How to Handle These Uncertain Times
Small Business in the Coronavirus Era
It certainly is a scary time in this coronavirus-filled world. Lots of uncertainty about our businesses and personal health can cause people to make bad decisions. My last 2 weeks have included dozens of calls from frantic business owners wondering what to do.
First of all, I do understand that this is a very difficult time. I also want to say that if you are afraid of your personal health to the degree that you feel you must not be around the public, then only you can make that decision with your business. We do need to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and any local governmental statutes put into effect.
However, many are making decisions about their business based on fears about what they think the future will bring. I feel this could be a mistake. To curtail or stop doing business before a drastic decline is not a good business decision. It is almost certain that the government will begin to assist businesses in the near future. If you close before it is mandated, it could very well hurt your chances of receiving help.
Most of the custom frame shops I work with are still experiencing normal or even above normal sales…. yet many are considering cutting hours or closing because they believe a big downturn is coming. Don’t create the problem by turning down or limiting business. Make those hard decisions AFTER results start to decline. Wait to cut hours and expenses until you see hard evidence that business is getting bad.
“Make those hard decisions AFTER results start to decline.”
Our shops are unique. We don’t see many shoppers each day and those working on projects are often isolated from customer interaction. If any industry is capable of continuing on, it is the custom framing industry.
So how do you know when it is time to make a change? Start by setting a benchmark that indicates that business has declined. Maybe that mark is a predetermined amount of cash reserves or a certain amount of sales loss compared to past years. But avoid making changes to your business until you reach that benchmark. It may never happen – nobody knows what the future is going to be for sure.
If and when you reach that benchmark, decide now what your first move will be. I don’t think limiting hours or closing should be your first move. You might cut staff or start paying reduced rent, but determine now what your first move will be – if and when you hit your predetermined benchmark.
The key is staying open with business as usual for as long as you can. There could be several obstacles to your ability to stay open. If vendors close that could be a problem. Consider ordering extra supplies and materials now on your best-selling and most used products. That way you may be able to continue filling orders when other shops cannot.
Market your shop more than ever. Continue to let the public know you are open and available to them. Consider promoting pick-up and delivery to accommodate those who want to stay at home.
These are very difficult and trying times but we will survive and business will return to normal. Do everything in your power to keep your business strong and viable. Make a plan now, but don’t implement it until you know it is necessary. I wish you all the best and most of all good health.