to us today.