How to Recession-Proof Your Small Business

A climate of economic change and instability can be overwhelming — especially for a small business focused on growth. In the wake of Brexit, presidential elections and stock market vulnerability, small businesses can stay on their feet with swift, smart planning and a strong focus on key tasks.

Protecting Income

Most businesses have repeat customers. They help to stabilize your business financially and help you make projections and forecasts about the future.

Retaining these customers is crucial to weathering economic uncertainty. In an economic downturn, customers tend to modify their spending habits and seek out budget-friendly products and services. Communicating value and understanding their needs is critical to maintaining a relationship with them.

Stay close to your customers by asking how your offering is working for them and how it may be tailored to suit them even better. You might accomplish this through customer focus groups and surveys, or phone calls and emails, depending on your company size and relationship with your customers.

Employee Retention

One way to drive employee retention without spending money is to add voluntary or employee-paid benefit options. Seventy percent of employees say having the ability to choose benefits according to their needs would make them more loyal to their current employers. Outside of medical insurance, dental, life and vision insurance round out the top five “must-have” benefits for employees. Beyond those basics, accident insurance, disability coverage and legal services can also offer appealing options to a workforce that now spans four different generations. All of these options can be offered on a voluntary basis, giving employees the ability to mix and match according to their personal needs.

Adding benefits beyond medical can help boost productivity and loyalty, giving your business a competitive advantage. Learn more.

While minimizing expenses is important, cutting back on pay or promotions for your employees may be unwise. Reliable, hard-working employees who understand your business create value and are worth investing in. When senior roles become available, consider promoting existing employees before recruiting outside candidates. This will help keep your employees motivated, stimulated and engaged, and reduce recruitment-related expenses. Hiring externally for senior roles can be challenging — the pool of specialized candidates may be smaller, so it may take longer to find the right person to fill the role. If they happen to be working for another company within your industry, your offer will have to be competitive. Promoting a current employee will require less onboarding and training, which will save you time as well.

Outsourcing Talent

Small businesses may struggle to allocate resources if sales become volatile. Company workload may increase to meet new and unexpected needs, without the ability to determine if full time help is needed long term.

For this reason, it can be wise to delegate tasks strategically, and hire freelance or part time professionals to take on specialized work. You can utilize a wealth of online freelance recruiting platforms like PeoplePerHour and UpWork to help source new talent.


Don’t make the mistake of cutting back on marketing when times are tough. In uncertain or vulnerable economic times, marketing and advertising are more important than ever. In order to stay competitive, ramp up your creative and social media efforts to reach a wider audience, and communicate with existing and potential new customers in real time.

One of the advantages that small businesses have over larger ones is their ability to quickly scale their operations up and down to make important decisions. Keep a smart strategy in place so that in uncertain economic times, you’ll make the right decisions to maintain growth and success.

This article contains information from MetLife’s 13th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, “The Benefits of Employee Benefits: Powerful Tools for Small Business Success,” available here.