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Ask SCORE: Innovate and adapt

Mark Klipsch of the St. Louis Bi-State region of SCORE offers advice to help small businesses meet and overcome the challenges they face.

As Missouri businesses begin the long, slow process of recovering from the effects of COVID-19, the uphill climb will be steeper for some industries than others. Tourism and hospitality, for example, are expected to see staggering losses.

The pandemic has affected nearly every business around the globe, causing everything from company shut-downs to overwhelming product demand and a shift to remote working.

To ensure your business can succeed long-term, you must be prepared to manage the inevitable changes that will come your way. Your ability to innovate and adapt are key.

Here are some of the lessons in adaptability from SCORE clients in businesses that are forging ahead in the face of COVID-19.

Recognize and respond to customers’ changing needs

In times of significant transition, it’s critical that you look at what’s changing for your customers and rethink how you can best serve them. Loyal customers give you more sales opportunities. Be sure to communicate business changes, including hours of operations, virtual offerings and managerial decisions to keep customers in the loop during shifting times.

Find ways to help your community

Genuinely connecting with your community is a powerful way to build trust, loyalty and name recognition. When it’s no longer possible to do business as usual, find a way to operate that serves those in need.

Never stop marketing

No matter how many things may change, one thing never will — marketing is always necessary, especially during a crisis. Your marketing platforms allow you to connect with customers while better understanding what they need.

Use marketing to communicate, build trust and show how much you value your customers no matter what the circumstances. Communicating is more important than ever right now.

Take advantage of technology

During the COVID crisis, small businesses are relying more on digital tools than before. In a recent Fox News survey, nearly one-third of businesses said that without digital technology, they would have had to close all or part of their businesses during the COVID crisis. Companies are using Zoom, Skype or FaceTime to communicate with customers, demonstrate services, provide quotes and communicate information while on job sites.

This allows them to still service their clients’ needs while respecting social distancing and stay-at-home orders. You can bring your current skills and offerings to your customers via the digital world and serve them in a simple yet impactful way.

Adapt to your employees’ needs

No matter how responsive you are to the market, you can’t get the job done if your employees aren’t supported. Review your physical workplace for potential points of transmission of infection, such as shared desks and telephones, conference rooms and common areas. Increase the frequency of office cleanings, provide more personal hygiene products such as hand gel and/or masks for your employees, review your work-from-home policy and post educational signs on how employees can protect themselves around the office.

Small businesses offer valuable lessons in adaptability

Even in times of relative calm, businesses need to be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. The way many small businesses are handling the unprecedented amount of rapid change during COVID-19 makes them stellar examples of adaptability.

Ultimately, to the degree that companies can adapt and innovate quickly, the results will be incredibly profound. The nimble nature of small businesses allows them to keep their doors open, retain employees and provide customers with necessary services and offerings.

Since 1964, SCORE “Mentors to America’s Small Business” have helped more than 10 million aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners through mentoring and business workshops. More than 11,000 volunteer business mentors in more than 320 chapters serve their communities through entrepreneur education dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. For more information about starting or operating a small business, call 1-800-634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you or visit SCORE at www.score.org.