Despite considerable marketplace and regulatory uncertainty, it’s important for small business owners to look ahead at their post-pandemic operations. Now’s the time to take steps such as evaluating your business plan, assessing your technology, and communicating your plans to customers and employees.
While your exact circumstances will likely be influenced by a variety of factors, including your industry, local health conditions, and government regulations or restrictions, a good starting point is to take a hard look at your pre-pandemic business plan. You should evaluate the products or services you offer, the market demand, and how you will operate going forward.
For instance, a local business that depends on foot traffic will need to continue a shift toward online sales and in-store or curbside pickup. A service firm, whose sales process relied on in- person meetings and networking, will need to become more proficient in videoconferencing and virtual business development.
In some circumstances, shifting market conditions may create more opportunities for the products or services that you excel in providing — especially if a key competitor has been affected negatively by the pandemic and its ability to respond.
You will also see some industry-focused concerns. For instance, a restaurant will face different conditions and considerations than a consulting firm will. In either case, business owners will need to check guidance from federal, state, and local authorities. Additional resources and information can be obtained from industry associations or regional business groups.
Any slowdown in normal business conditions provides an opportunity for a small business to evaluate its technology infrastructure. In the case of the pandemic, you probably had a reliance on remote work and video conferencing that may have started as a stopgap measure — but could well play a key role in your business going forward.
Depending on your business, your team may be getting used to working remotely, and you may want to upgrade the tools and platforms they use to make remote work and videoconferences a lasting part of your operations.
Similarly, this could be a good opportunity to shift any software that you are running on in-house computers, such as your customer database or financial management tools, to cloud services that will enable you to access data remotely and will offer stronger backups and security protection than you can provide locally.
It’s also a good time to improve your cybersecurity defenses. Small businesses will face a variety of pandemic-related fraud attempts as well as the usual cyber threats, so it’s important to consider adding or upgrading security tools. This includes your virtual private network (VPN) software and file-sharing service, as well as adding two-factor authentication to your cloud accounts.
As your complete or adjust your post-pandemic plans, it will also be important to communicate those plans to customers, employees, and vendors. You’ll want to get the message out through a variety of channels, including your email lists and newsletter, your company website, and your social media networks and chat tools.
You also want a variety of formats, including short updates and articles, images and videos to outline what you’re doing to your facility and operations to ensure safety, and other messages to promote your company and its operations as you recover from the pandemic and its challenging market conditions.