Observations for future small business owners going through a pandemic.

This is top of the list of things I never thought I’d write about. Let’s get straight into it. Here’s what I’ve learned through personal experience and talking with others during the Novel Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. It’s what I know, personally not what I’m guessing so this is mostly useful for anyone who is able to remain trading in some form or another.

1. It’s going to be emotional

Get through your reactions and emotions fast. What’s ahead of you is going to be an unstable business environment without a clear timeline and you’ll need to respond and make decisions as the situation unfolds. From disbelief, to fear, to panic to big picture comprehension … get to the part where you acknowledge the situation ASAP.


Take a couple of days if you must and if you can but get through the emotional processing as soon as you can. You need a clear head and the ability to focus on decisions that are going to 

set you up for the best outcome post-crisis. The crisis situation will eventually end and what you do now will determine how well you come out the other side. Be OK with that. It is what it is. Focus on what you can do.

2. Initial business crisis management

If you have a team, communicate with them straight up.

Review scheduled marketing now and stop anything that might be inappropriate in the current situation.

Review your numbers and worst/best case scenarios financially (especially if you have a team). Reassure your team and get some idea of everyone’s circumstances and individual ability to weather the storm. If you’re not someone who is good with numbers get help from someone who is.

Get on top of the health and safety requirements fast. Review procedures for infection control in the workplace and immediately put in place whatever measures are necessary to protect your team and your clients. Particularly if you are dealing with the public then this will reassure everyone. Be proactive about any likely concerns and have answers.

Make a decision – will you: keep trading, reduce hours, pivot, adapt.

Contact your customers. Be visible. Let them know you’re being responsive and taking action. Let them see you leading.

Review what needs to be done next and assign people to do the things. Give your team authority to do what’s needed and make decisions.

3. Trading during a crisis

If cashflow is going to be under pressure, review orders and talk to your suppliers to extend terms or offer cancellations.

Add flexibility for customers, be open to ideas here.  Are you prepared to lose customers and rebuild later and if so at what cost? Weigh up your options.

Talk your team through any changes that are being implemented and discuss how to deal with difficult situations. Make sure everyone knows how they can handle tricky situations or get back-up for various scenarios. Lot’s of people are hurting right now and emotions are fragile. We all need to be understanding.

Show your pandemic sanitisation efforts as soon as it becomes necessary. It’s hard to get this point across without seeming irresponsible but there’s a fine line between unnecessarily scaring people and being safe. At the end of the day your care for your customer and your team should be the priority.

Review what the government is doing to help and setup a reading list so you can stay on top of news without getting overwhelmed.

Probably a good idea to remove Facebook, Twitter and news apps from your phone if you notice you’re going down the rabbit hole often. A break might be all you need to get perspective again.

Adapt your services as needed. Question everything in your current processes and change as needed.

What do people need?  Launch a delivery option if it will help.

Get your services and products online and your team set up for remote work.

Partner up. I’ve seen some incredible collaborations across some industries along their supply chains and also within local areas.

4. Marketing during a crisis

In the beginning,  you will have a small window of opportunity to run situation appropriate campaigns.   In the next phase it might no longer be viable or ethical to remain open so while you can safely trade and while laws allow, you need to immediately ramp up your marketing to reach more people and get the dollars in while you can (if you feel you can safely and ethically to do this of course).

You’re possibly going to lose some customers, so this is the time to remind your current customers you’re still around and to widen your reach to make up for expected losses. This might sound impossible but I have helped some of my clients do this so I know it can work. See next point.

Don’t go doing ‘salesy’ pitches to new customers. This isn’t the time for that. Most of my clients are farmers not hunters and I love that because that’s the kind of marketing we do. Don’t change now. It won’t go down well. Trust me on that one.

Contact existing clients and chat personally if you can.

When business disruption occurs, the winners are those who are closest to their customers.

When you are close to your customers you know what they need.   When you know what they need you can deliver value.

If you send mass emails make them useful. I do suggest you contact current and past customers but not with generic update emails. Everyone will be doing this and it just creates noise unless you stand out.

Get some updates going on social media.  Remember that socials are not for selling.  Be social. Reach out, be supportive and helpful.

So there is my usual ‘brain dump’  to assist you in getting through this.  We are all going to have tough times ahead but as they say (and it’s true which is why I’m repeating it) ‘we’re all in this together’.

Reach out if you think I can help or if you just want to chat.