Strategies to help strengthen small business into the future

Advice about how to help your business move through today’s small business challenges

by AT&T Business Editorial Staff

Recently, AT&T Business collaborated with Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group and “Shark” on ABC’s Shark Tank in our webinar series, Lessons from the Trenches. Barbara chatted with other successful leaders to share what businesses can do to further adapt to these unpredictable times. Guests include Gary “Gary Vee” Vaynerchuk (CEO of VaynerMedia, podcast host of The Gary Vee Experience), Payal Kadakia (Founder and Chairman, ClassPass), Adam Grant (Organizational Psychologist and Professor, Wharton School of Business), Mindy Weiss (Founder, Mindy Weiss Party Consultants), Courtney Kelso (SVP and GM Commercial Card Products and Consulting, AMEX), Scott Trench (CEO and President, Bigger Pockets), Stacey Marx (President, National Business Challenges, AT&T Business), and Rosa Maria Boza (VP of Sales Execution and Transformation for National Business and Channels, AT&T Business). Barbara also provides 5 Tips for Small Business Owners in a short, informative video.

Being creative, agile, and adaptable are common traits in small business leaders. The on-going pandemic has put small business leaders to the test. Unfortunately, the strain on cash flow has caused many businesses to close their doors. For other businesses, creative solutions have led to businesses launching new products and services that have helped them to survive. But as the pandemic continues, small business leaders need to continue to make long-term plans to prepare in an unpredictable market.

Those who are successful are learning to be flexible in creating new revenue streams while also working with their suppliers, vendors, and lenders to lower overhead. This flexibility gives them breathing room to grow new cash flow and strengthen the business. Since maintaining strong relationships may be more important than ever, businesses are finding new ways to connect with their customers and employees, too.

But this hasn’t been an easy task for many. The shift to working from home has made keeping these relationships strong an added challenge. Customers still expect high-quality products, personalized services, and timely delivery. Using the right technology has been essential for quality communication with customers and collaboration within the business. And the ability to collect the data they need to make smart decisions can help small business leaders to pivot at a moment's notice.

In this series, you will discover important tips for how to not only survive during trying times through this agility, but how to discover opportunities to strengthen your business for years to come. Here are a few of the many takeaways provided.

1.  Embrace your ability to be creative

Being creative while staying focused on your mission is important for running a successful small business. Leaders not only live in the world of “pivoting” to rapidly adjust to unexpected changes, but they also must understand the roles in the business. In each of these roles, creative solutions may be needed to keep the business growing.

The ability to pivot at a moment’s notice is important. Leaders who use their savvy to expand their business models may not only survive but thrive well beyond this time of global crisis. They find ways to bring existing and new products or services to their customers’ doorsteps.

The number one hat a business leader must wear is the hat of resiliency, and the key to resiliency is attitude. Being honest about the state of the business and enthusiastic to create new products and services can help your employees stay motivated for your customers to deliver the quality experience they deserve.

2.  Use this time as an opportunity to expand your online presence

The value of an online presence is important to any small business. Before COVID-19, a simple listing with basic store information might have been enough for some businesses, especially if they operated only through a physical storefront. But the impact of social distancing and shutdowns have caused many small businesses to completely change the way they operate. Those that were already established online with ecommerce and social media had a clear advantage when the shutdowns began.

The good news is that there are many easy-to-use tools that can help establish or enhance your online presence. An easy-to-navigate webstore and a social media presence not only make your business easy to find but may allow customers from across the globe to purchase from you. And a big bonus is that you can gain valuable insights into the needs and behavior of your visitors to help you identify opportunities to improve.

AT&T Business has a handy step-by-step guide to help you improve your online presence. Check out our Going Virtual playbook to learn more about taking your business virtual.

3.  Expand ways to make the most of limited financial resources

In one way or another, every business has had to shift to continue operating. Those that were already struggling or depended on in-person interaction with customers may have been impacted the most. While this is unfortunate, the fact that every business is having to adjust means that many vendors, suppliers, lenders, and landlords may be willing to work with you so that you can have breathing room to improve your revenue.

To identify the best way to negotiate terms, it’s important to have a clear understanding of where your business stands. Using technology to provide insights into every level of your business can help you to discover where you’ll get the most benefit in doing so. You may also learn ways to avoid downsizing when it may not be needed.

4.  Encourage emotional intelligence throughout your business

No business can function without the day-to-day operations that keep it running. But it’s the people behind the processes that make your customers want to purchase from you. The more secure your employees feel about the work they’re doing and their role in the business, the better it is for productivity, creativity, and giving your customers positive experiences.

Build a culture on emotional intelligence. Leaders who encourage behaviors such as kindness and empathy not only promote a more positive workplace, but they open the doors for better communication and innovation. Even employees who may not rank high in emotional intelligence can evolve when placed in a culture with it.

AT&T Business is here to help our customers discover more ways to strengthen their businesses. Please contact us is you have any questions about which technologies and services are best suited for you. And if you’d like to learn more about how small businesses are using technology to make smart decisions, please visit our Small Business solutions page for more information.