Since the beginning of 2020, small businesses have had to face increasingly more challenges to their businesses, some for growth, some just for survival. With COVID-19 taking the world by storm, many local businesses have had to close their doors for extended periods of time, have had to comply with invasive government measures regarding social distancing, have had to move to home-based work where possible, and have seen massive disruptions to supply chains and buyer behaviours.
But small businesses continue to survive and adapt to this new world order. Identifying the changes and obstacles won’t solve the problems, but knowing what to expect is half the battle. Ten of the greatest challenges facing small businesses in this pandemic appear to be:
- Setting Priorities
With small businesses facing millions of concerns right now, it’s hard to know what to focus on, and how to prioritise work to be done. For most of us, it’s about the people – employees, customers, suppliers, referrers and business partners.
- Taking Action
Along with facing these millions of concerns, many of small businesses are trying to decide what to do, face ‘analysis paralysis’ or overthinking, and may not act quickly or decisively in response to these changes.
- Managing Information Overload
There is an endless stream of information and misinformation about COVID-19 around the world every day. And every country has a different approach to reporting it, dealing with it, managing vaccines, quarantine, social distancing and travel arrangements. It seems that every conversation either in person, or via video call, starts with a discussion and update on the pandemic in our respective locations
- Managing Money
This is the most common and most important concern that small businesses have to deal with every day. The pandemic has meant that many businesses have had to dramatically cut costs – staff headcount, overheads, marketing expenses and other costs.
- Managing Clients
Most small businesses’ clients also tend to be small to medium businesses. Given travel restrictions across the world, it is not surprising that most small businesses are looking to diversify and expand their client base. Being dependent on one demography or one geography could be considered a high-risk way to do business now. So, the challenge is how expand the client base with limited time and resources while still keep the existing clients happy.
- Going To the Web
Going digital to attract new clients is not a new trend. But it is becoming front and centre for many small business owners given they cannot travel so easily now to do face-to-face meetings. Many small businesses are having to come to terms with marketing on Facebook, or using digital marketing companies to set up SEO for their websites, and more often direct email to promote their businesses and attract new clients.
- Working from Home
Most countries across the world have implemented a ‘work from home’ strategy to a greater or lesser extent. Many small businesses have made use of staff or contractors working remotely for many years now. But working from home is very different, particularly for those employees who have not had to do so before. Trying to manage work and family commitments while sitting at the dinner table can be extremely difficult as the boundary between work and home has been completely removed.
- Skilled Employees
Finding and retaining good people has forever been a challenge. Finding and retaining them when we can’t see them in person, shake hands and sit down together for a coffee meeting is even harder. The takeaway for small businesses here is that they are even more dependent on key staff than ever before but need to trust that they can continue to work and support the clients remotely, or working from home, with little supervision.
- Staying The Course
The hardest part for any business owner is to choose a course and have faith in it. There are literally thousands of distractions and misleading pieces of information flooding the senses every day from social media, traditional media, friends and family.
- Finding balance
We are all experiencing anxiety and perhaps even a general feeling of hopelessness. Good news is hard to come by and change is very slow. It’s easy for self-doubt and fear to become part of a small business owner’s every day life. Finding time for ourselves and family, maintaining good health and keeping balance in our lives can be extremely hard to do with such high stress levels from the effects of this pandemic.
Surviving and adapting to this new world order is not easy for anyone, and small businesses are no exception. Identifying the changes and obstacles won’t solve the problems but it can provide a reality check to keep the important matters front and centre, and help to focus on minimising distractions from an overwhelming amount of information flooding our senses every day.
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