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!
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:
FLIGHT MODE aka DENIAL
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.
FREEZE MODE aka DOING NOTHING
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.
"REMEMBER: THE SUREST WAY TO ASSURE YOUR DEMISE IS TO DO NOTHING!"
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.
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!
We’ve got some practical ideas to help you quickly make the digital jump your business needs to survive.
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.
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
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 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.
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:
InspireHUB 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:
InspireHUB 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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‘
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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:
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.
What would happen if all the good people of the world decided to embody Mr. Rogers and be good digital neighbors to one another?
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:
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.
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.