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Staying Strong Amidst the Global Pandemic: What Small Business Can Do

Protecting your nonprofit startup or small business requires flexibility, commitment, and perseverance.

COVID-19 has been a significant disruptor in the global economy, and it's nowhere more apparent than in the small business and nonprofit sector. While we're currently at a stage in the pandemic where the end seems to be in sight, there is still a great deal of uncertainty.

For entrepreneurs who have managed to weather the storm of the past year, 2021 will be a time of continued challenges, but by exercising flexibility, commitment and perseverance, the storm will pass, and calmer seas will return.

That said, to keep your business strong and poised for opportunities this year will bring, consider investing time in the following planning tips.

Table of Contents

  1. 1. Job #1 is Health and Safety

  2. 2. Keep Your Communication and Business Strategy Strong

  3. 3. Continue to Review Operations and Customer Needs

  4. 4. Be Prepared for More Rollercoaster Finances

  5. 5. Study Your Competition and Market Trends

  6. 6. Stay Informed of Compliance and Taxation Changes

  7. 7. Consider Implementing a Social Entrepreneurship Strategy

  8. 8. Be the Best Entrepreneur You Can Be

1. Job #1 is Health and Safety


If we want to stop the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, we must continue to follow the best-practices set out by public health officials until the pandemic is officially over. Much like 2020, travel and in-office work arrangements should continue to be minimized.

If your company's work-from-home procedures and technology are a mishmash that was hastily thrown together, now's the time to get policies firmed up and make sure the systems your employees are working on are free from security vulnerabilities.

If your organization is a mission-critical one that requires staff to be on-site, review the steps taken to maximize social distancing and safety. Is everything working well, or have issues come to light that needs to be addressed? By supporting your employees' wellbeing, they'll help you. By keeping yourself and your staff healthy, you'll continue to protect at-risk populations.

2. Keep Your Communication and Business Strategy Strong

Chances are, you developed and executed a crisis communication plan last year. While it may look as if the COVID crisis is receding, the future is uncertain, so incorporating the current climate into your communication plans is essential.

If you haven't done so already, make sure you're staying in regular contact with your partners, stakeholders, clients, vendors, investors, donors, and suppliers. Keep them aware of the pulse of your enterprise and if there have been any changes in operations.

In addition to adapting your communication plan, you'll also want to consider your business strategies for this year. If last year felt like fighting a 5-alarm fire, this year will find entrepreneurs scouting through the wreckage, looking for places to re-build and move forward.

You'll need a flexible and adaptable framework to reconfigure what the business will look like in the months ahead.

3. Continue to Review Operations and Customer Needs

No one knows when business as we used to know it will return to "normal," and it's still uncertain what that “new normal” will look like. Chances are, it will not be as simple as a return to 2019. Even though you might be tired of running numbers, creating budgets, and modeling scenarios, now is not the time to stop. Continue to develop contingency plans and model best- and worst-case scenarios and how that will impact your operations.

This attention to detail is especially relevant for suppliers, funders, and vendors your enterprise may rely on. Even if your operations are solid and finances stable, that may not be the case for those you buy from or sell to.

Taking precautions now, such as having a procedure to verify checks online, can help ensure your interests are protected. Additionally, use this time to create more efficiency in your operations by eliminating unnecessary expenses and renegotiating contracts established before the pandemic.

If possible, talk to your customers and clients about how they might prefer doing business after the pandemic passes. Depending on the sector you're in, some may choose the changes that have been instituted over the last year. You will need to keep listening, thinking, and trying new engagement tactics over the next year. The upside of this is that you'll be poised to identify areas where your competition may be falling short and opportunities for growth.

4. Be Prepared for More Rollercoaster Finances

Source: Whether you have complete responsibility for your business' finances or work with an accountant or CFO, your business needs to be prepared for a few more months on the financial rollercoaster. Keep updating your contingency plans for impacts and risk. Monitor your cash flow to cut non-essential expenses and monitor your account receivables to ensure you're not a risk.

Review where you're spending money and pay extra attention to line items that may not be necessary. Things such as storage and equipment rentals, advertising, and travel budgets should be scrutinized. When times are good, and your business is doing well, it's easy to create excess, but now is the perfect time to look at them and see if it isn't time to get a bit leaner.

While your cash safety net may have taken a hit over the last year, try to determine if it's possible to generate some savings that you can use if necessary.

Whether it's a line of credit, small business loans, or grants from the federal government or state you're operating in, inform yourself about the options you may be eligible for. Manage your finances well, and your business will be poised to rebuild once the pandemic passes.

5. Study Your Competition and Market Trends

In the year ahead, be sure to spend time watching your competition. What are they doing? Do you agree or disagree with their practices? What are the take-aways from their actions that you can apply to your enterprise?

While it's easy to point the finger at competitors' mistakes, it's more beneficial to look at the choices made by those who are surviving and thriving during this difficult time. Also, look at what's happening in sectors outside of your own.

Can you learn some valuable lessons from those outside of your area? Not everything will apply, but reading about success stories can help jumpstart your creativity and desire to innovate. By understanding how competitors are currently positioning themselves and how your enterprise fits into the business landscape, you can take advantage when the time comes to return to normal operations.

In addition to thinking about the competition, take time to dive deep into your branding and marketing efforts by asking the following questions:

● Are there ways to reposition your brand to better align with your customers' current needs and preferences? ● Are there different or complementary products or services that you can introduce that were not necessary before covid? ● Can you expand into new markets due to embracing remote employees? ● Are there consumer trends that you can quickly embrace?

Consider the possibility that you may be able to create an entirely new business pathway or revenue stream. Over the next year, your business could transform into something very different from what it looked like two years ago.

6. Stay Informed of Compliance and Taxation Changes

If your business doesn't use a certified tax professional or tax accountant to manage your taxes, this might be the time to consider making the investment. Due to the pandemic and the various grant and loan programs that have been offered to businesses, there is also a steady stream of changes to federal and state tax and compliance codes.

Staying on top of these changes can help make sure you're taking advantage of tax credits and opportunities for reducing your tax burden.

7. Consider Implementing a Social Entrepreneurship Strategy

Is there part of your business where it would make sense to consider philanthropic giving? You might consider segueing your for-profit business to a hybrid nonprofit/for-profit model. While this may require more work to ensure you’re following all the requirements of a hybrid model (separate board approval processes, parent/subsidiary arrangements, and so forth), this allows for more tax-deductible business expenses down the road.

A professional could help you understand how to get nonprofit status for a complete switch over should you decide to pivot to pursue a fully philanthropic business endeavor, too.

8. Be the Best Entrepreneur You Can Be

As an entrepreneur, it's easy to throw 100% of your time and energy into your business. But make sure you're using that time wisely and making the most of your valuable time.

Use this time to assess your enterprise, and ask yourself if what you're doing is an effective use of your time? Identifying those areas you know are a place of weakness and resolve to find a way to address them. Maybe it's outsourcing or delegating those tasks to another person, or perhaps hiring a person with those strengths is required.

It will also help if you dive into some small business books, audiobooks, or podcasts, to offer some outside perspective and knowledge. For many small business owners, reading and learning about other businesses can be an enjoyable form of relaxation. Leverage this kind of education to your advantage and incorporate relevant parts into your business plans for the year.

In Conclusion: Pick Positivity!

COVID-19 created a degree of uncertainty that will take years to restore to a level of equilibrium. Keeping a "can do" attitude has been challenging over the last year, but you didn't make it this far to give up now, right? Now, more than ever, you need to stay positive and open to the opportunities that will be coming your way.

Keep doing the good work that has provided your foundation for the last year and continue to build upon it. Look for inspiration in those businesses that are surviving the pandemic, and know that yours can be one of them!

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