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Originally published on Entrepreneur ME

There’s no doubt that small businesses will be the hardest hit from the current COVID-19 pandemic. The bigger businesses have a better chance of surviving however, small businesses tend to live only with a few months of cash flow (at most) so when something as significant as this hits it can be devastating not only for the small business owner, but also for the employees they support.

So how can small businesses survive the turbulent times coming ahead in 2020? There’s no easy answer however here are a few points to start implementing and planning at least for the next 3 months.

  1. Don’t Panic, Take Care of Yourself and Keep Calm

This can be difficult especially when cash is running out but remember to take care of yourself in a way that work for you, eat well and try to get some exercise in. Taking care of yourself will help you to keep calm, which in turn will also mean keeping your staff calm, and ultimately a healthier mindset for everyone to come up with innovative ideas to move forward. 

If faced with some difficult decisions, take time to balance yourself and your mind before taking any drastic decisions. In what is a very dynamic and rapidly changing situation, sometimes taking a step back to reassess asking for trusted opinions and also keeping perspective will help. Things will get better and you aren’t in this alone. Ask for emotional support where you can and when you need it

2) Tap Government and Financial Institute Resources 

Governments around the world are already putting together initiatives to support small business owners and this is something that is evolving on a daily basis. Be up to date with how your governments can help cut costs as well as other important institutions such as banks who also have a social responsibility.

If you’re registered in more than one market, explore support options in both markets. For example, you can find out more about the UK government support for small businesses here and we are also waiting to hear from the Dubai government about a stimulus package to support SMEs in Dubai which should be announced shortly.

3. Make a 3 Month Financial Plan

Every small business usually has the same key expenses which include employee salaries, office rent and utility bills. Further expenses range from industry to industry.

Speak to who you need to pay in the next 3 months (landlord and suppliers) and find out what options you have to spread out the costs. Chances are they may already have options in place or will be understanding as its in their interest to keep your business. Always be careful when you come up with payment plans with other small businesses as they also need to keep afloat too so this should be fair for both of you. 

Look at your personal finances and speak to people you may support to have a realistic discussion on how to control your personal spending for the next 3 months. What costs are necessary, what can be put on hold? If you have a partner supporting you as you grow your business as the breadwinner, also have an open and honest discussion about your immediate and long-term plans for the business. 

Also look at ways you can cut costs. Use this as a last measure after we have seen at least 2 months of damage from the COVID-19. Your biggest costs would usually be your staff and your office rent. You could perhaps freeze hiring anymore full-time employees and instead work on a project basis with freelancers or you could also consider downsizing your office and using a coworking space to have a more affordable and flexible payment terms.

4. Find the Opportunities 

It’s never nice to capitalise on events such as this but they can also be a wake-up call to reconsider how you have been doing business. In this case, is your business model able to survive the changes that will come from COVID-19? How do you expect your customers to behave moving forward? What will and won’t matter to them and how can you accommodate who will likely be a new type of customer? 

Can you digitize any of your products or services and start offering them online? Can you implement technology to balance any loss of earnings by offering new ways to connect with your customers? 

5. Upskill Your Staff

Wherever possible try your best to keep your staff – they rely on you, and if you have managed a good team, they should be supporting you. You could train your existing staff on additional skills which could make them more productive and efficient rather than hiring more staff. There’s plenty of online courses which are very affordable, and these will allow them to focus on other areas of the business when their department is down (perhaps your sales team can also help out the marketing team). 

For example, we at The Co- Dubai have launched an E-Course on Digital Marketing for Small Businesses which is a great way to learn how to create digital marketing strategies and implement them and can be done from home while you or your team is self-isolating. Look for courses and resources that most match your needs and also your budget during this time. 

Shahzad Bhatti is the Founder and Owner of The Co- Dubai, a co-working space and one of the first small business accelerators to be certified by Dubai SME. 

Free Emergency Mentoring Sessions 

The Co- Dubai, a co-working space and one of the first small business accelerators to be certified by Dubai SME is offering free 30-minute emergency mentoring sessions for entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelancers looking for help on managing and surviving this difficult time.  Their mentor will be able to discuss your existing business or if you are looking to launch a new venture in the current context. 30-minute slots are available via phone or Skype dependent on location. 

For more information or to book your slot visit: Covid.theco.me 

Digital Marketing for Entrepreneurs & Small Business Owners 

The Co- Dubai, a co-working space and one of the first small business accelerators to be certified by Dubai SME has launched a course for entrepreneurs, small business owners, solopreneurs and freelancers looking to gain an in-depth understanding of digital marketing, allowing them to increase web traffic, leads and ultimately sales for their business. 

The course is priced at AED199 and is available via Learn.theco.me