With unforeseen events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, running a business becomes more challenging than usual.
A crisis brings along uncertainty and confusion which can breed stunted or slow business growth with the extreme being business failure.
The COVID-19 crisis has affected our daily activities including all business operations. Crises such as this pandemic leave businesses out for death or survival. During this crisis, many small businesses have closed their doors with most of the surviving ones just surviving.
Kenyans have been battling COVID-19 for about 9 months with new cases being reported to rise every wake of day. Just like the rest of the world, small business entrepreneurs in Kenya have been struggling to keep their businesses afloat.
With COVID-19, entrepreneurs, big and small, have had to make major decisions putting their entrepreneurship to a test.
The decisions you have made for your business since the pandemic started have your business where it is right now. Whether closed permanently or temporarily, still in business or just back in business.
Running a small business during a crisis .
Most small business entrepreneurs are young entrepreneurs and have never run a business during a worldwide crisis.
In the process of responding to the crisis, there are so many things an entrepreneur might do wrong or handle wrongly. And amid the COVID-19 uncertainty and confusion, you might have made one or two mistakes that have cost your business.
You probably didn’t have beforehand experience of running a business during a crisis or your business has never experienced a crisis – internal or external. Thus, ‘you are learning on the job’. On the other hand, it might be out of ignorance and responding to the crisis blindly.
1.Blinding yourself from the reality.
COVID-19 has made the financial situation a grey reality for many startups in Kenya. Thus, many small businesses have closed their doors for lacking enough cash reserves to get them through the pandemic. Some did not even last a month into the pandemic.
COVID-19 shifted the economy in Kenya from the word go and changed the consumer behavior in the country.
Only businesses that were able to come to terms with the reality of things have been able to survive thus far. They anticipated that an economic downslide was going to affect business operations and cash reserves thus preparing themselves for such.
The worst has probably happened on your end. Your business shut down permanently or temporarily. On the other hand, your business is open but your cash flow is a strain.
Knowing the reality of things will help you come up with plans to get your business back on track. For example, understanding the shift in consumer behavior at the moment will help you know what customers need and the changes you need to make accordingly.
2.Focusing on Surviving at the moment.
When you focus on surviving at the moment, you only think of short term solutions and set short term goals.
Well, with the uncertainty of COVID-19, most business owners might not prioritize long term solutions or goals. However, coming up with long term solutions helps prepare you and your business in case the crisis takes long.
For example, many businesses kept hoping that things would get back to normal after a while. Instead, things have been changing and as the pandemic continues, different challenges keep coming.
Above all, COVID-19 has caused a severe fallout in the economy, and some of these effects short-term, and others might be long-term. Don’t think of surviving the now alone, instead, come up with ways to link now with your next and your short-term with your long-term goals.
3.Not being open to change.
This is obvious as businesses that did not embrace the early changes caused by COVID-19 suffered a huge deal.
Crises bring short-term and long-term changes and how you adapt to these changes determines how you get to the other side.
One of the biggest impacts of this pandemic has been on consumer behavior. This pandemic has shifted how, when, where, and what consumers spend their money on. Consequently, this has changed many business operations. Businesses that have stayed afloat had to change their business models to adapt to these changes.
These changes open businesses to opportunities and not adapting to these changes is a way of kicking your business out the door. Knowing when to pivot gets entrepreneurs and their business through the hardest times.
It’s not too late to figure out how your business can adapt to the ‘new way of doing business’ and make your business sustainable. Let the change drive you to new opportunities for your business. Come up with new ways to meet your customer’s needs by adjusting your product or service delivery, etc.
You could even consider a new target audience base or modifying your primary product or service to meet new needs.
4.Not Being Transparent with your Team.
When COVID-19 started, and even now, most businesses are struggling to keep their businesses running. So many people have lost their jobs as companies try to cut their costs and keep their operations going.
With the economic uncertainty in the country, many employees are not sure whether their jobs are safe or not. This keeps them in limbo affecting their morale and productivity in the workplace.
Your employees know things are tough and it’s civil of you to let them know the challenges your business is facing at any given moment. You might have to call in some difficult shots at some point and layoff some of your employees or introduce pay cuts when your cash flow gets too thick.
When you are honest with your employees especially during this crisis, they get to trust you more and become more loyal to you.
5.Letting your customers slip away
Not connecting with your customers and your business community during a crisis can break your business.
When you are not connecting with your people, your competitors are. Even your loyal customers need a regular reminder you are still there.
Remember, many businesses are closing their doors and consumers know that. Meaning, if you go silent and they don’t see you or hear from you, they might assume you are out of the market.
Whatever changes your business is going through that would otherwise hint a disruption in delivery let your customers know. Are you closing your physical store but still online, let your customers know. Let them know that even with all the changes, you are still dedicated to giving them the best customer service and that they matter to you.
Let them see that you understand they are going through a difficult time too and that you can all get to the other side together.
Don’t just sit waiting for them to come looking for you, they will slip away from you. Instead, go where they are, show them you still value them, and don’t let them forget you.
Final Thoughts . . .
But as they say, mistakes are meant to make us learn and it’s never too late for you to take a U-turn. Most mistakes cannot be undone but there is always something you could do to salvage your small business even if it’s 9 months down the line.
If you were not in-tune with the hard reality COVID-19 has brought, understand this reality and adapt to these changes. Keep your team in the loop of how business is going and be honest when things hit the wall.
Lastly, remember the customers you let slip away just because you didn’t put in the work to connect with them. Know where they, their needs and look for ways to adapt your business to meet these needs.
Even as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, how you get to the other side of this crisis is partially determined by you. Learn from past mistakes as you avoid avertible mistakes.