Undoubtedly, your small business has made it through one or more flu seasons, dealing with reduced staff – and fewer customers. For businesses, the COVID-19 scare seems to be a similar issue, but on ever-increasing steroids, and we don’t know how long its effects will be our new reality.
Mandated shut-downs alone have put the futures of many businesses in jeopardy. But before you allow this situation to devastate your small business, first try to determine the things that you can do to mitigate the issues so that your business can emerge on the other side. This is the time to take advantage of downtime and get very creative.
How Small Businesses Can Weather This Unexpected Storm
The following is not a comprehensive list of ways to survive COVID-19; but it should help you to learn how to think creatively.
#1. Communicate with Customers
All the emails you’re receiving from every imaginable business can be annoying, but they do announce closings or schedule changes that active customers need to know. To show that you care, you need to do the same. Customers need to know that you have ideas for now and the future. You can even announce plans for upcoming back-to-business sales that will help ensure that they read future emails.
If you run a service business or have a more personal relationship with customers who buy your products, try to reach out one-on-one. Personal emails can be appropriate, but a phone call might be the best way to stay in touch. Whether you have to discuss delivery delays or talk about ways that you can help them get through this troubling time, they will welcome hearing a human voice.
#2. Replace Former Needs with Technology
Even employees who must attend meetings in the office might benefit by staying at their desks and attending via video conferencing. This is a virtual necessity for maintaining a team connection when you have a remote workforce.
In most cases, however, remote employees also need access to your company network. You cannot provide this access hastily, however. When you have remote workers, it is essential that you learn and observe concepts of network security.
#3. Care For Your Employees
Take every possible step – from maintaining social distancing to following strict sanitation policies – to protect the employees who still have to come in for work. Monitor their health; anyone who shows even small signs of illness needs to leave, regardless of their function. Everyone else needs to start working from home.
Unfortunately, there are no perfect solutions for employees with children who have to work onsite; small group supervised daycare may be the best option. If relatively few employees need childcare, then in-house daycare might be possible as long as you can strictly control everyone’s environment. Enlist suggestions from your team.
#4. Encourage Continued Personal Connections Among Team Members … Virtually
Many small businesses have a unique sense of belonging among their employees, who have strong connections with the company. Those who are forced to work from home can easily become so isolated that they lose that special connection. The good news is that you can use video conferencing beyond the formal meeting session, and many businesses are doing just that.
Why not provide a daily video lunchtime where employees can catch up on each other’s’ lives or even help each other get through the stress of this challenging situation? Of course, for a full party atmosphere, you can schedule periodic virtual happy hours where team members can share a laugh or two with no risk of intoxicated driving.
#5. Postpone Spending Plans
Make sure that you know the difference between wants and needs. You may have to limp along with older equipment or remain in tight quarters for a while longer.
Equally important, now is the time to look at your payables – including rent and related expenditures. Everyone understands the financial crunch, and many of them may be willing to work with you so you can postpone some payments.
#6. Create a Financing Plan
Income may go south for a while, so you may need a financial boost. Start planning for possibilities right away. You have probably already heard that SBA financial options may be available. But your local banker wants to keep your business and may offer good choices, too. Maybe you’ll never need the financial help, but advance research will speed up the process if you need some help.
#7. Address the Bottom Of Your To-Do List
If you’re looking for a bright side, you probably have extra time on your hands. While you certainly want to use much of that time for current and future planning, you can often think better while you’re doing mindless work like clearing out the clutter and getting better organized. You know that you’ve been putting off this and other tasks; there’s no better time than now.
#8. Keep Apprised of All Resources
Last, but certainly not least, you need to stay up-to-date about the latest news and learn everything that can help you get through this difficult time. Good news: one website explains information about the disease and current practices and provides essential links to information for businesses in general — and those specific to small businesses.
Maybe even more important, be sure to search online for Coronavirus information for your state and local community. Make sure that you know the schedule for televised or radio updates from your Governor and local officials, and take the time to tune in.
The Lessons You Learn Will Serve Your Business Into the Future
Even though you deal with flu every year, Coronavirus has taught important lessons that might be worth implementing going forward. This year, you learned many lessons about the value of maintaining a much cleaner work space, learned the term, social distancing — and you have witnessed how many challenges you and your team can handle. These unparalleled times have made you stronger and smarter. Plus, the next flu season will seem like a breeze.