Small business owners – how to survive a Covid-19 financial downturn
I am the owner of a small business and I think that I can safely speak for all SMEs in the country that we are very worried about the months ahead. But having been a business entrepreneur for over 20 years and ridden several tumultuous waves, I’m also confident we can get through this if we have a plan, stay agile and make wise decisions.
At one time, my whole business was based on a financial model that relied on government funding and as soon as there was a change in political leadership at the top, the proverbial rug was pulled from under our feet. Coupled with the 2008 crisis, we’ve braved some challenges at Working Knowledge – but survived. Facing a hard time again, I felt compelled to share what I’ve learned about why some companies will rise phoenix-like from the flames, whilst others crash and burn.
Right now you need to make use of your staff on downtime and turn this to your advantage. Do you have a valued front-of-house receptionist currently twiddling their thumbs at home? Or perhaps some bright and able staff elsewhere in your business who were once client/customer-facing, but now can’t get on with their job? Don’t lose these people – make use of them and give them a new sense of purpose!
Humans as a species, are incredibly adaptive to new environments and challenges. The same person who once operated your front-of-house could, with a little coaching and training, be re-channelling their efforts to promoting your business online.
It’s more important than ever right now for your staff to feel like a team. They all need to have a sense of collective purpose. If you are struggling financially, don’t hide this from your team. They will be wondering anyway so it’s better to be honest and upfront. But of course don’t announce and financial insecurities in an alarmist way. Let them know you have a plan and a positive vision for the future. Let them be part of that plan and ensure they know you value them.
If your company is new to the home-working model, your staff will need lots of regular positive interactions to feel at ease. Get on skype/zoom and make sure your conversations are effective but not overly clinical, allowing for a modest degree of chit-chat. I’ve been managing 80% of my team remotely for years and I would argue that the bonds are as strong as any team I’ve managed in our central office. There are many positives of home-working and I believe cutting out the exhausting commute and giving my team more flexibility around their daily lives actually results in them being much more energised and focused.
Don’t forget to ask “how are you?”. We need to be social animals more than ever right now so give people a chance to smile, laugh about something trivial and support each other! You’ll have to demonstrate a degree of trust that your staff will get things done. I would advise putting systems in place to track work and keep on top of outputs but avoid micromanaging – no one likes to feel watched.