The huge benefit of being a small business is in crisis situations one has the ability to make direction changes instantly. As we are all seeing presently, small business owners, the self-employed and freelancers are reacting to huge market shifts. They’re applying their products and services accordingly. Once servicing businesses small service providers are now going direct-to-consumer. Even the big corps are getting in on the act. Pivoting their manufacturing operations from producing those products no longer needed to be producing new lines. Hand sanitiser, face masks, ventilators.
The key is being DECISIVE. Doing the same as before and expecting the same result in a massively different market is madness. Deciding what is going to work and crucially what isn’t, will save money, save employees if you have them and a whole lot of negative energy. How you handle a crisis like this is a very good signpost to how you can succeed in normal conditions. The ability to be opportunistic is not immediately obvious but incredibly valuable.
How do you approach this as a small business then? Are there signs and is there a step-by-step process to go through? Like everything, such as a business plan, it’s good to make a structure and work through it in small chunks so it stops being a big old dark cloud hanging over.
…this current situation is unprecedented and hopefully will be behind us all in the coming weeks/months before a sense of normality resumes.
Assess your current business outlook and pipelines.
If your business is feeling a real immediate pinch from a crisis like this, sales are most likely to have slowed or stopped completely. Are cancellations are now far outweighing booking enquiries? In all this being aware of the state of each revenue stream or route to market, and when you need to make a call on stopping or pivoting them to something more efficient are crucial.
Assess the wider market, where could you go.
With the market shrinking so quickly, having your plan B or C ready to go instantly will pay dividends. Whether that is to go into survival mode and closing up the studio or changing direction. Your core business of photography may rely on events, schools or special occasions, in which case you know the answer. If you need income, then pivoting to providing online classes in photography techniques while people are stuck at home might be one option. Tutoring stuck-at-home school kids in creative arts may also be another one. Offering digital downloads rather than pushing physical prints is another, especially with many labs now closing. Can people’s increased time at home now present an opportunity for you to communicate to them to finally get around to organising/ordering those images?
The social networks have seen an explosion in free tutorials from marketing to drawing. Whilst there is no monetary comeback in this approach, it may be an opportunity to offer your editing and creative skills to media organisations trying to keep their costs very low until things normalise. In the long run, this places you in a great position with these organisations, provides valuable networking and short term gives an insight into what works with them might be like.
Across the board, it’s time to cut back on all unnecessary expense and this should be a priority for a small business even when there is no crisis. Not an easy task then. The other things to look at are negotiating payment holidays on loans, equipment hires, tax relief, government subsidies on your income. All the horrible jobs that require dedicated admin time but will help enormously in the medium term.
In crisis situations, try to keep your head.
Easier said than done but panic will only exacerbate the situation facing all of us. Moving through the issues calmly and methodically where possible, the light will appear before too long. Keep your passion front and centre. Try to remember that this current situation is unprecedented and hopefully will be behind us all in the coming weeks/months before a sense of normality resumes.