The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been far-reaching. No aspect of life was insulated from the effects of the pandemic, which had an especially significant impact on privately owned businesses.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey indicates that less than 2 percent of small businesses closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though that’s good news, avoiding closure and thriving are two different things. In fact, 52 percent of small businesses in the United States indicated to the USCB in December 2020 that they didn’t expect to return to normal levels of operation for at least six months, if at all.
In part due to an increased availability of vaccinations and relaxed restrictions, summer 2021 has long been targeted as a time when life can more closely begin to resemble pre-COVID normalcy. In anticipation of that, small business owners who have yet to fully reopen are now preparing to do so. Though some might have thrived even after scaling down their operations, others merely survived. Those who are among the latter group may be looking for ways to reduce their overhead costs even as they’re preparing to fully reopen. In recognition of that, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shares these strategies that small business owners have used in the past as they sought to reduce expenses while maintaining employee and customer satisfaction.
• Scale down variable costs. The cost of office supplies and food for staff members may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But reducing these expenses, even temporarily, can lead to substantial savings, and such reductions will not require business owners to lay off staff or cut back on what they can offer their customers.
• Reduce travel expenses. Travel for staff is one area where business owners can save potentially significant amounts of money. Conferences and trade shows may be returning to professional calendars soon, but many of these events may offer a hybrid of virtual and in-person information sessions as people gradually become more comfortable leaving their homes. Business owners can scale back on travel expenses as they see fit, utilizing virtual event sessions as a cost-effective, inexpensive means to connect with customers and potential partners.
• Make an effort to negotiate. Various small business owners told the USCOC that vendors and suppliers are often willing to negotiate with small businesses as they try to navigate their way through a challenging economic climate. Technology and service providers may be flexible with their prices, but it’s up to business owners to begin such negotiations.
• Cut down on turnover. Many businesses asked a lot of their employees during the pandemic. Some cut salaries while others furloughed employees. Keeping staff as a business gets ready to fully reopen rewards their sacrifices, and it also can save business owners money. A 2019 report from Gallup indicated that voluntary turnover costs businesses in the United States $1 trillion each year. Cutting down on such turnover can boost morale and benefit business owners’ bottom lines at the same time.
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