Small Businesses and COVID-19

The world is in the midst of one of the most stunning crises of the last century. At the time of this writing, borders around the world are closing in an effort to cope with the COVID-19 virus taking the globe by storm. Before proceeding with this article: whoever you are, wherever you are, please stay safe, and if possible, stay home.

In a short period of time, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has rattled the global economy almost as hard as the 2008 recession – and this might be just the beginning. The global financial markets have nosedived, losing nearly a 3rd of their value in the 2 weeks since lockdowns began to ravage the Western markets.

Oil prices have dipped below the $30 threshold many fiscal economists see as a crisis tipping point, the biggest drop since the gulf war. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted the first drop in global oil demand since the recession.

No industry has seen a larger shock to the system than Tourism, however, which had lost a whopping $113 billion before the recent travel bans were even announced. Airliners like British Airways are cutting as much as 75% of their flying capacity, with some airlines threatening insolvency and requesting bailouts.

As dramatic as this virus has been on the macroeconomy, larger businesses ultimately have cash reserves to stomach periods of lost revenues. The real casualties to COVID-19, unfortunately, are small businesses and their employees.

The US is set to see an unprecedented 700 percent one week rise in layoffs. Several leading banks are forecasting skyrocketing small business bankruptcies in the coming weeks and months to bring unemployment levels to a place not seen in half a century. Similar projections in Canada has led to a desperate government offering payroll relief for businesses to stay solvent and keep their staff intact. 60% of small businesses in a recent survey said they’ve lost more than half their resume since the pandemic began.

So what can small businesses do to survive (and possibly thrive) during this crisis? The first step is to take a deep breath. China recently marked it’s first day with any new infections. Other asian countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have curtailed infections down as well as normal life is gradually beginning to resume.

In other words: this crisis is solvable.

Beyond that, the crisis does present an opportunity for small businesses to adapt and adjust. Perhaps the single biggest global change as a result of this crisis is the shift towards a more online world. COVID-19 has forced millions of organizations to rapidly transition towards a remote workforce. From companies like Microsoft to Twitter, companies big and small are adjusting towards a more remote, online setup.

While it’s certainly been a catalyzing function, the virus has only accelerated a process that’s been nearly 10 years in the making. A study observing data between the years 2005 and 2019 summarized some of the trends as follows (numbers not updated post-COVID, of course):

  • 5 million employee (3.6% of the workforce) currently work-at-home half-time or more
  • 40% more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than did five years ago
  • 69% of employers offer remote work on an ad hoc basis to at least some employees, 42% offer it part time, 27% offer it full time

This change is likely to be permanent long after this crisis, and represents the final global push to a fully online-first world. Now is the time to invest in becoming a digitally-oriented small business.

Small businesses today that invest in modern digital marketing & growth hacking can future-proof them from similar crisis. As difficult as this crisis has been, the technology and digital sector has been largely buffered – in fact, many tech IPOs have flourished through the market crisis.

It’s time to gradually shift away from a brick and mortar world and take this crisis as a trigger to reworking your business into a digitally-facing business. Invest in smart digital marketing funnels, and build your growth infrastructure from the ground up.

The best part? If you set that in stage now – when things are already slow to begin with – you’ll reap the rewards 10-fold once the crisis slows and the markets begin to return to normal. At the end of the day, there are 2 approaches a business can take in a crisis – to ride the wave, or try to swim for the shore.

It’s time to ride.

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