By Lazar Delorenzo Charlton
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with this seemingly endless Covid-19 rollercoaster, now we have hurricane season thrown into the mix. Hurricane Isaias was a windy, wet reminder that induced post-Dorian anxieties and highlighted just how important this fighting period is for small businesses. At the onset of the quarantine and lockdown period in March of this year, an estimated 30-40 percent revenue loss was projected to be felt by all of the business stakeholders in the archipelago. After the recent reintroduction of business operation restrictions due to a spike in new coronavirus infections, I’m sure many would agree with those numbers and muse if the percentage will increase.
What do we do now?
Ok, so now many of us are shut down again, or at least put back on restricted operations. For the businesses that were already in trouble, it’s been hard to breathe easy. Some business owners, namely that haven’t been in operation for a year yet, have found it easier just to throw in the towel. Others have furloughed or let go of more employees in an attempt to keep the business’ head above water. For those that have a fighting chance, a champion has emerged – the online platform.
Pivoting a traditionally in-person small business to a strictly online platform might be a bit overwhelming at first, but now isn’t the time to shy away from life changing, or in this case, business changing challenges. First things first is to take the fear out of going digital. If they have the means, most small businesses now should have started to shift into thinking how they can use online tools to better serve their customers.
Social media has one obvious tangible advantage for small business owners – most loyal customers are already using it. During these lengthy periods at home, whether imposed by a lockdown or waiting out a storm, being online is inevitably a great way for customers to visit their favorite social media pages, and its important for us to be ready to show them that just because they can’t be out and about that they don’t have access to us. Developing a minimum effective dose for your online communication strategy will no doubt yield results if you’re dedicated to finessing your content. Easier said than done? Yes. Do you have time to do so now? Also yes. So let’s get it done.
Advertising an opportunity to connect with customers that have questions about your small business offerings is a great way to stay connected as well. Zoom, Instagram Live and Facebook are fantastic tools for this. It’s also a great way to see some smiling faces and keep the human interest alive in your business interactions. Come up with a meeting agenda that will be interactive and have some fun. Continue to make yourself relatable and attractive to the public. When inclement weather falls upon us (hopefully nothing serious for the rest of the year), this is also a way to give your customers something to look forward to and neutralize the anxiety about what’s happening outside.
The government has provided an opportunity for small and medium-sized enterprises to receive a Business Continuity Grant through its COVID-19 relief initiative. The initiative is managed by the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre and has already assisted many small businesses in keeping their payroll fluid. Do your research and take advantage! More information on how this can help your business can be found at www.accessaccelerator.org.
There is strength in numbers! The park at the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts has been transformed into a bustling small business vendor community. Bubble tea, unique crafted drinks, bao buns delicious pasta creations, guava duff and even swimsuits are now being sold at the park with the help of Tinferl, a group young entrepreneurs who formed an organization that provided an opportunity for small business owners to showcase and sell their wares to Bahamians and to future tourists looking for a fresh (and safe) open air take on the Bahamian lunch and shopping experience. This organization is a perfect resource for small business owners and potential startups to keep their dream alive and continue to keep revenue streams viable. More information is available at www.tinferl.com.
Lazar Delorenzo Charlton is a freelance public relations manager most notably previously heading up the regional PR of a world renowned all-inclusive hotel brand. He is a partner/business development manager at The New Duff, and is a luxury estate agent at Condo Vikings.