Beyond the health concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, much of our current anxiety may come from the feeling that we’ve lost control of our livelihoods as business owners. In turn, this leads to further stress about how we can provide for our families and ourselves, let alone pay our bills.
To regain some measure of control, focus on how you can help others. In doing so, you can also help your business and yourself. From gaining brand recognition for your company as a community supporter to creating opportunities for mutual benefit, we create success when we stop dwelling on our own fears and start acting to meet the needs of others.
Here are some ideas on how to do just that.
Buy from local businesses
Help your audience
Be flexible and fair
Turn first to your local businesses for your needs, whether for your company or personal use. Even if local goods and services are only available through delivery or curbside pickup, you’ll be helping to sustain those establishments through very challenging times.
Although you may be accustomed to using “big box” stores, many of these major retailers have had a difficult time keeping certain supplies on the shelf. Yet in your area there are likely small businesses, including local farmers and specialty grocery stores, with food staples at the ready.
Perhaps these businesses flew under the radar for you because they didn’t have the marketing dollars to keep up with the competition. However, local businesses are now discovering how to use social media channels. Moreover, neighbors and city government sites are now highlighting these stores and organizations.
If your company is an essential business, you may be struggling to keep up with demand. Now you have an invaluable opportunity to help the recently unemployed by bringing them on as necessary extra staffing during the pandemic.
You may have to shorten your hiring process, but remember that this is a temporary situation and a crisis. It’s about filling an urgent need now, rather than hiring for a long-term position where cultural fit, values, and other factors count.
For example, maybe you need workers to stock retail shelves overnight, serve as long-haul truck drivers, or make local deliveries. Or perhaps you’re in the education field and need more teachers and tutors for online learning.
On a personal level, if you can afford to do so, consider helping others who are now struggling. For example, hire a personal trainer to help you exercise through a video conferencing connection. Retain the services of your swimming pool servicers and gardeners so they can maintain both your properties and their businesses.
If you’re able to donate to those in financial need, do so. Many companies are providing financial assistance. You can also explore the available government funding assistance to keep your staff on the payroll, even if they aren’t working.
Other ways to donate include giving your perishable and nonperishable inventory to others who can use it right now, such as food banks, homeless shelters, hospitals, and other essential businesses.
Millions of people are currently at home under a shelter-in-place mandate. These people may be looking for information, advice, and support. This is a great time to reach out to customers and prospects with updates and resources.
As a business owner, you may not be as busy as you used to be. Use the additional time you have now to strengthen your bond with customers.
Start conversations online through social media, host a Facebook Live discussion, or deliver ongoing content. Ask them what they need and then deliver what you can. Even simply checking in with your customers can be comforting to them in this situation.
While it may be a tough time for you and your company, consider what your customers are experiencing. Many went from a stable job to unemployment almost overnight. Be understanding and supportive of those who are late with payments during this trying time.
Several companies have already been publicly called out for refusing to halt monthly membership fees, trying to evict tenants, or threatening penalties and interest on late payments. Although these businesses may be desperate to maintain their cash flow, they aren’t doing much to help their customers or their brand.
The federal government can help businesses survive for the time being. Apply for that support. Then pay it forward by being flexible about your customers’ payments.
Depending on your situation, you could extend due dates, defer payments, or waive payments altogether. Talk to your customers and find out what would help them. It’s the right thing to do, and they will never forget your empathy and generosity in their time of need.
We’re in this together
Perhaps the biggest objective of business has always been to make money. What this pandemic has taught us, though, is that not everything is about money. We need to care for each other as a local and global community so that we can survive and become better human beings, neighbors, communities, and businesses.