It’s almost become a campaign cliche that small business is the backbone of America; but in the year 2020, amidst a viral outbreak like we’ve never seen before, the strength and flexibility of that “backbone” is being tested. Without much direction or aid coming from the government, we’re looking to each other to make a way forward—but there’s so much noise it’s hard to make some sense of it all. Our responsibilities as business owners have changed overnight and we’re asking ourselves where the money will come from, if and when we’ll have to let someone go, and how to go about making sales in a quarantined market.
Without a doubt, it’s an urgent time to support our networks while offering the opportunity to support us back. Nobody wants to come across as taking advantage of this awful situation, but what does one do if they want to appear authentic and actually help? Our team had a meeting of the minds this Monday; we came up with our best ideas to help you get through this time and come out on the other side with a team that believes in you, a customer base that knows that you care and partnerships that are even stronger.
Spend Wisely: Support Small
The #1 way to support your fellow business owners right now, as always, is to shop small. It’s especially important to think about brick and mortar businesses that usually rely on foot traffic, like restaurants and retailers. Many are scrambling to build online stores, but some have gift cards available on their existing websites. One of our favorite tricks for lunch meetings on lockdown is sending a GrubHub gift card with a list of locally-owned options.
Everyone’s budget is in flux, but necessaries like cleaning products can be found locally instead of at big-box stores. Think about any birthdays coming up and any other gifts you need to buy soon. Spend some of your downtime searching these local business directories to find what you need right now:
- Bossy Chicago
- Women Belong
- LGBT Chamber of Commerce
- Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
- Neighborhood Chambers of Commerce (PDF)
As we all huddle up to our laptops to stay in touch with the world, we live and do business through our online presence, and our messaging becomes more critical than ever. Be sure to communicate with each of your audiences—yes, everyone—clients, partners, employees, the public, about any changes that will affect their business with you. Communicate with your existing network first before reaching out to new contacts. Post important information in a central location, like on your website, and use appropriate channels to share it.
Just as important as spreading the word about the changes in your business is putting other news on hold until you know for sure that it’s still moving forward according to plan. And even if it is, think twice about whether or not a big announcement is still appropriate. Blaring good news while so much is being canceled may come across as tone-deaf. News about product launches and events may need to be softened or postponed.
Manage Your Fear and Be a Leader
Fear of the unknown is a whopper, especially when you have a team (or a small community) looking to you for answers. While it’s an important time to show resilience, being honest about the things you still haven’t figured out is a much better look than withholding information.
If we didn’t know it before, it’s becoming abundantly clear that a business isn’t run by technology and systems: it’s run by a group of people with a shared goal. And when your mission is bigger than any single person on the team, you can have real faith that it’s all worthwhile. We at @revenue seek out other mission-driven businesses to work with because we believe this so much. Remind your team and your clients how important they are to you, and that no matter what else changes, your mission will drive you forward because it’s bigger than all of you.
While you’re waiting on your bigger answers, take action on the things you have the power to do right now. If you need to get out of the house, My Block My Hood My City is accepting donations and organizing volunteers to distribute viral response packages to seniors. Reach out to your network and ask what kinds of support they are looking for.
One thing we know for sure is that this isn’t going to be over quickly; businesses that don’t already have a tech stack to support working from home will need to pull one together. Our team is working on a webinar to help you get digital quick, so watch out for more details! As always, let us know what else we can do to help.