The economic effects of the coronavirus have been widespread and the business landscape is drastically changed. Almost everyone has been affected in one way or another, some quite seriously. Unfortunately, women and minority owned businesses, many of which are small to midsize, face many challenges even in a good economy. A downturn can make things significantly more precarious.
At the same time, it has been inspiring to see the various ways that many business owners and companies of all sizes and shapes have been adapting and shifting focus in this time of crisis. And it is in that very willingness to adapt that I think we can all learn a lesson about how to approach the coming months of economic uncertainty. It is in taking action in new ways that we will help our economy overall recover and be more successful ourselves.
How do we do this? I have three suggestions.
We’ve seen the stories of so many businesses retooling their assembly lines to make ventilators, PPE, sanitizer, and other products needed to fight the virus. All businesses can benefit by being this adaptable. Accept that what customers are looking for may not be what you thought you would be selling before the pandemic. Look at your business and make sure you are offering what they need, providing what they want.
This can mean changing your product or process, but it can also mean going after opportunities that you might have considered too small or out of your jurisdiction before. Maybe you were trying to build a relationship with one division of a company but a different one is booming right now. Shift gears. A current client might be asking you do to something different than you did before. If you were catering fancy events and now they need you to make boxed lunches for workers, are you ready to change? For example, we’ve recently gone through additional licensing procedures in a new state to respond to a client of ours.
Listen to what your clients and prospects need right now and make sure you are clear about how you can offer that – not just what you were offering before.
It’s always good advice but now more than ever. Your clients want to hear from you. How are you preparing to return to business if you’ve had to close due to emergency measures? If you’ve been open, how are you ensuring that your business is operating in a safe manner? What are you doing to protect your employees? You need to proactively communicate those kinds of things to your customers, current and potential. They need to know before they can be your customers. Buyers need to know that they can trust that your business can operate in this environment; they need to trust that you can deliver.
Be proactive and let people know you are open for business and as strong as ever. Don’t wait for them to knock on your door. Show them that you are here to help under the new business conditions. Reassure them that you are still the same reliable business you were before. Help them feel comfortable and regain the assurance that the pandemic has shaken in all of us.
Be Supportive of Others
One way to show support is to simply patronize other small businesses and MBEs, and I absolutely recommend this action. If you’re working and can do it, buy from a fellow MBE, personally or for services and products your business needs. But another good way to support others is to watch for opportunities that match their business, not just yours.
Many companies, particularly the bigger firms and large multinationals, are promoting their needs and opportunities on large conference calls or very broadly targeted emails. Many will ask current suppliers if they can recommend someone. If you can, do so! Share that opportunity with those you know who can fill the need. Help them find contracts to bid on. Spread the word and hopefully they will return the favor. As MBEs, we have a responsibility to support each other.
These are difficult times, and we are all sailing in unchartered waters. The business landscape is changed dramatically, and that’s scary. The unknown usually is. But the current situation doesn’t guarantee any particular outcome, let alone failure. It’s going to take hard work, ingenuity, innovation, and then more hard work to adjust and succeed. I think we’re up for the task though, don’t you?
Want to discuss growth strategies or other tips for MBEs further? Feel free to reach out to us to continue the conversation.