While the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on the world’s population, it’s also wreaked havoc on small businesses. Research from earlier this year revealed that 25% of small businesses have had to shut down, with another 40% fearing they’ll meet a similar fate in the near future. Of the small business owners who responded to the survey, 84% feared the damage COVID-19 could inflict on their operations.
More recently, we’ve seen some good news emerging from the abyss of 2020. Consumer behavior is slowly inching back to where it was before the pandemic. This has allowed many small businesses to regain stability, and some industries are even thriving.
But we obviously aren’t out of the woods yet—and some experts believe the worst is yet to come.
“After a month of warning signs, this week’s data make it clear: The third surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is underway,” explains a report from The Atlantic. “Outbreaks have been worsening in many states for more than a month, and new COVID-19 cases jumped 18% this week, bringing the 7-day average to more than 51,000 cases a day…Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations, which had previously been creeping upward slowly, jumped more than 14% from a week earlier.”
How will we handle this new surge of COVID-19? That depends on who you ask. While some leading healthcare professionals express deep concerns about our ability to manage this potentially devastating crisis, small business owners are taking a more optimistic approach. A study from Comcast Business reveals that 78% of small business owners are at least “somewhat confident” that they’re in a position to handle a fall and winter marred by high levels of COVID-19 cases.
“They’ve been hit hard by the pandemic, but the survey shows there are some bright spots about what the future holds,” says Comcast Business chief marketing officer Eileen Diskin. “We’re certainly encouraged by what we’re seeing.”
All told, about 75% of small business owners feel confident that their operations will return to normal within 12 months. About a quarter of those respondents were even more bullish, predicting a return to normalcy within as few as 6 months.
This optimism reflects the positive signs that have appeared in recent weeks: the manufacturing sector is returning to a strong position, and housing is booming in many regions. Our domestic economy is correspondingly gaining ground, with some observers claiming that this recession could be one of the shortest in American history.
But the fact remains that COVID-19 cases are spiking again—and this time, the surge is being felt nationwide rather than in regional hotspots. Small business owners will need to rely on more than just positive thoughts to weather this winter.
Luckily, our nation’s entrepreneurs are equipped with hard-earned lessons from the earlier stages of the pandemic.
“Small businesses are incredibly resilient and have demonstrated a ton of agility during this time, having to rethink the way they do business and serve their customers,” says Diskin. “They are really focused on serving their customers and on ways to digitize their customer experience and customer journey…We learned that small businesses have had a lot of inertia when it comes to technology.”
With cases rising and potential trouble looming, it’s probably time for you to review the solutions you created earlier this year. Which ideas worked and which ideas need more refining? By drawing from your experiences, you’ll be able to identify your business’s strengths and weaknesses—and you can then work to identify solutions that are most relevant to your operations.
In order to strengthen your financial situation, consider these 3 financial lessons for small businesses in the COVID-19 era. They might be able to help sustain you through the coming months.
- Proactively improve your supply chain: Look for possible issues that could arise in your supply chain if the pandemic has as large of an effect this winter as it did earlier this year. Every solution you find now can save headaches—and dollars—down the road.
- Carefully manage your receivables: In order to keep your working capital in a comfortable spot, it’s worth reviewing how you send invoices and collect payments. The goal: to make your process as efficient and consistent as possible.
- Seek out new streams of revenue: Even if your business isn’t forced to pivot majorly to succeed during the pandemic, it’s always smart to find new methods for making money. If nothing else, these new streams can provide a cushion if things get tighter than expected this winter.
It’s always easier to adapt in advance than to react under duress. By preparing now, you’ll be in a better position—no matter what this winter brings. And once a vaccine is developed and COVID-19 is brought under control, you’ll still be the proud owner of all the improvements you make now.