Suffice it to say that small business owners across all industries had their work cut out for them last year. As the COVID-19 pandemic began upending all of our lives, entrepreneurs were forced to think outside the box to keep business running smoothly. Many companies had no choice but to either rapidly transition to remote work or implement new programs—like curbside pickup—to keep revenue streams intact.
As we move into the second year of the pandemic, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the last year and see what small business lessons you can use to guide your business forward in 2021 and beyond. Here are four main takeaways from living a year under COVID.
1. The unexpected can happen at any time—be ready
As far too many business owners learned the hard way in 2020, it is impossible to be prepared for every scenario that can come your way. You might have the perfect business plan and tried-and-tested processes and procedures only to have your entire world come crashing down literally overnight.
That being the case, it is critical that you understand the reality that things can shift dramatically at any point in time. From there, you need to make sure your business is in a position to respond with urgency to whatever you encounter.
One way to do that is by securing a flexible line of business credit. With access to a credit line, you can obtain funding the moment you need it during an emergency scenario.
While many small business owners were able to obtain COVID business loans, those funds didn’t come as quickly as most entrepreneurs would have hoped. Business lines of credit can solve this problem, giving you fast, on-demand access to the cash you need to carry you through a crisis.
2. Challenges can be a great opportunity for growth
Unfortunately, not every company was able to secure COVID business relief. As a result, many businesses were forced to figure out how to optimize their operations to the fullest extent and trim off whatever fat they could. At the same time, others were forced to reinvent their entire existence altogether.
Instead of being scared by the next unexpected event that you encounter, try to use it as an opportunity to improve your business—or even grow it by responding with agility to the market and creating new products and services. There’s a reason, after all, why so many organizations were able to bring in a ton of revenue last year with record-setting quarters.
3. Marketing is an essential business function
When the going gets tough, many small business owners take a long hard look at their marketing budget and decide that it’s an easy place to cut spend.
But the fact of the matter is that companies may need to engage with their audiences even more than normal during difficult times.
Remember, it costs a lot of money to acquire a new customer. At the same time, customer churn is an expensive problem that sets U.S. businesses back by as much as $136 billion each year. To maximize profitability, you need to keep current customers happy and engaged, and that’s where a robust marketing strategy enters the equation.
One of the biggest takeaways of COVID is the important role effective marketing plays in business success. If your small business neglected its marketing efforts last year, it may be time for you to rethink your company’s philosophy around marketing and transform its importance into the “essential” category.
4. Digital is more important than ever before
With everyone stuck at home, it comes as no surprise that more and more businesses were investing in cloud services and digital properties. If nothing else, last year taught us just how important a role a strong digital presence can play in the success of a business.
Research suggests that 87% of shoppers begin their product searches online. This, coupled with the fact that industry watchers agree that the pandemic accelerated the widespread adoption of eCommerce by five years, paints a very obvious picture: small businesses, regardless of the industry they operate in, may need to make significant investments in digital if they wish to not only gain new business but also to remain relevant altogether.
How will you use these takeaways to grow your business?
As a small business owner, there’s no shortage of obstacles you’ll continue to encounter moving forward. Rather than seeing these challenges as a source of stress and misery, try to look at it the other way and view them as opportunities to transform your business for the better.
By leveraging the lessons you’ve gained from your unfortunate experiences and using them to build a more resilient, future-ready operation, you can take your business to the next level and put it in a position to respond swiftly and diligently to every scenario that comes your way.