Seemingly overnight, many small businesses have seen their revenue shrink drastically. Many are having to make difficult decisions that weren't even imaginable a few short weeks ago.

To offer advice to small businesses that are navigating this time of uncertainty, Mark Cuban placed on open call on LinkedIn:

If you have a small business that you run and or own and you have questions about what to do now, I'll try to answer some questions. Won't be able to get them all. But I'll try over the course of today to respond to as many as I can. My preference is going to be helping small biz trying to avoid layoffs and hourly reductions.

The comments and questions began to flow in. There are conference and event organizers who were just gearing up for their busy season. Now they're issuing mass refunds because of cancellations. A cellphone store manager will need to cut hours and head count because there is not enough foot traffic. The owner of two automotive stores isn't seeing any customers. There are dozens more. 

As Cuban replied to specific business owners' questions, a few themes began to emerge. 

Be honest with your employees and ask for their ideas.

Things are already uncertain enough. Your employees are concerned about their livelihoods and health. It's more important than ever to be open with communication. 

"Be honest with your employees," Cuban advises. "Let them know what you know. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what they suggest. That is where your best ideas will come from."

Cuban urges bosses and managers of small businesses to come together with their employees and work through this together.

"This is where you need to be a leader and communicator," he says. "Get everyone together and brainstorm ideas. Maybe there is one that comes up that allows you to change the game."

Lead with compassion.

Giant deals may have fallen through overnight. Large revenue-generating events have been canceled. People are staying home and are no longer coming in. Though this can be devastating for your revenue, try to take a compassionate approach. Stay connected to your customers and maintain those relationships, even if they aren't able to commit to buying right now. 

"Realize they are just as stressed and freaked out as you are, and if they aren't they probably will be shortly," Cuban says. "Connect to them at that level. Everyone is searching for answers. Deal with that prospect as humanly and nicely as possible."

Come together with your competitors. 

If your industry is hit particularly hard by the impact of coronavirus, this is not the time to double down crushing your competition. It's time to come together with your competitors and brainstorm ways everyone can get creative during this unprecedented time.  

"People who may not have been as open in the past will be far more likely to explore options and partnerships that kick in post-corona than they were in the past," says Cuban.

Tell customers how they can spend money with you.

You may be able to adapt your business and still bring in revenue. This could be offering virtual events, shifting from in-store sales to online only, or local delivery of your goods. That's step one.

Step two: Make sure everyone knows about it. Start with your biggest customers first, and reach out to them directly. You can also leverage social media and email newsletters to communicate. Make sure people know how they can support your business. 

If shifting your business to online sales isn't possible, begin publicizing specials and promotions for when things stabilize later. Focus on your future customers now. "This is an opportunity for you to get the word out that you will have a post-corona special price or you will be open for business whenever your customers need you," Cuban says.

Lastly, Cuban encourages small-business owners to use this time to tick those nagging items on their to-do list that they never were able to get around to. "Everyone has things they wish they could re-do. Now is the time to make those changes," he says.

Published on: Mar 16, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.