Reciprocity: The #1 Principle That Grows Your Business During COVID-19

5 min read · 1 year ago


COVID-19 is either a threat or an opportunity for your small business. Here is the principle that will help create a tide of goodwill that will help you exit this pandemic stronger than ever.

It’s easy to get bogged down in “pandemic panic.” Your company is losing customers, resources are hard to find, and you have bills to pay. Four in ten small businesses operate in industries that have ground to a halt. Many of these businesses are young, with moderate payrolls and low sales. 

How in the world are you going to survive the coronavirus?

There is one business principle that will help you answer this question. It’s a tried-and-tested principle for reconnecting with your customers and community, and it has the added benefit of positioning your company as one that genuinely cares. 

You already want to help your employees, your customers, and your community. Here is how to use the principle of reciprocity to help them—and, in so doing—help your business. 


What Is the Principle of Reciprocity?

The principle of reciprocity originally comes from social psychology. Basically, it means to “give to get in return.” When you offer to help others first, you create a culture of reciprocity for your company. And because it inspires influence and goodwill, people respond by helping you. 

So, how can this be useful as one of your crisis management strategies?

If, like many other companies right now, you find that you don’t have enough customers, you lack resources, or you just don’t have enough income to cover your expenses—this principle can solve these issues. 

Inherently a persuasive principle, reciprocity creates a two-way support structure for your business. This is especially powerful during crisis planning because so many people need help. It changes the mindset from “I need help” to “where can I help” which leads to positive results.  

The more steps you take to help your employees, your customers, and your community—the more support each of these groups will give you in return. This is the basis of reciprocal business crisis management. Here are some powerful ideas to get you started!


Women checking their website

Use Your Business Website as a Way to Connect

Before you start helping others you need a way to centralize your communication—so that when people want to return the favor, they can. This is best achieved using your small business website as a center of operations for your support network. 

When people reach out to help you, it makes them happy. Some scientists say that the more you give, the happier you are. During COVID-19, people need light and support, and happiness! 

They want to know that they’re helping people who help people. By giving and allowing others to give, you surround your company with positive energy, it’s magnetic!

Your business website can help you connect with employees and customers during social distancing, you can find causes to support in your community, and you can increase your e-commerce sales too. Make your website a hub for support in your community, and your business will thrive. 


Woman making masks

Donate to COVID-19 Causes

There’s a global pandemic going on. Your small business shouldn’t ignore that, and you absolutely should be helping those who are fighting to save lives. Frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, and medical and emergency staff need your help. When you respond to that call, people notice.

Follow the principle, and ask:

What can I do to help healthcare workers right now?


There are many ways you and your team can raise money to donate to COVID-19 causes. There are shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), food supplies, and financial resources everywhere. Focus on your immediate area to impact the most positive change.

  • Get local businesses involved in helping to raise money
  • Create videos or TikTok content to inspire viral sharing and donations
  • Find a way to solve a problem for frontline workers in your area


Contact the people you want to support before running your drive in order to understand their needs and how you can truly help them. 


Help Your Employees Through the Crisis

If you run a restaurant, a café, a bed and breakfast—even a salon—there’s a good chance you’ve had to completely shut down and lay off, suspend, or reduce salaries for some staff members. Some employees may have become ill while others might be too fearful to return to work because of COVID-19.

What can I do to help my employees right now?

If your employees need money, help them raise it. If their family is dealing with a sick person, make sure they have food and support. Employees that are struggling with mental health issues need care, the ability to work from home, or the reassurance that your workplace is safe.

  • Donate all or some merchandise sales to an employee fund
  • Make it possible for customers to send food gift cards through your website


Stay in constant communication with your employees and find out how they are doing. Your company depends on your people, and you need to be there for them during this time. 


Restaurant owner packing a to go order with a mask on

Give to Other Small Businesses in Need

It might seem counter-intuitive but one of the best ways to express the principle of reciprocity during a global pandemic is by helping other small businesses in need. 

There are so many ways you can do this on your own or with your employees. Chat with your team and find local businesses that need your help.

  • Buy gift cards, order takeout, and order from small online retailers
  • Continue buying from suppliers, even if they only have curbside pickup options
  • Send your team to help a business in need or volunteer your expertise
  • Form alliances with other companies and do great things together
  • Share small business posts on your social media networks


There are many small business resources at your disposal that micro-businesses or other companies may not have access to. Your website and online presence, for example, could be a lifeline for a company that doesn’t have one. Website migration takes time and so does website redesign!



Woman Volunteering at an Animal Shelter

Volunteer Your Skills to Help the Community

Your local community is at the heart of your business. These are the people that buy your products or services and will support you through any pivot you have to make to survive. Giving back to them should be a core priority for you and your team during COVID-19. 

  • Volunteer time or donate to local animal shelters
  • Volunteer to host a community mental health initiative online
  • Volunteer time or donate to local assisted living / old age homes
  • Lend your specific skills to those in need in your community


A web developer, for example, could donate their knowledge of website hosting and website design to a local gardener who has been out of work since March. 

A business consultant could advise small companies on how to speed up their digital transformation to stay open. A restaurant could make meals for the homeless.


The Principle of Reciprocity is so powerful that it can help your business grow during the darkest of times. So, instead of focusing on what you can’t change for yourself—focus on what you can do for others. That way, your business becomes a guiding light of support during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now that’s good business!  


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