Small businesses are the bread and butter of our economy and our communities. It takes many years of hard work and dedication to succeed as a small business. Since most small to medium-sized businesses struggle to survive their first five years, making it through this past year and the next calls for some major support and resources.
The global pandemic continues to challenge many community business owners to maintain their revenues and keep staff employed, despite provincial lockdowns and restrictions. In fact, according to Canadian Federation of Independent Business, over half of business owners agree that their business model has changed or will significantly change with 45 per cent of business owners having to work significantly longer hours to maintain their business.
If you are the owner of a small business, here are a few tips and tricks to help your business recover and stay strong.
Embrace new opportunities
It might seem scary to try something new right now, but shopping habits have changed, and it’s time to innovate. Shifting to online and social media sales was the saving grace for many businesses last year. If that’s what you did, use your new capabilities to make your online presence a long-term bet. Keep improving the user experience so customers keep coming back, and take advantage of online tools like good SEO practices to boost your ability to connect with consumers.
SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on your website’s presence in search results on search engines like Google. When you understand how SEO works, you can use different tactics to increase your visibility (or how high you rank) in search results when someone types in certain key words while looking for your particular product online.
Partner up with the community
Chances are there are other small businesses nearby facing the same struggles you are. Get together to share your experiences and learn from one another. You don’t have to go through this alone as a business owner. You never know, you might even be able to help each other out with new cross-promotions and partnerships.
Update your contingency plans
As we’ve seen, the COVID-19 situation changes all the time, so you need to stay flexible. There’s no magic date when all of this will be over, and recovery will be an ongoing process. So, be sure to create and frequently re-evaluate your business plans. Regularly re-assess your spending and cashflow, and revise top goals and priorities. Have ideas ready for what you’ll do differently in a potential next lockdown, such as how you will communicate with your customers or by offering flexible hours. Many businesses have increased their social media presence on places like Instagram or Facebook, for example, to help achieve more timely and interactive contact with their customers.
An easier way to find support
Many small business operators try to do everything themselves. Your mental health and your business will thank you if you can streamline your day-to-day tasks and get support on the go.
The Canada Business app 2.0 is a one-stop shop for government supports and information for businesses, including links to available funding and training to help stabilize and grow your business.
You can search and filter for resources based on your situation, location or other keywords. There’s also a chat feature to help you get tailored recommendations, and the option to set up personalized notifications on program changes.
Having this information right on your phone can speed up the task of going through all your options and give you answers right when you need them. Find more information at canada.ca/business-app
How to support local merchants
If you don’t own your own business, there are many ways that we can all help to support our favourite small businesses and create a positive impact in our local communities. For those wanting to show their support, here are three simple tips:
1. Support a local store when stocking up on supplies
Instead of grabbing your usual bread during a weekly grocery shop, visit a local bakery to get a fresh sourdough loaf or a few delicious pastries, which in turn will support your local economy.
2. Send a personalized message or positive review
There’s nothing like sharing a unique and thoughtful message of your positive experience with a small business. Take a moment to share your experience on social platforms such as Facebook or Instagram and recommend them to friends and family.
3. Nominate a small business for financial funding
Many small business owners are running at full speed to meet the demands from the pandemic. They’re often so busy pivoting to new concepts and ways of operating that they don’t have the time to look for investments. Show support by nominating them for funding they might not know about, such as the Purolator True North Small Business Grant Contest. This can help businesses expand and boost the local economy. Find more information at purolator.com/small-business-grant
These are tough times, but if we remember that we’re all in this together, we can help each other through them.
— News Canada