The following is an interview with Liam Webster of Channel 31 on the impact of COVID on small business and some strategies that they may able to use to recover as we move out of lockdown mania.
How badly were small businesses affected by COVID?
Some were hit much harder than others. Geographically, Victoria was hardest hit because of 4 month lockdown. In total 140 days and counting versus an average of 6 days in the rest of the country.
Face to face businesses were also hit hard– hospitality, tourism, entertainment, residential trades and for them jobkeeper was a lifeline, but hose on the edge failed. Travel around Melbourne you will see lots of 'To Let' signs.
Non face to face businesses looked for ways to adapt. Many B2B services discovered zoom. Food services have built delivery capability.
With many businesses, private and public, now used to now working from home, I think businesses catering for city workers will struggle for some time.
I think many changes will stick because of the convenience factor.
What sort of things can small businesses do now coming out of COVID to recover?
Many businesses have already adapted to this new environment. The issue for the face-face businesses like hospitality, entertainment and tourism is the uncertainty. Someone sneezes in a suburb and there are lockouts and lockdowns. People can’t plan.
Businesses need to be flexible with their cancellation policies or else people won’t take a chance and book anything. That is, they take the risk away from the customer.
But there are people only too willing to spend having not spent much last year. Not travelling overseas, not buying new clothes or a new car as there was nowhere to go. So there is pent up demand. Just be easy to deal with.
How important are local communities in supporting small businesses?
Being active in local communities will be important. Be involved in events sponsored by councils. Network with aligned local businesses.
Be active in local social media. Our local butcher has a “Cooking with Corey” show on Facebook where he does slow cooked lamb or barbecued ribs that are available as a pre-cooked meal in the shop on the following day. Just heat and serve.
Use these activities to build a database. Give customers a reason for them to stay in contact.
What are some of the major difficulties small businesses may encounter at the moment?
Getting people returning to their old habits is probably the hardest. A year’s break can change them forever. However, this can create new opportunities as well. People might have more meals delivered than they would have eaten in your restaurant before. Convenience is the new focus. Be convenient.
And as previously advised, in this time of uncertainty, take the risk away from your customers.
What can small businesses do to attract more local customers?
Be easy to deal with.
Be visible in the community or online.
And build your database so you can communicate regularly with your customers.
May Your Business Be –As You Plan it!
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Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success and Price: How You Can Charge More Without Losing Sales.
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