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Creative Ways to Keep Your Small Business Open During a Crisis


| By Alex Greig  | May 1, 2020

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) is affecting many small businesses but many are rising to the challenge with creative solutions that help them keep people employed.

How to keep your SMEs open during COVID-19

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has caused huge disruption to Australian businesses. Many, especially those in the hospitality and retail sectors, are struggling to keep their doors open. Others, though, are agile: altering their delivery methods, going online and in some cases even changing their product or service completely to ensure cash flow.

If you’re running a business and worried about how to keep momentum or staying open, check what benefits you may be eligible for through the Australian Government. Then, follow our tips and be inspired by creativity of businesses who are making the best of a (very) bad situation. Just think outside the box – this is not business as usual.

Take Your Business Online

A remarkable number of small businesses have been able to shift their services online, from Zoom beauty consultations to online therapy sessions.

Fitness businesses were among the first to adapt to self isolation, figuring out how to get customers to continue to pay for a service while still adhering to social distancing rules. Studios who acted quickly met customers’ needs by providing pre-recorded fitness videos or live Zoom classes that allowed HIIT, barre, yoga and general fitness routines to be carried out at home (or local park, with adequate distancing).

Small businesses are moving offerings online during Coronavirus

Talia Kuo, of dance studio Groove Therapy, which runs dance classes in Sydney and other locations, says her business has seamlessly shifted to the new world order. “I think our secret was to completely lean into what it means to be an online platform and create an experience that is very specifically online.”

Emma Seibold, founder of Bende in Byron Bay and Barre Body studios around the country, says that a new streaming service is keeping regular clients happy, and will continue to do so after the pandemic is over. “This coronavirus pandemic has sped up a lot of online advances and there will be lasting effects,” she says. “The convenience of being able to choose the exact product you want allows for a lot of flexibility and control.”

SEE ALSO: 6 Clever Ways for SMEs to Upskill During a Downturn

Affected Businesses Can Go to the Customer

Those who supply Australia’s best restaurants faced a watershed moment when the industry ground to a halt after the government ordered dine-in operations to cease.

For small businesses selling produce, establishing a delivery service was a fast fix to oversupply concerns. After being impacted by coronavirus, Vic’s Meat, the supplier to some of Sydney’s best restaurants, was stuck with 300 tonnes of meat and no restaurants to sell it to. What to do? The company set up Vic’s Meat Direct, an online butcher selling some of the best meat in the world (such as the 200-day dry-aged steak served at Firedoor restaurant) as well as more regular butchers’ fare.

Find Ways to Re-imagine Your Product

Find a way for your small business to reimagine products

Can your SME’s product be repackaged (literally and figuratively) for social isolation? Bars are bottling cocktails, restaurants are putting together cook-at-home packs for people who can’t leave the house and fine-diners are selling gourmet groceries to ease financial stress.

At Korean restaurant Sáng by Mabasa in Sydney’s Surry Hills, the owners reworked the menu to be more take-away friendly, and added frozen dumplings and heat-at-home soup. The demand for housebound hobbies has also grown, so Sang put together an at-home kimchi fermenting kit, accompanied by how-to videos on Instagram.

Think About How Your Business Can Redeploy Staff

To keep staff gainfully employed, managers may need to reimagine their roles, and the roles of their team in creative ways. In addition to their reworked offering, Sáng by Mabasa also pivoted their team to food delivery, instead of relying on a third-party delivery service. “At times like this, it is important not to lose focus of our beliefs, but carry them forward in a creative and safe way,” says part-owner Kenny Yong Soo Son.

Another business affected by coronavirus, Melbourne restaurant Mr Miyagi is taking a similar approach. Director Kristian Klein has changed his entire operation, and with it, his employees’ jobs. “All of our staff are being deployed into different roles, wherever we need them,” he says. “We’ve got bar staff helping bag orders in the kitchen and our front-of-house people are about to start doing deliveries next week.”

SEE ALSO: 5 Clever Ways for SMEs to Use the COVID-19 Stimulus Packages

Diversify Your Business’ Offering

Small businesses are diversifying due to the coronavirus pandemic

Is there a whole new area for your business to work in? After panic-buying emptied the shelves of hand sanitiser, Sydney’s boutique Archie Rose Distilling Co. switched from distilling gin and whisky to making the germ-killing stuff, the basis of which is alcohol. Two South Australian companies that previously worked together to produce high-end speakers saw a gap in the market for protective face shields due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kyron Audio and Andrew Rogers Industrial Design have joined forces to become Ned’s Head, named for the famous bushranger Ned Kelly and envisioned as a short-term enterprise. “I was just searching on LinkedIn and it was popping up everywhere that people needed these face shields so I went to Andrew and by the next afternoon we’d already done two prototypes,” Lee Gray of Kyron Audio told The Lead South Australia. Now, the chosen design, made with recycled materials, has gone into production and the operation can produce up to 4000 face shields a day.

Band Together with Other Small Businesses

Get together with other small and medium sized businesses in the community to spread the word. Melbourne’s Chapel Street precinct has launched an online resource, Lemonade out of Lemons, where the community can see how businesses are innovating during COVID-19 (coronavirus). There’s food delivery, personal shopping done via FaceTime and phone health consultations.

In Sydney’s Inner West, Dully Locals is doing the same, putting residents in touch with local businesses, facilitating deliveries and doing their best, like most small businesses around Australia would wish, to make lemonade out of lemons.