On a regular day, a small business owner in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry would handle any number of tasks: interacting with clients, researching new vendors, emailing prospects, proofing advertising and marketing…the list is endless, really. But as no day in the past two months could be considered anything resembling “regular.” Small business owners have had to pivot from working in an office surrounded by all of the key elements they need to run their business successfully, to working from home and doing all of the aforementioned tasks—and more—while sitting at their dining room table, or in a corner of their bedroom, or hiding in the bathroom (there’s no judging here), surrounded by kids, a spouse, a dog, an iguana, or any combination thereof.
And that can be…challenging. (To put it mildly.)
But take heart: running a small business can—and has been—done successfully from your home. Read on for some guidance on how to make it happen, do it right, and not lose your mind (or your iguana).
Staying on top of it all
Without your daily office routines and triggers, keeping track of countless processes and details involved in your business is a job in itself. Rather than settling for things falling through the cracks, stepping back and evaluating where and how you can focus your efforts should be the starting point of your strategy for running your business from home. What does that entail?
First, it entails keeping a 9-to-5. Or maybe 8-to-4, or 9-to-7—whatever you choose, you need to have clear cut working hours. It’s entirely too easy to let work slide into your personal time when you’re working from home, and before you know it you’re working nonstop. It’s not only needed but helps you be more effective in your work when you take a break—both during the day and at quitting time.
Second, it entails taking a look at your job description. Why? Because that will help you create a master list of your to-dos, which in turn can help you break down what you need to be doing each day, just as you would in the office. Whether you choose to use one of the many digital organizers or go old school with a pen and a notepad, seeing your tasks at hand helps you make sure nothing gets dropped, and business and opportunities continue moving forward.
Keeping your team on track
It’s one thing to keep yourself on track when working from home, but it’s another thing entirely to be managing a team while you and they are at home. Thankfully, we live in an incredibly digital and technological age, rife with devices and conferencing platforms, and more that can keep you connected. (Plus, it’s always nice to see familiar faces. You hired these people for a reason, after all!) Setting up regular meetings with individuals as well as the team as a whole is helpful in keeping people motivated as well as on track to keep the day-to-day operations flowing seamlessly.
This is also a prime time to give your employees the chance to spread their wings a bit, think creatively, and pursue goals that they may not have had time for previously. Working under pandemic conditions isn’t ideal, but working from home does allow for some people to have a bit of mental breathing space. It’s a shift from challenge mode to opportunity mode, and a chance to think ahead and think big about the longterm big picture. Where can your company grow? How can they help get there? Now is a great time to encourage your team to take a professional development course or continuing education, learn new tasks, think ahead to where they’d like to be with the company, and devise a road map to get there.
Market, engage, connect
For your clients and consumers, it doesn’t really matter where you’re working. To them, what matters is that you’re engaging with them on a consistent and positive basis. With the whole world at home these days, getting your product in front of the eyes and into the hands of consumers is a whole new ballgame. And that ballgame has gone digital.
Though trade shows and in-person meetings have dropped off, virtual meetings and shows are on the rise. Retailers, buyers, and suppliers are still able to discover new products via virtual CPG events, and use these events as well as online product discovery platforms like RangeMe to ask questions, request samples, and explore new opportunities. This is an area where you can put your digital sell sheet to good use, too, giving customers a well-crafted snapshot of what you have to offer.
And remember, when running your business from home, social media, digital marketing, and experiential marketing are your friends. Used properly, they will help increase your company’s visibility, meet consumers where they are, and provide the content people want—and need—at this time.
Though it’s unclear when social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place ordinances will lift, what is clear is that business will not go back to being “as usual.” And while we might be yearning for our (spouse, child, dog, or iguana-less) offices right now, your business can, in fact, keep running smoothly and successfully from your dining room, kitchen, or even your bathtub.