BUSINESS MIND

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The Good News Stories From Businesses During the

COVID-19 Crisis

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Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no shortage of bad news (murder hornets, anyone?); however, if you look closely, there are also a lot of good stories to be found. Musical artists are coming together with new, at-home collaborations, parades are happening in favor of frontline workers and people are making huge efforts to connect with their loved ones (and strangers) while being on lock-down.

When it comes to businesses and the pandemic, many of us only see the doom and gloom, as many businesses suffer and even shut down.

But that is not the beginning and end of the story: many industries are doing better since the pandemic started and the ones that aren’t are learning valuable lessons in the meantime.

Ecommerce is an industry where businesses are either failing or thriving due to the pandemic, with not much in between. The determining factors include the type of business and the actions of the business at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I am a major shareholder in several private companies. The largest has seen business gradually drop in revenues of 40% since January. We were expecting a very sharp dropoff, in the neighborhood of 50-60% in March which never happened. Will the recovery be V-shaped? Or are we headed to prolonged recession or depression? The future is very uncertain,” says Marc Prosser of Choosing Therapy.

Tourist attractions, travel destinations and providers are definitely suffering as the majority of us sit at home. Demand for legal services has decreased as crime has dipped and personal injuries aren’t happening when people don’t leave their couches. Event providers have had no business due to the cancellation of every major event including conferences, weddings, and concerts. Businesses that provide health and beauty services have had to sit on their hands waiting for the go-ahead to reopen and people are finding ways to DIY. Sports and other extracurricular activities and all the related industries are also losing business as each day passes.

So what businesses are doing great?

There are industries that have gladly taken advantage of the uptick in traffic and way greater conversion rates as the pandemic has pushed their business into “essential” mode. Here are a few of them.

Companies that provide internet or online services

“The almost-overnight creation of a stay-at-home workforce made a whole lot of people suddenly realize they needed faster internet if they wanted to be able to join on office video conferencing”, says Carla Diaz of Broadband Search.

Some of these businesses are finding their biggest challenge during the pandemic is trying to keep up with the demand.

“During those few weeks at the beginning of March and all the way until mid-April we had an over 300% boost in tickets, service requests, Internet upgrades, Internet connectivity and migration to the cloud,” says Trave Harmon of Triton Computer Corporation.

Businesses that help you save money

Prior to the pandemic, many were thinking about saving for retirement, a larger house, or a vacation. With many people laid off and not knowing where their next paycheck is coming from, debt consolidation services are booming. As well, with many looking for ways to reduce their current costs, businesses that help you save money are doing better than they have. One example is a company that helps users save on energy costs.

 

“We saw an increased interest in EnergyBillKill.com as businesses seek to cut costs and save money. Our traffic has gone up to about 5-6,000 users per month. Energy costs are the first, second or third most expensive operational cash expense for businesses that have leases and property,” says Michael Rossman.

Businesses that provide online wellness services and self-care products

Shifting from going to a gym to doing at-home workouts means that as mentioned above, many of the physical locations are having a hard time staying afloat during the pandemic. But, the ones that have switched their services to digital are seeing a huge increase in traffic and conversions.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate to see our business explode with YoY growing over 100%. We attribute it to people being stuck at home, but still wanting to exercise and stay healthy,” says Stuart Kam of ATH Organics.

As well, the businesses that provide products that go along with self-care and at-home wellness are finding they are busier than ever. This doesn’t just include health and beauty, but also simple products like natural cleaning products, air-cleaning devices and even bottled water.

What can a business do that’s in the “doing worse” category since the pandemic started to try and get out of that category?

Keeping yourself top-of-mind to your customer base and building brand awareness and identity is critical during this time. Even with a limited budget, businesses can take this valuable time where they aren’t busy to invest in their marketing strategies.

“We saw a jump in our revenue when we decided to increase content production. The decision to invest more in content production originates from receiving more site traffic. The unbelievable increase in our site traffic is probably because of the sheer number of people quarantined at home. With a lot of time in their hands, people are more likely to consume content on the internet to kill boredom. Because of that, we focused on using social media channels since activity in these platforms increased because of the quarantine. As such, it is a wasted opportunity if businesses do not exploit this chance to boost sales,” says Jeremy Owens of Seriously Smoked.

Joy Gendusa of Postcard Mania lost 46% of her customer base during the 2008 housing bubble crash. She learned a valuable lesson from that time. “The biggest, most pivotal action I took this time around was keeping all of my marketing and advertising in place. I didn’t cut anything. That was my huge, HUGE mistake before — cutting my marketing profoundly compounded many revenue losses,” she says. Her leads have returned to normal within a few weeks of the start of the pandemic and she attributes her continued spend in her marketing as the reason.

Many businesses are also taking this time to improve their knowledge, skills and products so that when business returns, they have something even better to offer their customers. Being unconventional also helps. Squadlocker provides uniforms for sporting activities and rather than sit around and wait for sports to begin again, they began producing masks with team logos for the inevitable changes that will take place in the sporting industry once play begins again.

While the pandemic has many horror stories, focusing on the positive and the unique could be the best way to come out of the pandemic almost unscathed.

QUARTERLY TOPIC:

How to Manage and Improve Employee Retention

Employers can't afford to have high turnover, which is why employee retention is so important.

  • Employee turnover can get extremely costly if companies don't treat their employees correctly.

  • To retain top talent, you have to offer more than a competitive strategy; you must keep employees engaged, learning and growing.

  • You should track employee retention monthly so you can react quickly to any souring employee morale.

  • This article is for business owners who are looking for strategies to improve their employee retention rate.

Employee turnover doesn't come cheap and can happen even in bad economic times. Just look at Amazon for evidence: During the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company's turnover rate among frontline workers was double the industry average, The Seattle Times reported. That may not have hurt the e-commerce giant, but high turnover can put a serious dent in the finances of a small business. In fact, replacing just one individual can cost one-half to two times the employee's annual salary, according to 2019 research from Gallup.

To retain employees, businesses need to do more than offer competitive salaries and benefits; they also have to keep employees happy and engaged. How to do that depends on your business and budget.

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What is employee retention?

Employee retention is the process of getting your staff to stay with your company. Companies go to great lengths to recruit talent, and once those workers are hired, business owners need to ensure those employees don't leave right away.

A company's employee retention rate measures the percentage of employees who stay with the organization for a set period, usually a year. Here is a formula used to calculate the retention rate:

(# of separations during the measurement period / average # of employees during the measurement period) x 10

Most companies calculate retention rates annually, but you can measure the rate in small periods to get faster results. The higher the retention rate, the better. If it's 80%, that means only 20% of employees leave the business during a given period. Keep in mind that the retention rate will vary from one industry to the next. [Read related article: Build a Culture That Increases Employee Retention.]

Key takeaway: Employee retention is the process of keeping your employees, and a company's employee retention rate is the rate, measured as a percentage, at which workers stay with your organization.

Four ways to retain employees

Employee retention is very important for small businesses, because it's very costly and time-consuming to replace staff members, and it can hurt the remaining employees' productivity when people leave the company and the positions remain unfilled.

"The cost of recruiting people is steep in addition to the opportunity cost as a key position remain opens," Rhiannon Staples, chief marketing officer at Hibob, told Business News Daily. "That team is not performing optimally."

There are several effective strategies for keeping employees, and most of them are free or inexpensive. Here are four ways to improve employee retention:

Keep employees engaged.

One of the worst things for employee morale and productivity is boredom. If an employee has a mundane job and no opportunities for excitement, they'll become dissatisfied and more likely to leave the company.

"The key tenant of retention is making sure you have highly engaged employees day in and day out," said Traci Fiatte, CEO of professional and commercial staffing at Randstad US. "Many organizations have very quick and easy weekly, biweekly or monthly employee surveys to gauge how employees are feeling."

These questionnaires can be short and quick to complete; the idea is to spot any issues and respond to them before they lead to engagement problems.

Give them clear growth opportunities.

To keep employees over the long haul, companies have to provide opportunities for them to grow. Employers also need to make sure they're getting the word out about these opportunities. It's important for employees to understand how they'll grow, even in tumultuous times, Staples said.

"You have to create new opportunities within the workplace to utilize employees' other strengths," said Angela Simpson, an HR knowledge advisor at the Society for Human Resource Management. "You have to make it interesting, so they aren't looking elsewhere for development and growth opportunities."

Make them feel valued.

A company is only good as its employees – and that means everyone in the organization, not just those in the C-suite. Showing employees they matter boosts morale and gives them purpose.

"You have to make sure everyone in the organization, no matter the job, understands how important their job is to the total," Fiatte said.

If employees know the business can't function without them, they'll feel a lot better about coming to work every day, Fiatte said. It's about connecting the person's job to the value it brings the organization," she said.

A free and easy way to help employees feel valued is to say thank you. As simple as it sounds, it's not a given at many companies. "To me, that is the missing link," Fiatte said. "You can never say thank you enough."

Offer lifestyle-enhancement benefits.

Providing "lifestyle-enhancement benefits" can be a powerful way to recruit and keep employees, said Moses Balian, HR consulting manager at Justworks. "There are a lot of increasingly popular fringe benefits that have to deal with lifestyle," Balian said. "Fitness, mental health and enhanced medical" are the big ones.

Balian said offering employees access to a gym membership, digital fitness classes, mental health apps, employee assistance programs and flexible work schedules can go a long way in keeping workers happy and loyal.

Key takeaway: Some ways to improve employee retention include increasing engagement, expressing gratitude, offering growth opportunities and providing wellness-related benefits.

Employee retention vs. employee turnover

The employee retention rate is the percentage of staffers who stay with an organization within a given time period, and the employee turnover rate is the percentage who leave during that time. Here is the formula for calculating annual turnover rate:

(# of employees who left / # of employees) x 100

The lower the turnover, the better. If a company has a 20% turnover rate, it means 80% of the staff is sticking with the company. (It also means the employee retention rate is 80%.)

There are two types of employee turnover:

  • Voluntary turnover occurs when the employee chooses to leave the company. It could be for a host of reasons, including employee burnout.

  • Involuntary turnover happens when the employer terminates the employee. It could be because of layoffs, performance issues or workplace behavior. This occurs when the employer terminates the employee.

Key takeaway: Employee retention is the rate at which workers stay with your company; turnover is the rate at which they leave. Analyzing both measures together will give you the clearest picture of what's going on with your workforce.

[Looking for a comprehensive software program that can handle HR for you? Check out our review of the best recruiting software for small businesses.]

Reasons employees stay

Employees are quick to change jobs when they don't feel appreciated and challenged, but they're also loyal when they're treated right. Here are some common reasons employees remain with a company:

  • A competitive salary

  • A high level of engagement

  • Flexible work schedules

  • A clear path to advance within the organization

  • Access to learning and development

  • Comprehensive benefits

  • Supportive and empathetic management

  • Respect and gratitude

  • A great company culture and team

  • Support for the company's mission

Key takeaway: Employees stay with a company when they receive competitive pay and benefits, have opportunities to grow, are respected and valued, and support the company culture and mission.

MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES FROM JACK MA (ALIBABA FOUNDER)

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"Leadership is your instinct, then it's your training. Leaders are always positive, they never complain."

"I know nothing about technology, I know nothing about marketing, I know nothing about (the legal) stuff. I only know about people."

"A leader should incentivize, but not with money. You give trust, respect, appreciation, and correct, heartfelt advice."

"A good boss is better than a good company."

"I always find people smarter than I am. Then my job is to make sure smart people can work together. Stupid people can work together easily, smart people can't."

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"My favorite movie is 'Forrest Gump.' He said nobody makes money catching whales, people make money catching shrimps. So we serve small business."

"Intelligent people need a fool to lead them. When the team's all a bunch of scientists, it is best to have a peasant lead the way. His way of thinking is different. It's easier to win if you have people seeing things from different perspectives."

"As entrepreneurs, if you're not optimistic, you're in trouble. So the people I choose, they have to be optimistic."

"Players should never fight. A real businessman or entrepreneur has no enemies. Once he understands this, the sky's the limit."

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"Philanthropy is not about helping others, it's about helping yourself. When you change, the world changes."

"Instead of learning from other people's success, learn from their mistakes. Most of the people who fail share common reasons (to fail), whereas success can be attributed to various different kinds of reasons."

"Today is difficult, tomorrow is much more difficult, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful. Most people die tomorrow evening."

"Of course, you're not happy when people say 'no.' Have a good sleep, wake up, and try again."

"In my life, it's not how much we've achieved, it's how much we've gone through the tough days."

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