Paul Johnson, Associate State Director, Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network
We’ve clearly heard that the greatest challenges you face during these times are financial pressures. And while numbers ultimately drive the success of your small business, there are other aspects to consider as you cope with the ongoing pandemic and ultimate recovery. Let’s take a look at some non-financial angles and strategies we can all consider as we work through the current challenges together.
• Connection to community is more important now than ever. As a small business, you are a hard-wired vital component of your community. Consider this time as a good opportunity to connect with the other members of your business and business support community. Check in with your chamber or downtown association (or join and become active you haven’t already). Suggest or offer to help organize future events to promote your small business community.
• “Reputations are built in hard times.” I can’t locate the source of this quote, but that makes the wisdom no less effective. How a business responds to extreme challenges not only proves the soundness of its organization, it is also an opportunity to take risks, expand offerings and discover efficiencies. Businesses who recover from major challenges often do so equipped with new skills and processes that will pay long-term operational (and often financial) dividends.
• Look to competitors as allies. Healthy competition is a positive motivator for many entrepreneurs and what drives growth and diversification. At this time, though, consider promotional or strategic alliances with competitors and similarly adjacent businesses. Several restaurants may band together to offer a multiple visit discount card. Or the owner of an automotive shop could reach out to tire shops, body shops or automotive supply stores to offer a group discount or rewards program. Extreme financial pressures may even be overcome by mergers or formal partnerships between former competitors.
• Continue to provide a human touch. Social distancing, stay-at-home and public mask-wearing all conspire to de-humanize our experience during this outbreak. Make every phone call, email and in-person encounter with your customers, suppliers and vendors an opportunity to showcase your customer service and passion for your business. Turn a simple curbside pickup into a pleasant, worry-free experience for your customer. Drop in a thank-you note with an online order. Offer special “next-visit” discounts to encourage quick return sales. Your customers are pulling for you during this time. They may not be ready to venture out and return to normal buying and movement patterns yet, but make them know now that you look forward to serving them when they are ready.
And speaking of the human touch, Wyoming Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network business advisors are just a call or email away to assist your business to cope with today’s challenge and better position you for the future. Contact an advisor at WyomingSBDC.org. All Wyoming SBDC Network services are completely confidential and offered at no cost to Wyoming residents.
About the Wyoming SBDC Network: The Wyoming SBDC Network offers no-cost advising and technical assistance to help Wyoming entrepreneurs think about, launch, grow, reinvent or exit their business. In 2019 alone, the Wyoming SBDC Network helped Wyoming entrepreneurs start 108 new businesses, create or save 3,402 jobs and bring a capital impact of more than $24 million to the state. The Wyoming SBDC Network is hosted by the University of Wyoming with state funds from the Wyoming Business Council. Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.