Back to Business? After countless small businesses were driven to the edge, the US economy appears to be on the threshold of long-term recovery. The good news regarding vaccine research and the continuing easing of limitations from coast to coast is that small businesses are becoming more enthusiastic about their prospects in 2021.
However, many of them are now at a fork in the path. To stay viable, several businesses needed to make a quick transition to eCommerce and other non-contact sales methods. Now that those steps are no longer strictly necessary, the choice is whether to unwind them or make them a long-term part of the marketing strategy.
Here’s an action plan for small business owners facing such decisions
Create a Cost/Benefit Analysis
The simplest and most obvious way to determine whether your pandemic-driven business improvements are worth keeping is to compare them to the pre-pandemic status quo dollar-for-dollar. The key to getting this right is to try to separate the cost of the shift so you can compare the relative merits of your pre and post-pandemic operational approaches.
There’s a lot to consider when performing a cost/benefit analysis, so take your time and be deliberate. In this situation, comparing your company’s Q4 2019 results to Q4 2020 results is an excellent place to start. This should provide you with an apples-to-apples comparison between before the pandemic’s effects kicked in and after you’d modified your operations. This will also assist you in removing the changeover charges like setting up an eCommerce or transitioning to digital payments.
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On the expense side, only consider savings that would persist if an operational adjustment, such as reduced office space, became permanent. Be cautious of pandemic-related expense reductions, such as if your vehicle insurance premiums decreased, as these could be the consequence of temporary rate reduction schemes and other givebacks.
You must then assess the impact on your client base for each modification that was a net benefit to your company. This is an important piece of information to consider while making a decision. That’s because you need to know that if you don’t return to your pre-pandemic operational style, your clients will continue to patronize your business.
This can be accomplished using a variety of online survey platforms. Your customer surveys should ask questions that are as clear as feasible about your goals. Ask your clients how they felt about engaging with your business during the pandemic, and whether they’d be willing to patronize it again if you changed your operating practices. You should also solicit input from them in order to get suggestions for how to improve your consumer activities.
Based on industry, you may discover that your clients anticipate (or perhaps demand) that you resume operations as they were before the epidemic. If a sufficient number of people believe this, the rest of the exercise is pointless. However, if a great majority of people seem to like the adjustments you’ve made, it’s a good hint that you should keep things.
Consider the Non-Monetary Consequences
The non-monetary expenses of making your operational modifications permanent are the next factor to examine in your decision-making process. Have you, for example, laid off or furloughed long-term personnel who will become redundant if normal operations are not resumed? If this is the case, you should think about their well-being before implementing permanent operational adjustments.
In other circumstances, you may have contractual commitments to specific employees, complicating your decision and making it unwise to pursue. You may also want to make room in your new operating structure for some (or all) of your pre-pandemic workforce.
That may necessitate skill retraining or other accommodations, which you should think about before making a decision.
Assess the Prospects for Growth
When assessing your post-pandemic options, the last thing you’ll want to consider is how your decision will affect your company’s long-term growth potential. For example, if you run a storefront that used to compete with other local retailers before the epidemic, but now has to compete with eCommerce behemoths like Amazon, that could be a deciding factor.
That means you’ll have to go back over your original business plan to determine if your market and competitor research is still applicable to your new company models. If they aren’t, you should repeat the procedure to evaluate if your company has a reasonable chance of competing and thriving in its new environment.
It’s possible that your company would be better suited to returning to its pre-pandemic model because the route to growth would be clearer. Remember that drastically modifying the way your company operates is akin to launching a new company.
The unusual nature of the epidemic may have given you a distorted view of your company’s chances for success after things have returned to normal.
At the end of the day, if your company appears to be doing well and saving money as a result of its new operations, it may be worthwhile to remain with them. However, before making any judgments, make sure to evaluate all of the issues listed here. Keep in mind that your decision may not be black-and-white. If your company, for example, drastically increased online sales in response to the pandemic, it may be possible to restore normal operations while your new processes are being implemented. That’s a completely valid approach to go as long as the financial components are in order.
Whatever you pick, one simple fact should give you comfort: if your small business has survived it through the worst of the pandemic, you’ve already succeeded. And if you continue to work with the same passion and zeal as you did in 2020, whatever you accomplish from here will be a huge success.