The Ultimate Small Business Survival Guide
Transforming your business to survive now so you can thrive later!

Karolyn Hart, President and Founder, InspireHUB

A Helping Hand When You Need It Most

It's a trying and stressful time for everyone in the world, but for small businesses, it's particularly challenging.  Most small business owners have to carefully plan a simple one or two week vacation because of the potential loss of customers and impact to cash flow. This pandemic has devastating realities to business owners, the employees who work for them, the families they support, and the communities in which they operate.

90% of businesses are small, and the reality is that keeping them open will have a direct, positive economic impact on the communities where they reside.  The more businesses we help make an online transformation and stay open, the quicker the local economy will bounce back.

That's why InspireHUB has made a commitment to use our skills, expertise, and digital knowledge to help rescue as many small businesses as possible.   This Small Business Survival Guide is FILLED with practical advice to help you survive.  We know that getting through this time will then help you thrive as the economy stabilizes.    We've designed this survival guide so that you can implement it by yourself without our assistance.  If you DO need help, please let us know.  We've designed a campaign we are calling "When You Win, We Win" that allows small businesses who are struggling with low to no cash flow obtain a Digital Rescue from our team.    There are no strings attached and no extra fees on the other side —just good old fashioned friends helping one another during a world crisis. 

Why? We really do believe that we are in this together and the more we help small businesses win, the more we ALL win!  Take heart; there are good people and helpers here to get you through!

Karolyn Hart

Overview of this Small Business Survival Guide
Transformation Readiness Assessment
STEP ONE: Complete a Self-Assessment

Fear has a way of overriding all rational thought. The human response to threat is to do one of three things: Fight, Flight or Freeze. The first level of transformation assessment is on yourself.  You need to identify where you are so you can move forward with a realistic plan.  If you're still denying the reality or frozen in fear, then you need to do what is necessary to get to Fight mode as quickly as possible.  Here's what that may look like: 

It can be different for every owner, and it can look like everything from not accepting the present realities of our economy taking a nose dive to binge-watching Netflix as you drink 10 am cocktails.  In a quarantined world, you are limited in your ability to flee physically, but if you're in avoidance mode, you may be trying to "flee" the reality of what you and your business are facing.

You're not in flight mode, and you understand the economic reality, but each day you wake up you feel "frozen in terror" with no idea what is to be done.  This is different because you want to do something; you just don't know where to begin. You don't want to pivot.  You think: "Maybe if I just ride this out, then things will return to normal." You hope for the best, but you're doing nothing to actually pivot.  Most days, you try what used to work and then leave defeated.


You're ready to get started and ready to do whatever it takes. You've read the stories of survivalist entrepreneurship and JR Simplot who decided to plant potatoes to survive.  At InspireHUB, we call that the #potatopivot.  Oh, you're ready, and you'll do ANY pivot if it means getting through this time.   In fact, that's how you found your way to this survival guide.  You GET it, and you are ready to be unleashed.  So, why don't we just get out of your way and let you do that now? Here we grow...
STEP TWO: Ready to fight? Transforming your business to be online.

In our blog, "Rescue Your Small Business by Transforming to Digital Fast" we help you understand the power of transforming your small business to an online service with this simple understanding:

Do you sell a Product? Do you sell a Service? 
You can sell it online and have it delivered. You can sell consultation online and deliver it virtually.


In that same blog, we provide examples of how to convert bowling alleys, gyms, hair salons, spas, and even sports teams to an online business.  The reality is that many companies could transform their solutions and offer them in our new digitally remote world with a little creativity and innovation.  InspireHUB completed a digital rescue on a boutique winery in Canada who is now boasting RECORD online sales, and we are even helping a local bar discover how they can export the "feel" of their bar into every client's kitchen during the quarantine. 

STEP THREE: Choose your next step!

Good Work! You finished Chapter 1 and your assessments. Here's what to do next!

YES, I can move my business online. NO, I can't think of how to move my business online.
Proceed to Chapter Two.

Still struggling? Contact us.
No really, we will help you brainstorm some ideas free of charge!


Rescue Your Small Business by Transforming to Digital FAST!

Rescue Your Small Business by Transforming to Digital FAST!

We’ve got some practical ideas to help you quickly make the digital jump your business needs to survive.  

Selecting the SAFEST place to build your online business.

The world became more digital overnight, not less.  This reality is forcing  you to move your small business online.  There's a number of choices to consider as you build.  Cost and ease of use are usually the main drivers, but there's something equally important.  Building something that is safe for your brand and your customers.  Consider the following:

60% of small companies close within 6 months of being hacked!

Imagine, going through all this effort to survive through this time and put your business online, only to have a cyberattack be the action that forces you to close your doors.  Consider these following statistics:

That's why it's critical for all businesses to actively consider the platform they build upon. 


STEP ONE: Selecting your platform.

When it comes to creating your digital experience online (whatever it is), there are two ways that technologies get built: open-source and closed-source.

The Risk of Open-Source for Small Businesses
Open-source platforms are very affordable (even free) and one of the main reasons why so many small businesses decide to use them.  Unfortunately, they are also the primary target for hackers.

For more information, read:
Known Open Source Vulnerabilities In Reusable Software Components: The Golden Goose For Hackers That Keeps On Giving

The Challenge of Closed-Source
Closed-source software isn't shared with the public for anyone to look at or change and typically costs more with less flexibility and longer wait times for resolutions to issues. 

For more information, read:
19 Pros and Cons of Closed Source Software

IHUBApp logo

Our Shameless Plug? We call it the Closed-Circuit Solution!
The award-winning IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform brings a new approach to building a better platform.  InspireHUB Verified Developers agree to a strict protocol on developing new modules for the IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform, including undergoing reviews with our security partner Cyber.SC.  Partner modules are available through a module marketplace (just like in open-source technologies) but via a controlled system (just like closed-source solutions).  The best part? We've worked hard to keep the IHUBApp affordable!

We recognize the IHUBApp is not the right solution for every business or organization.  At InspireHUB, we use our technology to build online communities for our employees and clients, and we are launching a new HUB as a place for small businesses to get the resources they need for FREE. (Yeah, we're good like that!)  That said, if you're looking for something different, here's who we would recommend and why.

HubSpot logo

HubSpot offers a different set of features and tools than the IHUBApp. (It doesn't provide the community building, progressive web app functionality or notification management).  We use some of their tools at InspireHUB and integrate them into the platforms we use for our own team.  That said, we love the fact that HubSpot places a priority on transparency, has helped to shed light on the data brokering industry (see the next section for more on this), and discourages inbound marketers from buying, selling, or trading customer data.  

STEP TWO: Ask about data brokering and cybersecurity. 

What is data brokering?
Data brokering is a $200 billion unregulated industry that involves companies who collect, buy and sell data for a variety of purposes.  Companies that engage in data brokering usually aggregate the data they have obtained and then resell the most valuable pieces to third parties.  While data brokering is a legal industry, there is a growing concern around privacy, security, and how data is used.  While reputable companies would never sell personally identifiable information, they still will aggregate their data and sell it to other companies to create an additional source of revenue.  Sometimes, brands are very comfortable with this arrangement (and you might be also).  However, you will want to make sure you know the company's stance on this before entering into a relationship. 

Questions to ask:

  • Does your company participate in data brokering?
  • What type of data brokering do you do?
  • Will my client's data be personally identifiable?
  • Where do you outline this assurance in your terms?

InspireHUBInspireHUB has adopted a policy that we will not participate in data brokering.  Per our terms and conditions, our clients fully own their data and have the right to do what they wish, but we have decided not to participate. 

Cyber Security: Ensuring you have a plan for privacy and security.
The landscape around what is considered acceptable for privacy and security is significantly shifting.  Every country has it's own rules around what you are allowed to do with the information you collect and hold digitally regarding your business.  In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented for the European Union and had a significant impact worldwide, raising the standard for what is acceptable online. 

Questions to ask:

  • Are you GDPR compliant?
  • Where will my data be stored? What country is it stored in?
  • How do you work to secure my client's data and privacy?
  • What cybersecurity services do you provide to your clients?

InspireHUBInspireHUB has partnered with Cyber SC (a leading cybersecurity firm) to ensure that our technology and our business operations are helping to create a more secure future for each and every one of our clients.  We offer FREE security awareness training to all InspireHUB clients as part of our commitment to helping them successfully navigate an ever-changing digital landscape.


STEP THREE: Ask for IRL (In Real Life) client referrals, not just testimonials or third-party referral sites.

Watching customer testimonials can help you to understand the capabilities of the product and service you are thinking of using.  Additionally, there are many third-party referral sites that can help you compare the features of a product and see how others have weighed in on it.  The challenge  with each of these elements is that it is not the same as having a direct conversation with someone and being able to ask YOUR questions.  

Here are a few ideas ab out how to speak directly with someone before you make your decision:

  1. ASK the company if they can provide you with a client who is willing to talk with you directly.  While this is not always possible for a variety of reasons that may include confidentiality or other situations, it doesn't hurt to ask. 
  2. Make a post requesting a referral on social media.  Be very specific when you do this, or you will have every vendor under the sun hitting you up to "sell" you on their product. Do your homework and then put up a post with something like "Looking to speak with someone who has used VENDOR name about your experience." 

Success in 2020 Now Looks Like This

Silver Linings: Small Business Success in 2020 Now Looks Like This

In the middle of so much bleak news and global failure, is there success to be found? With the largest companies in the world faltering, what hope is there for small to mid-size businesses?  While business success in 2020 will be completely altered, there’s already a silver lining slowly emerging and providing some hints about the sort of shifts we will see through the remainder of this year.

Building an Online Brand Community for Your Small Business
STEP ONE: Understanding the POWER of an Online Brand Community!

Online brand communities are an important piece of business development.  Simply put, a brand community is a community that is formed based on  attachment to your company.  Building a community around your business provides a way for your customers to participate in the experience of your brand.  Customers are invited to join the community, engage with the platform, and share through likes, comments, posts and more!

Large brands like Nike, Apple, and Sephora have invested money into building online communities because of the benefits they receive, and it's something that you can easily leverage for your small business. According to the Marketing Insider Group, online branded communities have: 

  • reduced customer support costs – 49% of businesses with online communities report cost savings of 10% to 25% annually;
  • boosted brand exposure and credibility, making it easier to sell without selling;
  • empower 67% of businesses to gain insights on new products or services and features;
  • heightened engagement and better customer retention; and,
  • provided a channel through which to present products and services before the official launch.


STEP TWO: Selecting the type of online community to build for your small business.

There are many reasons for small businesses to build a brand community and, fortunately, the tools to do this (like the IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform) are available and easy to implement. 


Private Clubs




Social Networks



STEP THREE: Start small and then grow!

Like most things, the way to success is to start small with one specific goal. Cooper's Hawk Vineyards and Restaurants in Canada turned on the social networking functionality to allow their clients to like and comment on the updates and posts they create that also auto-populate a weekly newsletter.  Here's a sample of communities that have been built for InspireHUB clients.


Wine Clubs




Community Networks


Student Life
Community Portals






Brand Community




5 Ways to Build Your Hub Community

Top 5 Ways to Build Your Hub Community

You’ve discovered the power of the IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform and are excited to start engaging your audience through the wonderful digital experience you’ve built.  You’ve seen how some of our clients are celebrating incredible engagement statistics, and you can’t wait to achieve that same level of success.

Marketing 101: Finding Your Give-Back
STEP ONE: Understanding The Power of Worthy-Cause Marketing for Your Small Business

Even before the global pandemic instilled a rising sentiment that we are "in this together" and a determination to give back, worthy-cause marketing was a rising trend.  Consider the following statistics.   


9 out of 10 Consumers Like to Purchase Purpose-Driven Products

Nearly 9-in-10 consumers (86%) say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies. 2019 Porter Novelli / Cone Purpose Biometrics Study


Brands with Purpose Outperform Stock Market by 120%

Brands with a purpose set on improving our quality of life outperform the stock market by 120%. Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2017 


78% American Expect More From Companies Than Just Making Money

78% of Americans believe companies must do more than just make money; they must positively impact society as well. 2018 Cone / Porter Novelli Purpose Study


Consumers Purchase on a Brand's Give-Back

86% of consumers believe that companies should take a stand for social issues and 64% of those who said it’s ‘extremely important’ for a company to take a stand on a social issue said they were ‘very likely’ to purchase a product based on that commitment.  2018 Shelton Group’s ‘Brands & Stands: Social Purpose is the New Black‘

STEP TWO: Dispel Any Myths that You Can't Afford to Give Back

When you can barely pay your business' bills or keep the lights on, the idea of giving a portion of your limited proceeds away may seem illogical. Worthy-Cause marketing does feel good to both your business and the consumer, but it's also a sound business strategy.  Setting aside the "worthiness" of this effort and even the "emotions," here are the pieces of information you're missing.

  • It sets you apart and provides your product with a KEY differentiator.
    Product differentiation provides your business with superior value and is proven to help you win against your competition.    

  • It has a tangible multiplying effect on your marketing messages.
    Think of your local news station looking to cover a "story.". They have a choice to do one on a small business who is selling a product (yawn) or a story about a small business who is donating to a local charity.  Guess which one wins?  Remember: everyone loves a feel-good story.  The more good you do, the more your business does good!

  • It protects you in surprising ways. 
    Humans can be vicious behind their keyboards online about your product, your service, and more.  Businesses who give back as part of their strategy tend to receive more respect and enjoy a better reputation than those who do nothing.
  • It improves employee morale.
    Research has proven that employees respect leaders who do good.  Making your company a positive force within your local community makes a difference in the confidence levels of your staff and that, in turn, creates a positive ripple effect out to the world.

  • It will greatly increase your connections and networking opportunities.
    The moment you start supporting a local charity or non-profit, you immediately gain the attention of their entire network, and that increases your awareness.

  • Ultimately,  it gives you more marketing, more awareness, and more sales for a fraction of the cost.
    When you look at the tangible ROI from giving a portion of your proceeds to a local charity with the actual cost of what you would have had to spend in marketing dollars for the same success, you'll notice the return on investment to be far greater to your bottom line.


STEP THREE: Finding the Right Charity to Support

Alrighty! You're excited and ready to help support a charity with your products and find ways of winning together.  It's important to get the selection of who you support right.  Here are a few tips:

  • If at all possible, make it personal.
    Customers are going to be delighted to know you're giving back and they are going to want to know why.  Telling them 'we just want more sales' is the surest way to lose that sale.  Making it personal to you and your company will also just feel great.

  • Find a charity that aligns with your brand values.
    Ensuring that your brand aligns with that of the charity you select is critical to building trust with your customers.  For example, we recently connected a vegan wine that is PETA-certified with a charity that helps to rescue farm animals as they share the same core values.  There are many non-profits and charities in the world embracing many different belief systems.  It's important to realize that your product will be associated with the charity you are supporting so you will want to ensure that it is something that your company truly does support.

  • Select a reputable charity with a good record of transparent reporting.
    Understanding the reputation of the charity you are supporting is critical as it can reflect upon you.  If you're truly nervous about this, then decide to select a public service to support.  Hospitals, fire services, EMS, and police services all participate in fundraising and are usually open to receiving additional support.


Independent Agency?    5 Reasons to Be Building on a Closed-Circuit Platform like the IHUBApp

5 Reasons Independent Agencies Should Be Building on Closed-Circuit Digital Experience Platforms

A shift has happened in the digital world.  Small, independent agencies and freelancers are giving larger well-established agencies a run for their money.  Since 2018, there has been growing confidence among senior executives at large brands. Brands who once saw a small agency as a potential "risk" are changing their tune and now view the small agency as providing a level of agility that is now required for businesses to compete.
How to Pivot
STEP ONE: Give yourself permission to pivot quickly.

READ: 3 Ways to Give Yourself Permission to Succeed

Identifying when it's time to pivot is different for every small business owner.  The global pandemic has placed many small businesses in exceptional circumstances where they must consider a different way of doing business.  During the great depression, JR Simplot planted a potato field to feed his family and make some money.  His company ended up supplying a third of all french fries in America, with McDonald's as one of his main clients.  At InspireHUB, we've affectionately termed this the "potato pivot."

Making a pivot is not as easy as it sounds.  Many things can make an entrepreneur feel reluctant to pivot, including a sense of failure because the original idea or plan didn't succeed. If you're feeling like this, take a page from Edison on how he viewed failure: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”   


STEP TWO: Test your new idea as quickly as possible.

READ: What Pivoting is, When to Pivot, and How to Pivot Effectively

If you're pivoting, then you already have a long list of things you know don't work, but now you need to test if this new idea does.  We love the above article because it fills in the blanks and will help you navigate your business through a pivot.

STEP THREE: Do not give up!

READ: Pandemic Pivots: These 3 Companies Are Making It Work

InspireHUB has been meeting with small businesses across North America to help them in their digital pivots.  Here are a few pieces of advice that we have found make the difference:

  • Acknowledge the fear.  One of the first things we do is to sit down and write down the worst-case scenario.  It's an exercise we took from Dale Carnegie's Book "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." It's amazing how much simply writing it down and putting a plan against that will help you focus on your pivot.
  • Be open to a bright future.  When the world around you is crashing in, and all your dreams are disappearing, it can be difficult to feel bright about anything.  Being open to the fact that this uninvited change could be the very thing that gives you a wonderful future will help you be more creative as you brainstorm solutions.
  • Look for the helpers. You are not in this alone.  Reach out to friends, family, colleagues, and past employers.  If you feel you don't have great ideas, ask those you trust for theirs.  If you lack knowledge, ask those you respect what you should be reading.

Whatever you do, do NOT give up! We know this is hard, but there are good people here as we know we are really all in this together.


Good Digital Neighbor.  Karolyn Hart on Implementing Lessons from Mister Rogers During Coronavirus

How to Be a Good Digital Neighbor: Implementing Lessons from Mister Rogers During Coronavirus

What would happen if all the good people of the world decided to embody Mr. Rogers and be good digital neighbors to one another?

Working Remotely
STEP ONE: Setting the Foundations to Work Remotely Successfully 

READ: Why your MOM is the difference between success and failure with remote work. (Management, Operational Processes, Measurement)

InspireHUB has been working as a 100% remote workforce for the last seven years.  When the global pandemic arrived, we were one of the first companies to provide some practical advice about working remotely based on our own lessons.  The foundations within that article include:

  • The importance of recreating your physical workday virtually.
    This includes setting business hours, creating daily virtual stand up meetings, and how to create a virtual water cooler for your team.

  • The exercise of creating and writing down the virtual rules of engagement for your company.
    Setting the expectations for what is acceptable when working remotely, including what it means to be able to close your "virtual" office door in order to be able to work with no interruptions, and how to manage days when your employees are feeling sick.  Remember: Fences help to make great neighbors.

  • Following virtual meeting etiquette rules and ensuring your staff know and understand them.
    If you are working from home, you've likely already put some of these in place, but others may not be so obvious.  This includes asking staff to not be "mobile" while on the call.  Early on, we would take meetings while walking or driving.  What we discovered is that it actually caused motion sickness for some of our staff, while inadvertently sending the message that the topic of the meeting wasn't really important. 
STEP TWO: The Small Business Challenges for Remote Workers 

READ: Guide to Creating a BYOD Policy for Small Business

While everyone is struggling with remote work, small businesses have some additional stress factors, such as having limited resources and not having the ability to outfit and equip staff.  Additionally, most small businesses will not have an IT person on staff to be able to navigate during this time. 

It's highly likely that your small team was already using some of their own personal devices to engage on behalf of your business. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is a popular one because of the freedom and flexibility it offers.  The challenge comes in working to secure your company's data on a device you don't control when it gets lost or stolen, the employee leaves the company, or your staff are not implementing proper security measures.  Something as simple as working on unsecured wi-fi or not staying current on security updates can place your business at risk.  

With so much to be done in your business, it may seem like creating a BYOD Policy is a waste of time, but taking the time now will save you pain later.  As the saying goes: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
STEP THREE: Complete this Security Checklist for Managing Risk to Your Small Business
  • Complete Security Training
    Have your entire team take this FREE Security Awareness Training from as quickly as possible. (It's worth it!)
  • Download LastPass to Protect Passwords
    Download and install LastPass to help your team manage passwords in a secure environment.  LastPass remembers all your passwords across every device for FREE, and it also helps you generate secure ones.  
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication 
    Two-factor authentication is something that most products offer.  It's the "thing" you turn on that will enable actions such as sending you a text to confirm it's actually you before you change your password.  While it may seem annoying, security experts agree it's one of the best ways to help save you from hackers.
  • Set Up a VPN 
    A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows your team to work in a public environment with a secure tunnel. Once you have it installed, you turn it on to work from inside it to keep the work that you are doing private from prying eyes.  It helps protect your business.
  • Share This Checklist With Staff
    Share this checklist and links out to your staff and have them confirm when it completed.


Suddenly Remote Hero Image

Suddenly Remote? 5 Critical Tips for Companies Struggling With the Coronavirus Quarantine.

InspireHUB is a 100% remote company and has been managing an international staff of digital nomads for over five years. As the creator of the IHUBApp Digital Experience Platform, we also have had agencies and clients use our platform to build employee hubs to help improve their connection and engagement.

From this unique vantage point, we decided to share the internal guidelines and tips that have helped us become high-performers and produce at the award-winning level with the hopes of you making the most of the situation.

Checklists Summary
CHECKLIST: Platform Selection for Your Small Business
  1. Self-Assessment: Assess your current mindset amid the crisis.
  2. Business Assessment: Assess what parts of your business can be put online.
  3. Platform Assessment: Assess what sort of platform your company is comfortable with (open-source, closed-source, closed-circuit). 
  4. Feature Assessment: Create a feature wishlist to ask questions about as you engage with potential vendors.
  5. Security Assessment: Assess how the provider of your technology manages data brokering, privacy, and cybersecurity.
  6. Client Satisfaction Assessment: Review client testimonials and request a real-life customer testimonial.
  7. Company Assessment: Determine your level of comfort and trust in the team you select to work with you on your small business.
CHECKLIST: Building an Online Brand Community for Your Small Business
  1. Research Online Brand Communities: Research and review what the experts are saying about the importance of online brand communities.
  2. Select Community Type: Select the type of online community that makes sense to support your brand:  private clubs, forums, social networks, or portal.
  3. Select Platform: Complete the Platform Selection Checklist to determine which platform best fits your small business.
  4. Build Your Community: Design and build the online community on the platform you have selected.
  5. Create Your Outreach Plans: Create a plan for how you will promote the community you have built and let people know about how they can engage.
  6. Community Launch: Launch your work and watch your community begin to grow. 
CHECKLIST: Setting up Security for Your Small Business
  1. Complete Security Training: Have your entire team take this FREE Security Awareness Training from as quickly as possible. (It's worth it!)
  2. Download LastPass to Protect Passwords: Download and install LastPass to help your team manage passwords in a secure environment.  LastPass remembers all your passwords across every device for FREE, and it also helps you generate secure ones.  
  3. Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Two-factor authentication is something that most products offer.  It's the "thing" you turn on that will enable actions such as sending you a text to confirm it's actually you before you change your password.  While it may seem annoying, security experts agree it's one of the best ways to help save you from hackers.
  4. Set up a VPN: A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows your team to work in a public environment with a secure tunnel. Once you have it installed, you turn it on to work from inside it to keep the work that you are doing private from prying eyes.  It helps to protect your business.
    1. How to set up a VPN in Windows
    2. How to set up a VPN on Mac
    3. How to set up an iPhone VPN Connection
    4. How to set up an Android VPN Connection
  5. Share This Checklist With Staff: Share this checklist and links out to your staff and have them confirm when it completed.


Essential Security Tips for Working in the Age of Zoom

5 Essential Security Tips for Working in the Age of Zoom

The team of InspireHUB has been working 100% remotely for seven years and our experience provides a unique vantage point.  With that in mind, we reached out to our cyber security partners (CyberSC) and asked Founder Dominic Vogel to provide his insights into some practical tips that should be taken into consideration regardless of what video platform you use.
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