Just about anyone you talk to has been adversely affected by COVID-19, and the changes that have occurred as a result of it. However, the group that has been hurt the most by all of this is small business owners. A recent survey of small business owners shows that 43% of small businesses have had to close temporarily, employment by small businesses is down 40%, and 38% of small business owners believe that it’s likely that they will have to shut down by the end of 2020.
Now, more than ever, the small businesses in our communities need our support. Unfortunately, not all of us can go around and donate large amounts of money to businesses in need, or volunteer our time to help them out. So, how can an average person like you or me help the local businesses that we love? Here are four easy ways to do just that.
Engage with their Social Media Pages
For better or for worse, we’re all spending a lot more time on social media these days, so why not use some of that time to promote some local businesses? Many small businesses are also starting to use social media more frequently. Even doing something as simple as sharing or reposting something that a business posts online, it can make a big difference. More people seeing the posts means more people are aware of the business, which means a higher likelihood of people shopping at that business.
If a business that you want to support doesn’t have social media, you can still use online methods to support them. Leaving positive reviews on sites like Google and Yelp can be very helpful, and encouraging if they see them! You can also make your own post, telling people to check out what a business you love has going on. And, of course, if you know a small business who doesn’t have a social media presence yet, but could use one, send them my way, I’d love to help!
Respect Their Rules as they Adapt
Any business owner will tell you that COVID has forced their company to make some difficult decisions, and make some changes in how they do business. These are extremely significant and hard choices to make, as regulations are constantly updated, and there are a million voices surrounding those changes, saying what businesses should or should not be doing. Naturally, some businesses owners will be able to adapt better than others, and different industries will be affected in different ways, but the common truth is that they will have to make changes that affect how you interact with their products and services. Recognizing this and respecting the rules that businesses put in place, even if you disagree with them, is a big help.
What does that look like practically? One example is the requirement of wearing masks. Some businesses believe that it is in their best interests to require customers to wear masks on their premises, while other businesses do not feel that this is necessary. Unless the government regulations of the area that the business operates in dictates otherwise, this is a choice that business owners are free to make for themselves. Unfortunately, many business owners now have stories of people who disagree with their requirements coming in and yelling at them and their staff, and in some cases, becoming violent to the point of causing a disruptive scene, or even physical damage.
If you want to support your local economy and the businesses in it, you have much better options than having a hurtful attitude toward the businesses you disagree with. If you disagree with the way a local business is doing things, leave a respectful comment with an employee or on social media, or just shop elsewhere. There’s more than enough destructiveness going on in the world right now; choose to be constructive, especially for people like business owners who need it most.
Purchase Items with Higher Markups
Obviously, one of the most direct ways you can make sure to support local businesses is simply by purchasing their products and services. However, not all of their products and offerings are created equal when it comes to paying the bills. The reality of business is that a lot of the time, the most commonly purchased items don’t have a very high markup on them, because they have to stay competitive. Many companies have more premium offerings that aren’t as commonly purchased, but tend to result in a higher profit for them. Now, most business owners I know won’t be willing to tell any customer who asks which of their products or services have the highest markup, but they’re usually the higher-priced, more “premium” options.
Of course, this isn’t the best option for everyone, as the economy has put a hurt on a lot of our bank accounts. But, think of it this way: you’re treating yourself to something nice that you might not normally get, and you’re supporting a small business owner in a time when they really need it. So, buy something nicer than you would normally, opt for the deluxe service option, and of course, tip generously!
Encourage the Staff and Owners
Finally, this is a 100% free way to support the businesses you love: just tell them that they’re appreciated! Being a small business owner is a big challenge as it is; a global pandemic and unstable economy have made it even harder. When a manager is in the middle of trying to balance out all of the different things they have on their plate, someone simply taking the time to tell them that they appreciate their efforts can make a huge difference. Make an effort to recognize the people behind the local products and services that you love; after all, it wouldn’t be possible without them. As a wise man once said, the most important things in life often don’t cost a dime. You have an unlimited supply of encouragement, so make use of it!