Branding Tips

Small Business Guidance

When I started Peppermill Projects more than a decade ago, it was with the mission to help independent businesses compete with larger, corporate competitors through smart brand strategy and creative design. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of learning about all sorts of industries: food/beverage, environmental conservation, architecture and interior design, cannabis and hemp, health and beauty products, manufacturing, and the arts (to name a few). We’ve been fortunate to have partnered with incredibly smart and talented entrepreneurs to help build and grow their businesses, and I've learned a few things from them along the way. 

As entrepreneurs, we’re often great at working IN our businesses, but not always the best at working ON our businesses. Today we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation; a situation mired in uncertainty. How will we be impacted? and How long will it continue? are just a few of the many questions we are facing. While I don’t know the answers to these big questions, I have gathered some thoughts and resources on how to bring your small business through this crisis and out the other side—hopefully stronger. 

  1. Assess the Damage: Unless you're considered an “essential business,” most businesses have come to a complete halt or massive slowdown overnight. Run your numbers: how much, if any revenue are you still able to collect or earn? What do your expenses look like? Take a hard look at your finances: how much runway do you have? 
  1. Stop the Bleeding: Now that you have a realistic view of your finances, you need to start making some difficult decisions. What expenses can you cut or delay payment to? While no one wants to lay off employees, it may be necessary to save the business. Don’t wait too long. If you want to give severance pay, you need to include that in your forecast. Furloughing is another option for reducing your payroll expenses while still providing benefits like healthcare and the promise of a job to return to when the crisis is over. Here is a good quick overview of the differences between layoffs and furloughs.
  1. Government Assistance: There are several state and federal programs in place (or in the works) to help retain employees, keep businesses afloat, and to help employees who have been laid off. There are lots of good resources that help to explain the process and provide details. A great local resource for me has been the local Annapolis accounting firm, The Harding Group, who has been sending out super helpful emails breaking down the state and federal programs.
  1. Adjust to the Demands and GET CREATIVE: One of the benefits of being a small business is the ability to quickly shift and pivot to changing demands. Think about your strengths and how those strengths can be used to provide needed services or goods. Return back to your mission: why did you initially start the business? If the word “help” was in there, your mission is still applicable, you may just need to be creative in how you provide the help that’s needed. 

    There are some really inspiring examples of manufacturers making ventilators, beauty producers making hand sanitizer, fashion designers making face masks. My yoga studio, YogaVibez has been offering free online classes (which I keep telling myself I’ll do!). And, my favorite local restaurant, The Old Stein Inn, has been really creative with their take-out menus and offering grocery staples (including toilet paper). 
  1. Heartfelt Communicate: Now is the time for compassion and authenticity, not for “selling.” Act with empathy and think about how your services can help others instead of focusing on your bottom line. Return to the servant mentality that made your business successful to begin with. 

If you need some advice, brainstorming help to find creative solutions, or just a sounding board to vent frustrations, feel free to reach out. I’m offering free 30-minute consultations in order to stay true to my mission of helping small businesses succeed. Click here to schedule a time to chat!

We small business owners are nothing if not creative and resilient. We will get through this together!

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