By John Boitnott — Entrepreneur Leadership Network — VIP Journalist, Digital Media Consultant, and Investor
The current health and economic crisis has impacted both life and work in many ways. Chief among those impacts has been the stunning amount of business
Any crisis can potentially tank a local economy
, causing serious financial and social distress for the members of that community. The ripple effects
can impact consumers, other businesses and even local officials, causing even greater damage to the community.
Fortunately, that community also has an unparalleled opportunity to help shore up struggling businesses and provide a safety net for employees, business owners and consumers alike. Try the following suggestions to shore up your local business community and economy both during the holidays
1. Decorate the workplace
Is your office, outside storefront, outdoor restaurant
seating or other workplace in need of sprucing up fast? Look for affordable and stylish decor options at local businesses. Seek out new plants from local nurseries and gardening centers. Buy art for your offices from local artists, artisans and crafts businesses, instead of shopping on Etsy
Lastly, shop at local, independently-owned hardware stores for paint touch-ups, storage solutions and lighting fixtures instead of heading to big name home improvement chain stores.
2. Order takeout for the team
One of the hardest hit segments of the business community is the food and beverage service sector. Your local bars and restaurants may have been forced to close altogether, or simply to in-person dining. But, however they’ve been impacted, they’ve definitely lost a substantial percentage of their usual business. Why not help them out and reward your team at the same time? Treat your staff to lunch from a local restaurant using either curbside pickup or delivery. It should be no problem to send several individual meal deliveries to your team members at their home offices
3. Subscribe to your local papers
The news and media industries had already taken a series of body blows even before the crisis struck. Support local journalism and your local news outlets by purchasing digital subscriptions to a local paper for employees.
If it’s doable, make physical newspapers available in a break room or lobby for your workers and team members, as well as for any customers, clients or others who might pay a visit.
4. Hire locally
You may still employ a full staff, but if you’re looking for additional hands, expertise or specialized skills for a specific project, your local area might have just what you need. Lots of folks lost their jobs earlier this spring and are now turning to freelancing
Outsource as much work as you can to area freelancers whenever possible. When you patronize their new businesses, you’re putting more cash into circulation in your local community as well.
5. Network locally
With marketing budgets being stretched thin or even being axed altogether, many of your area’s local businesses are being forced to get creative in the hunt for new prospects and customers
. Word of mouth, which is always a powerful organic form of marketing, can help keep struggling businesses alive.
You can help this process and gain benefits for your own business by joining local community-based networking
sites like Alignable. Get active in those groups or sites by participating in discussions, answering questions, and recommending businesses you’re familiar with to people who are looking for specific services or goods.
6. Hire teachers as tutors
Are your schools still meeting in-person? As the crisis continues, many school districts have opted to forego in-person learning. Some teachers have also been forced to resign from their positions due to family and health concerns. Consider hiring one or more of these professional educators to help your company create a tutoring or school pod for your employees’ kids.
7. Buy gifts
The holiday season is the perfect time to visit local stores for unique and meaningful gifts for everyone on your list. Even if your favorite stores are closed to foot traffic, call and ask about purchasing gift cards for holiday gifts. Give them to employees and others, and encourage them to shop when it’s safe to do so.
8. Support local charitable initiatives
As the economy has struggled to regain its footing, charitable donations have also taken a hit. That means your local foundations and community service groups may be struggling to fulfill their missions. Donate as much as your business can manage, especially for groups that are offering critical services for people who have lost jobs or housing. Consider making donations in the names of colleagues and loved ones for the holidays, then encourage them to support the organization as well.
9. Leave positive reviews
Finally, don’t forget to leave a great review wherever you can. Most consumers
want to see independent reviews for small and mid-sized businesses they haven’t visited before. Many business websites will happily accept and display testimonials directly. You can also leave positive reviews on sites like Yelp
. Be as specific as possible in your praise of any local business you patronize, and encourage others to do the same.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.