With the shock of the last few weeks starting to sink in as we adapt to the changes in our community and operate to a new state of normal – at least for the time being – it’s become clear that the Covid-19 pandemic will have an enormous impact on our magnificent and vital Small Business Ecosystem.

I’ve always worked in Small Business and for the greater part of my career, I have had my own business, as did my parents, my siblings, and now my children. It’s a world full of passionate people, usually working in a field that they adore, trying their hardest to make a living and potentially build a profitable, sustainable business for their future. This is the world I cherish and I’m fortunate enough to now work for an NFP with a team of 20+ people who feel the same way.

Small Business owners have a strong attachment to their businesses – it’s not uncommon for them to refer to their business as their baby. If I said the uncertainty of the future of our Small Business clients was not taking its toll on my team, I’d be lying. I know our Advisors are equipped with the knowledge and experience they’ve gained from working in many areas of business interruption over the years, but we’ve never seen anything close to this scale.

Now more than ever, the mindset of Small Business owners is at the front and centre of my mind with so many incredible people being knocked down unexpectedly by this uncontrollable change. At first, the most common trend our Advisors have identified is a heavy sense of denial with many of the people they’d interacted with. Quickly thereafter, clients began to show anger as you’d expect, followed by bargaining or depression in most cases. It is evident to those of us who understand these signs that our clients are grieving a loss of something so great that it will take time to work through their emotions and grief before finally accepting it and in the best case scenario, rebounding.

As experts we can identify these stages in our clients as the Kübler-Ross Grief Cycle: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining and Acceptance. The order of stages may change from person to person, but the cycle is usually consistent – This is what we are seeing in the Small Business Community right now. As they grieve the loss of what they built, we need to be respectful of their collective state of mind and the stages of grief they’re moving through over the course of the next few months.

The five stages of grief according to the Kübler-Ross model

The five stages of grief according to the Kübler-Ross model

Now is not the time to sell your services to this community. In fact, I’d say overall in businesses, big and small, it’s not the right time to sell many products or services, but there are of course, exceptions. It’s a time for brand building, product development and thought leadership. Right now, most people are looking for information, communication and support. If you can, use your expertise to be of service first and foremost. In our business we’ve started to do this by waiving the additional personal contribution for all our Government contract advisory services, and we’re opening access to the online content on our website and hosting free webinars and workshops for small business owners.

As a community, my hope is that we can acknowledge and work through our grief together, recognise the stages of grief in those around us, support each other and move out of our fear to embrace this change. Perhaps I’m in Kübler-Ross’s stage of acceptance right now but in my experience as a coach, once we accept the uncontrollable and begin working to move through it, we make better decisions in our lives and in our businesses.

Support available for Small Business

  • We are Realise Business, a Provider for the NSW Government’s Business Connect Program and the Federal Government’s ASBAS Digital Business Solutions Program in Sydney. In the present stage of Business Interruption, Realise Business are waiving the usual client contribution fees on both Business Advisory programs to allow more people access to our team of experts during this time.
  • NSW Small Business Commissioner have some great resources and support for businesses.
  •  If you are struggling with the current situation, Lifeline provides all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to online, phone and face-to-face crisis support and suicide prevention services.

Further reading on the Five Stages of Grief

The Five Stages of Grief, An Examination of the Kubler-Ross Model, Christina Gregory, www.psycom.net