How Can Small Business Owners Navigate Crises Or Downturns?

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    Small Biz Digest

    How Can Small Business Owners Navigate Crises Or Downturns?

    In times of turmoil, the wisdom of experienced leaders can be your compass. We've gathered six firsthand accounts from Founders and CEOs on steering through business crises. These insights range from strengthening client relations to accelerating digital transformations, offering a blueprint for resilience and adaptability.

    • Strengthen Client Relations During Downturn
    • Mitigate Issues with Customer Outreach
    • Redesign Business Model Amidst Challenges
    • Adapt Strategy to Pandemic Constraints
    • Maintain Employee Morale in Crisis
    • Accelerate Digital Transformation for Client Access

    Strengthen Client Relations During Downturn

    During the Great Recession, I was working in the financial services industry. It was a challenging time, as many of our clients were deeply impacted by the crisis and market volatility, causing industry-wide impacts. However, while budgets were tightening, we navigated this downturn by strengthening our client relations, focusing on communication, and doubling down on optimization. I ensured my team was transparent about the challenges and worked with clients on strategies to mitigate potential risks, and we became even more surgical with how we used data to inform key strategies.

    As a result, we retained the vast majority of our clients and even attracted new ones, primarily due to our position in their market and resulting brand recognition. This experience highlighted the importance of client relationships and communication during a crisis, lessons I've carried with me throughout my career.

    Zach Robbins
    Zach RobbinsFounder, LoanFolk

    Mitigate Issues with Customer Outreach

    At one point, we had an issue with our stock, which delayed a lot of orders. This was hugely problematic, as we pride ourselves on being a business with a strong focus on quality and customer satisfaction. Canceling the orders was also not possible, as our product is bespoke and they had already gone into production, so it was either accept the situation and the negative impact it might have or adapt and try to mitigate it. We decided as a team that we would make the best out of this situation. This meant one-on-one calls with each customer that was affected, discounts on future orders, and other such offerings to soften the inconvenience. It was taxing on our business, a huge time investment that many other companies would have justified skipping, and surprisingly, in the end, it consolidated our relationship with these customers. Offering them that human level of attention, acknowledging and understanding how our internal issue has affected them, really went a long way.

    Will Baker
    Will BakerDirector, Skirtings R Us

    Redesign Business Model Amidst Challenges

    As a solo business owner, my ability to perform is directly tied to my income. So when I experienced severe burnout and some very challenging life circumstances, I thought my business was doomed. But it was in that low moment that I was able to get really honest and ruthless with my time and energy as a business owner and redesign my marketing, offers, and sales to better fit with my actual available capacity. I shifted from open-ended, custom, done-for-you projects into streamlined, productized services, which required a lot less of me from a customer and project management perspective but still allowed me to deliver high-quality deliverables for clients. I also diversified my business with digital products and affiliate marketing, so my income wasn't purely tied to my time. Ultimately, my business after this shift is far more robust, successful, and profitable—and a far better fit for me personally as well!

    Michelle Pontvert
    Michelle PontvertOnline Business Strategist & Educator, Michelle Pontvert

    Adapt Strategy to Pandemic Constraints

    We had the misfortune of starting our business only weeks before the global pandemic hit the world. This meant that our launch strategy was unviable, and it also meant we lost money on already confirmed spending. To navigate this crisis, we focused on two things: 1) carrying on regardless, with stoicism—daily team meetings to ensure a balance between short-term and long-term goals, with a belief that the pandemic has created different and abundant opportunities; 2) maintaining a strong team spirit and fun where we could, albeit remotely. We arranged team events over Zoom, such as murder-mystery games and quizzes, which meant we retained social interaction but in a novel way.

    Simon Stapleton
    Simon StapletonCEO CTO of Truthsayers Ltd, Truthsayers

    Maintain Employee Morale in Crisis

    A business crisis can be tough, and on top of that, you don't want your best employees to leave the company after seeing the struggle. We make sure we are taking care of them and motivating the employees to increase their retention rate. I believe these are the pillars of our company. Even when we see a slight downturn in our profits, while searching for the best ways to combat it, we look after our best employees and make sure we don't overburden them with everything. This has always helped us maintain good relations with our employees while giving them the best encouragement we can. When we care for the employees, they care for us, ensuring we survive through any struggle.

    Dan Fried
    Dan FriedCEO, Specialty Metals

    Accelerate Digital Transformation for Client Access

    Any corporate journey involves navigating through ups and downs, and we've faced our fair share of difficulties. The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a substantial influence on our business practices and client relationships, is one prominent example.

    Our main goal as an online Medicare agency has always been to communicate directly with customers. But since the pandemic made in-person meetings impossible, we had to quickly change course. In order to provide smooth virtual consultations, we expedited our digital transformation by improving our web platforms. This preserved and, in certain situations, even increased our client accessibility.

    Additionally, we ramped up our content production, providing valuable information and updates related to Medicare and COVID-19. This helped in addressing the growing concerns and questions from our client base, establishing us as a reliable source of information during uncertain times.

    Russell Noga
    Russell NogaCEO,