There are signs that the pandemic may be waning and the economy recovering: vaccines are available. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has ended. The Federal Reserve is optimistic that economic growth will continue. The unemployment rate continues to trend downwards. That’s all good news. But these shifts have business owners asking: when does my business return to normal? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, there are steps you can take to make your business succeed—and maybe even surpass pre-pandemic levels of success. Is Economic Recovery Being Felt by Small Businesses? The Small Business Pulse Survey shows that each industry is at a different point on the impact/recovery scale. For example, during the week of October 11–17, 13.5% of respondents in the Accommodation and Food Services industry reported an increase in revenue, compared to only 6% of the Real Estate and Rental and Leasing respondents. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported a Q2 increase in the real gross domestic product (GDP) “at an annual rate of 6.7%," including more consumer spending on items such as food services, accommodations, clothing, and footwear. Echoing that good news, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted that holiday sales will “increase by 8.5–10.5% over 2020.” But increased sales don’t always mean profit. For example, customers have returned to in-person dining. However, more revenue hasn’t helped many restaurants impacted by rising costs, staffing shortages, and concerns that outdoor diners will disappear during the winter months. And it’s unclear how consumers will react to inflation concerns: a November 2021 estimate indicates that consumer sentiment has plunged to “the lowest in 10 years.” TLDR: we may not be out of the woods yet. Facing New Challenges Regardless of whether you’re in an industry or market that’s currently thriving or one that’s still struggling to get by, the truth for all businesses is that the pandemic has been—and is still—throwing challenges our way that need to be solved. Here’s how to find your way through to post-pandemic recovery: Do Your Market Research Your 2020 target market and customer personas may not be accurate anymore. Therefore, it's time to do market research to identify what you need to change to meet your business objectives. For example, it’s easy to imagine how the $1 trillion infrastructure bill could benefit construction companies. But market research could reveal how your business can capitalize on servicing other industries that directly benefit from the bill. Is it time to relocate your business? Businesses once dependent on office foot traffic, such as lunch eateries, may need to move closer to coworking spaces. Or it may be time to downsize your office space as your employees continue to work remotely. Perhaps your product offerings need an overhaul. Product or price bundles tend to appeal to customers overwhelmed with choices—or it may be time to diversify your products to capture a new market. Consider all of this as you develop your 2022 business plan. Watch for Competitors Folding Not every business will adapt to post-pandemic conditions. Competitors exiting the industry provide an opportunity to convert their customers to your own, enter a new market, or purchase equipment at a discount. Retain Employees Competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits packages are essential to keeping your employees in this “employee's market.” You don’t want them participating in the Great Resignation. Don’t fall into the trap of making the employer/employee relationship purely transactional, though—focus on building an actual relationship with your employees to understand what they need. Look for trends and benefits that employees want today: childcare, well-defined career paths, or mental health days, for example, can help foster employee loyalty that lasts. Invest in Digital You probably have created a website and boosted your online presence. Maybe you’ve even explored headless checkout options to let your customers buy your goods “in the moment.” But don’t overlook the bigger picture of what an integrated technology stack can do for your business. Forrester says: “Smart companies will ensure the tech stack (not a single tool or Excel) includes risk assessment, supply chain mapping, real-time risk intelligence, and business continuity management.” Collaborate Consider creating a collaborative ecosystem to boost solo efforts. For example, businesses could partner to cross-sell items (e.g., a wine shop and chocolate shop are a natural fit). The collaboration could also be a behind-the-scenes effort, where your suppliers or technology partners become equally invested in satisfying customer needs and reducing costs. Will Financing Growth and Goals Help? Whatever your challenges are, securing financing may simplify the transition from pandemic slowdowns to a new, post-pandemic/post-PPP ramp up. While the PPP (paycheck protection program) was a life-preserver in the form of SBA-backed loans and may have prevented “1 out of 3” US businesses from closing, the program ended in May 2021 when it ran out of funding. Still, many loan and financing options exist currently to help you secure the funding needed to adapt and grow your business. The Employee Retention Credit is one of many financing options you may have. Your first step is to consider why you need financing — is it to rebuild, expand, or simply maintain? Then considering working with a lending marketplace, like Lendio, that can help you connect with multiple financing options and determine which is the best for your business’s unique situation and current goals. Have Any Businesses Fully Recovered? Regardless of what economists predict or statistics show today, the truth is that businesses are still adapting, whether it’s because of remote work options and shifting work relationships; supply chain issues—shortages, delays, cost increases—that continue to haunt businesses; ever-evolving regulations on safety protocols; or hiring challenges. All of this implies we’ve entered either a new or new-for-now normal. The way to make it through is to once again set your sights to thrive, however that looks for your business. Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice on any particular matter.