Every new year, small business owners often take the time to think about new goals they’d like to set, as well as the challenges they will need to overcome to have a successful year. But as the COVID-19 pandemic wages on into 2021, businesses will be facing many of the same obstacles they’ve been dealing with over the last several months. However, with the right tools and strategies, businesses can effectively navigate another year filled with uncertainties.
Here are a few common challenges small businesses may face in 2021, as well as some key steps they can take to overcome them.
Meeting Customers’ Needs During the Pandemic
While the vaccination process in the United States has begun, the health and safety of customers and employees will continue to be top of mind for small businesses in 2021. While maintaining social distancing and mask guidelines are critical, consumers are also looking for safe ways to shop. This includes making purchases online, curbside pickup, as well as contactless payment options. Your bank’s merchant services department can help you expand your secure and convenient payment options that best fit your business and customer base’s needs.
Preventing Cyberattacks Against Your Small Business
Cyberattacks pose a huge threat to businesses, and that threat has only increased during the pandemic. In fact, according to a recent survey by Tanium, 90% of IT leaders said they experienced an increase in cyberattacks due to the pandemic. This is not just something that is happening to large enterprise businesses. Although they may not make the headlines, there are many, many attacks happening to small and medium-sized businesses, and many of them are woefully underprepared. Especially now that more people are working from home, it is critical to have a cybersecurity system and policies in place, no matter your business’s size. This includes creating off-site back-ups of your important information and having all workstations and network endpoints protected by anti-malware and anti-virus features. Ransomware protection is also a must. This software prevents your data from being encrypted by hackers, who then hold out for ransom to return it to you, un-encrypted.
Managing Remote Employees
When the pandemic first hit, many businesses quickly adapted to provide safe workspaces and options for their employees, including adopting work from home policies. Many employees are expected to continue to work from home in 2021, and while you and your team may have gotten into a good groove over the last year, it may be a good time to make sure all of your remote policies are up to date. Reach out to your employees or send out a survey to make sure they have everything they need to work from home successfully. Consider reevaluating your IT and cybersecurity best practices to ensure employees protect your business and your data.
Communicating With Customers
As the pandemic wages on, businesses will continue to deal with last-minute closures and changes in hours, as well as ever-changes laws, policies, and safety measures. Therefore, keeping customers informed about these continuous changes is critical to maintaining positive customer relationships. While keeping your website up-to-date and sending regular emails with this information is important, maintaining social media accounts is especially key in reaching your customers as quickly as possible. If you want to improve your social media strategy, consider investing in a management tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts across all of your accounts, keep track of customer messages and comments, and measure your engagement.
Managing Small Business Cash Flow
It’s no secret that managing your revenue and expenses is critical. Still, there are several misconceptions about small business cash flow management that can prevent you from seeing the full picture. Not only do you have to manage the inflows and outflows, but you have to realistically plan for the unexpected, for one-time expenses, for improvements, and for long term profits and losses. Up to 82% of small businesses fail to plan for the unexpected because of poor cash management planning, so having a solid understanding of your cash flow is very important, especially as we head into another year of the pandemic. Managing projections – even up to a year in advance – is a key to keeping your business in the black.
While we try to remain optimistic about 2021, we know that many small businesses are worried about making it through another uncertain year. It’s important to remember that your local bank is here to help no matter what challenges you face.
Our commitment at Union Savings Bank is to help small businesses, and their owners and employees, overcome hurdles and continue to grow and thrive, even during the most challenging times. To learn more about how the USB Business Banking Lending and Solutions Teams can help you in 2021, visit our website.