The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has completely upended our way of life. While many businesses without a crisis plan (and even many that have one) are struggling, others are still operating relatively normally.
Entrepreneurs who have been able to continue their business operations should certainly be counting their blessings during this time. But you shouldn't just be thinking of yourself. With so many companies applying for stimulus loans just to cover payroll, it is clear that many will require more than that to make it through the current crisis.
If your business is doing well, you can make a difference for others. Your actions and initiatives can help local residents, fellow business owners, or charitable efforts. By working together, we can make it through. Here are a few ideas on where to start.
1. Offer additional services to reduce the burden on your customers.
While the arrival of stimulus payments from the federal government will certainly help relieve some of the financial burden being experienced by those who have lost their jobs, Covid-19 and other crises have impacts that extend far beyond how much money is in a person's bank account.
Many people, particularly those in at-risk groups, have self-isolated at home and are no longer even able to go to the grocery store. Others are dealing with severe emotional distress because of unemployment and a constant barrage of negative news.
This isn't the time for aggressive marketing campaigns. But you can still ease your customers' situation by the way you reach out to them during this and other crises. A report from McKinsey & Company encourages brands to meet customers "where they are" through methods such as expanding home delivery, contactless operations or improved digital business models.
While specific actions may vary from business to business (and crisis to crisis), prioritizing customer needs will help you adapt services and communications appropriately. This makes it easier for customers to continue using your and other's services, and could help keep everyone in business.
2. Use partnerships or donations to help related businesses.
Many industries have struggled significantly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. A report on March 2020 retail sales in the United States found that clothing and accessory store sales fell 50.5 percent. Furniture store sales fell 26.8 percent, while sporting goods stores had a 23.3 percent sales drop.
Despite how the business world is sometimes portrayed, it's not entirely a dog-eat-dog world. Brands in related industries often join together to help businesses that are struggling because of circumstances beyond their control. As an example, Google has offered free ad credits to small businesses, and it is far from alone in such relief efforts.
And the efforts can be local, too. Bear Handlon, co-founder and CEO of the apparel brand Born Primitive, has a company that sells fitness and athleisure apparel, as well as custom clothing for CrossFit gyms. With most gyms suffering from forced closures, Born Primitive created the Back the Gyms stimulus campaign, in which they pledged to donate 50 percent of their profits to participating gyms for a 10-day period. Born Primitive raised $186,000 during the campaign, a major help for gyms in need.
Consider the needs of other local businesses or those in related niches. Your helping hand could be what keeps them going.
3. Shift operations to support needed efforts.
Many businesses that would otherwise be struggling because of lost revenue have managed to continue operations and make a meaningful difference by pivoting their operations. For example, custom tent brand TentCraft shifted its operations to produce medical partitions and pop-up mobile infirmaries.
In this case, the company was able to use the tools and resources it already had to provide something that was urgently needed to meet ongoing medical needs. This move not only helped Covid-19 relief efforts -- it also enabled the brand to make up for revenue lost from event and order cancellations.
If Covid-19 or another crisis seems poised to disrupt your operations or cause a major sales decline, the way you pivot could make all the difference in whether your business survives.
As part of your risk-management plan, it would be wise to consider ways you could pivot your operations to address urgent needs during a crisis. Such adaptations could save lives and livelihoods.
Making a difference together.
Covid-19 won't be the last crisis business owners face. While future events may not be as far-reaching, other challenges will affect industries and communities in the years ahead.
The efforts you take now could save another business. Or help a family that is struggling. Your good actions today will have a lasting impact. Those who benefit from your actions will pay it forward -- and quite often, they will pay it forward by helping your business in the future.