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What to Do When Times are Tough: Navigating Coronavirus as a Small Business Owner

April 14, 2020

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How are you holding up amid this Coronavirus chaos? If you’re a small business owner and you’re struggling right now, know that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together and most of us are a bit shaken up by the current happenings in the world around us. If you’re finding it hard to navigate this weird time, Cami and I want to support you by answering all of your pressing questions. We decided to hop on Instagram to live stream the recording of this episode so that we could deliver answers to you guys in real-time. 

Today, we are sharing tips on how you can maintain connection and a sense of community, lead with compassion, and support your clients. We’re also chatting about how to go about adjusting your offerings and marketing to meet customers where they’re at during this time so that you can maintain your revenue. 

Let’s be friends! Find us on Instagram @bizbirthdaybash

Looking for a supportive community full of fellow creative biz owners? Come hang out with us inside our A-Z directory membership Facebook group. We have lots of fun stuff happening inside the group right now. We’re doing more live streams and pajama parties. Cami and I are jumping in often to share tips and advice, and Community members are rallying together to support one another.

Seek Community 

Cami: (03:29)

The first thing on this list of things you can be doing right now when times are tough is to connect with community, which is what we’re doing right now. This is the time for us to really lean in into those virtual Hangouts. So lean into those Facebook groups, find those entrepreneur buddies who are going through the same type of struggle as you are. Do those FaceTimes. Join us on live streams. Since this is a time when we’re all feeling kind of isolated, digital community is more important than ever. 

Elisabeth: (04:17)

We had a pajama party in our A-Z directory membership Facebook group, which is a great place for people to still connect and be together during this time. And I think a bunch of other groups, whether it’s a free community or a paid membership, have been really good at supporting other creatives. And even if they can’t necessarily support them, at least there are people there saying, “I understand what you’re going through!”  

Show up and Lead With Compassion

Elisabeth: (09:15)

So the next thing you can do when times are tough is just continue to show up and lead with compassion. And it’s okay for you to be vulnerable. 

Honestly, one of the people I’ve seen do this really well is Britt of swell press. She has gotten on and talked on Instagram a couple of different times just about like what this really looks like for her business because by being vulnerable you get to share so much of how you’re dealing with different things. And I think that offers some like comfort to other people, when you realize that you’re not alone. So, that kinda goes back to the whole point with community.

Elisabeth: (09:54)

But we’re definitely all freaked out and feeling weird about this and not quite sure how to move forward. So, this is a time where everyone needs to be giving each other extra grace. This goes for both customers and clients. So, this means that it’s okay to be vulnerable. I think even with your clients too but still from a professional standpoint. When you’re dealing with different things like supply closures or supply chain is different now or things are slower or like these big companies where a lot of us might buy envelopes from are closed for like a couple of weeks. The question is, how do we deal with that and how do we move forward? Part of that is just showing up, being vulnerable and being honest.

I don’t think there’s any point for us to try to hide what’s happening. Our clients are well aware of what’s happening in the world and if we’re just honest with them about how it’s affecting our business while still providing them a solution for like, Oh I can’t find this, but here’s X, Y and Z that we could maybe use instead. Then you’re still continuing to serve them well. 

Be Proactive and Reach out to Your Clients

Cami: (17:52)

If you have custom clients, definitely reach out to them because they’re probably going to have questions about how to handle invitations. They might be asking questions like, “ should I send this, or Should I not send this?”  “Do I need to send a postponement?” 

I’ve had this happen with a handful of clients. I’m like, you know, I don’t even know what we should be doing. Because this situation was unprecedented. I don’t know if we should send a postpone or a way to do an invitation. So,  I’m like, you know what, I’m just going to calm down. I’m going to like to take the information that I do have and figure out the best solution for them because I am still the expert in the situation more than they are.Like I’m still the one, they’re trusting to know what is happening in the wedding industry and what would be okay and what wouldn’t more than they would. So, I’m just going to take that and do the best job possible. 

Protect Your Boundaries While Serving

Cami: (19:06)

I was a little overwhelmed with thinking about reaching out to my clients cause I was like, well what if I ask them what they need help with and then they tell me they need all these things that I can’t help them with right now. Like I may not have the space or the financial capability in my business to give them that for free or discounted rate. Because I genuinely can’t. And then I looked like a jerk by saying no. 

So I have been framing my emails to clients as more of a statement rather than a question. I can just be there to give them support without ignoring my own boundaries as a business owner. So I’ll be like, Hey, I’m thinking of you at this time. I know things are really, really difficult, but I just want you to know like I’m thinking about you and your wedding. I’m here if you need me. Versus like what can I do? And like making them more stressed out probably than they even were. 

So just like a little note of support, like even with my clients who are getting married at a later time, I sent them emails and was just like, Hey, you know, I’m thinking about you. I know this has probably added stress to your wedding, but you know, you’re top of mind right now. I’m praying for you in your wedding. I’m praying for you and your future husband. I helped. This is going really smoothly and that, you know, keeps it as stress free as possible. 

And just like letting them know that I’m trying to be there for them without explicitly asking what can I do? And I mean you can totally do that too, but maybe some of us need that boundary right now because we are also dealing with some crazy stuff in our life. You know, with things going on. It’s not just like it doesn’t affect us. Um, so just being aware that you need to protect your boundaries too.

Evaluate Your Business Expenses 

Cami: (26:39)

Elizabeth made like this financial breakdown of all our overhead expenses. 

Elisabeth: (26:43)

Yeah, I just did it in a Google spreadsheet and then I shared it in our Facebook groups. So perks of being in the Facebook group, you get to see a lot of insider stuff like this inside the A-Z directory membership.

But yeah, I decided to take some time. It really only took like 15 to 20 minutes because what I did was I looked at my credit card bill and my bank statements basically to see what I was paying on a monthly basis. 

Elisabeth: (27:42)

It was actually super encouraging and comforting. Like most of the time this actually isn’t scary because it allows you to understand your business and your numbers and when you understand your numbers, you have the ability to either remain calm or have a little more control. So once I saw that, I was like, Oh, I have less than $300 in actual business overhead each month for things that I’m paying for. Like I could continue to operate for a few months and be okay because I have enough money in my business bank account. Like I might not be paying myself like anything or as much, but I’m going to keep my business afloat and I’m going to keep it running during this time until I booked my next client until things hopefully go back to normal. But who even knows what the world is going to look like after this?

Cami: (28:33)

So, this is a great time to just like look at where your money is actually going because it can just be like, I don’t know, you just turn a blind eye to put your blinders on when you’re just moving forward and chugging along. But now just actually take the time to step back and look at it. 

Streamline Your Systems and Processes

Elisbeth: (30:55)

continue to refine your workflows and processes. Start working on your business during the slower period just to make it work even better by the time this passes. So this means that you can go into Dubsato or HoneyBook, whatever client management system you’re using, and get that cleaned up. And for me, with my rebrand, I’m going to have to switch over everything to like a new look and refine my forms a lot. And now I have a little bit of time to do that.

Another idea is to clean up your website. Make those changes that you’ve been wanting to make. Make it prettier, add more information, consider adding a blog to your website and start doing some posts, you can do that. Product images are another thing that you continued to take and make cleaner. 

Keep Moving Forward 

Cami: (35:43)

do your best to not be stagnant during this time. And I know like we can feel like we just want to sit around all day or just like watching Netflix and doing nothing.

And I am like a huge proponent of doing nothing. Like I love doing that thing. But I do think like for our own mental sanity, we do need to do our best to not become totally stagnant for like a week at a time. Just being like, doing nothing because you’re going to lose your mind.

So I think this is especially important for product shop owners to start leaning into online commerce as much as possible right now. And to avoid  just being like, you know what? This sucks. I’m not gonna do anything because that’s just not the attitude you want to have as a business owner. So here’s the thing, don’t do nothing but be okay if you can’t do everything. And I think that’s what we all need to hear right now.

Cami: (36:35)

But don’t feel like you need to write a to do list that has like 42 things on it and then feel horrible because you only got three things done. Like take that as a win. Like right now on, like if I do one thing on my to do list, I need to do one thing a day. I’m like, that was good because I am in a different head space than I normally am. 

Lean in to What you can Control

Elisabeth: (41:55)

So, focus on what you can control. Maybe that looks like sticking to a really good morning routine. I know for me my morning routine is shot. I was bad at morning routines in the first place, so I have given myself a lot of grace. I can control how much grace I give myself. So, if I’m up by 8:30 am and showered by 9:00 am then I consider that a win.

Elisabeth: (44:38)

None of us like feeling like we’re out of control, that we don’t know what’s happening. But that’s just like the reality of the situation. Nobody really knows or understands what’s going on and that is okay. But if you can add that sense of normalcy to your life, like with those routines in those times can mean that it’s like, Hey, you’re not walking out to your driveway at five to work out, but you’re at least getting in your workout, which is really important to you. Then that’s like what matters at the end of the day. 

Pivot to Maintain Revenue

Cami: (45:12)

So, I think right now we all are feeling really icky about selling, but like I want to encourage you guys to not feel icky because you can still serve people by selling to them. Like maybe you have that thing that they could actually use right now. Like how to DIY your own website and people are like, I do want to do that. I know I wouldn’t buy this thing. Like I want to work on my wholesale catalog so I’m thinking I’m going to buy the InDesign field guide because I still feel clueless and InDesign. I’m like, I do need that thing right now and I’m still going to purchase it. So do this by continuing to tell your customers how they can spend money with you.

Cami: (45:47)

Like don’t just start like shutting up and clamming up and you’re like, I have nothing important to say. I have nothing to sell. Like no one needs a cute coffee mug right now. They’ll just be like, Hey, you know what? I still have these coffee mugs for sale on my site. They’ll make great Easter gifts or whatever. Continue to tell your customers how they can support you because there is also this like rally movement around small businesses right now too where people are like supporting small businesses. They need help the most and people who have the means to do that want to help. Like they do want to support you in ways that they can’t. Like I had one of the best sales days of my business and like a really, really long time. 

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