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What Small-Business Owners Can Do to Steer their Way Through a Crisis

By Adam Witty


As the nation’s economy continues to struggle because of the impact of COVID-19, small-business owners and their leadership skills are being put to the test.

 They face the task of adapting to the crisis and helping their employees adjust as well. But just what steps can business leaders take to keep employee morale high, make sure the business stays afloat, and manage their own concerns about the future?

One of the most important things is to be transparent with employees about where the business stands.

 Face the facts head-on and don’t try to sugarcoat it. Share with your team, in calm and rational terms, what impacts you expect the virus to have on your business and what the business is doing to try to mitigate those negative impacts.

 Here are other steps business leaders need to take as they manage their way through the crisis.

• Overcommunicate. With remote work, communicating is more important now than ever. In an office, much of the communication happens naturally as people drop by each other’s offices or pass in the hallway. With everyone spread out, communication can easily fall by the wayside, so it needs to be more intentional. It’s critical to use video communication like Zoom or Google Hangouts whenever possible to interact with employees. I make sure to send at least three companywide video messages per week. In times of great uncertainty, communicate more, not less. In the absence of information, people tell themselves stories, and I can promise you they are bad stories.

• Project calm. When a leader is anxious and fearful, everyone will pick up on that and they, too, will become anxious and fearful. If your employees see that you are worried, they will begin to think it is all over. That doesn’t mean to fake it or to pretend the situation isn’t bad. We cannot control the situation we find ourselves in. But we can control how we react to the situation, and how we react will dictate our results.

• Consider introducing new products or services. Now is a good time to get innovative, so brainstorm with your team about alternative ways to bring in revenue if your usual sources have been disrupted. For example, some restaurants that were strictly sit-down establishments pivoted to offer takeout and delivery. My own company created new publishing and marketing products aimed at potential clients who may be more cost conscious during these tough economic times.

Finally, make sure you have a plan.

Hopefully, you already have a strategic plan for your business that you are executing week in and week out. As we continue to move along through this crisis, that plan will need to be adjusted as COVID-19 makes some pieces of your plan obsolete.

I suggest meeting weekly, if not more often, to keep updating the plan to reflect the new realities. Then communicate the plan and its latest adjustments to your team. 

When employees know the leaders have a plan, it creates calm and confidence.                       

Adam Witty, co-author with Rusty Shelton of “Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant,” is the CEO of Advantage/ForbesBooks ( which he started in 2005. The company helps busy professionals become the authority in their field through publishing and marketing. 

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