Coronavirus: 7 Things Your Small Business Needs to Do Now
Does your business have a Covid-19 strategy? And is it built to be sustainable?
COVID-19 pandemic otherwise known as the coronavirus has taken the world by storm. It’s literally changing our landscape by the hour. It is affecting all of us in different ways but small businesses may be being hit the hardest. Here in Minneapolis, everything is shutting down to help encourage people to flatten the curve. Now, the Small Business Administration is providing loans to Small Businesses, but this still leaves many small business owners unsure of what steps to take to mitigate risk, protect employees and support customers.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has provided a helpful coronavirus toolkit with a compilation of the CDC’s recommendations for businesses and workers across the country. Here are some key points and immediate steps the CDC and Crashplan for Small Business recommends.
1. Establish a remote work option
There are many free tools business owners can utilize so that teams can stay in touch and keep working even if they aren’t in the same place.
When writing your remote work policy make sure that it covers when you expect your team to be online or available, how to communicate (via email, Slack, or video call, for instance), and what deliverables each team member is responsible for completing. Remember, for this to work you need to place a certain amount of trust in your employees, communication will be key here. The idea is to let them work without micromanaging them, use the ideas we discussed here to create a guide to help you and your employees get started..
2. Be Flexible
Schools, restaurants, bars, and malls across the country are closing. With the country slowly moving toward total shut down, you will need to be understanding with your employees’ time. The most obvious example is employees with children, especially if their daycare closes. Trying to work from home with little ones is no easy task. (Trust me I know how difficult it is my two girls are screaming at each other as I write this). Others may have students who come home from school for spring break and aren’t able to return. Some might have elderly parents who are at a higher risk. Simply put, remember to be as understanding as possible when something comes up and have a contingency plan in case you suddenly become short-staffed.
3. Communicate with customers
Everyone is facing this crisis together, so please be completely transparent about what your business is going through. Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them. Everyone is getting a similar message from all the companies they interact with, using your social media channels is a good alternative to communicate your situation and plans with your customers.
When customers are separated from the work that’s being done behind the scenes to serve them, they appreciate the service less and then they value the service less.
4. Protection, protection, protection
Bad-guys love chaos. They love it because people are distracted and they let their guard down. Right now, everything is chaotic and we’re already seeing reports of people taking advantage of the situation. Protecting yourself is easy with a cloud-based backup solution.
Make sure you backup and protect all your business files, here at Crashplan For Small Business we offer a Free 30-day trial. An additional resource is business interruption insurance which may be an option for you if you have significant business losses as a result of the pandemic. “Try speaking with your insurance broker about business interruption insurance to cover unexpected major events and see what qualifies for coverage. It may not cover this emergency, but you’ll be better prepared for the next time your business suffers similar economic losses,” reports USA Today. Additional articles are below citing hacker attacks associated with the coronavirus.
5. Shift sales strategy
Chinese companies, forced to confront the reality of coronavirus shutdowns before most American companies, provide a blueprint for weathering this storm. As storefronts shuttered their doors and workers stayed in place, savvy business owners shifted their sales strategy to avoid heavy losses.
For instance, in Wuhan, the cosmetics company Lin Qingxuan closed 40% of its stores — but the brand’s 100+ beauty advisors took to digital platforms like WeChat to engage customers virtually and increase online sales. “As a result, its sales in Wuhan achieved 200% growth compared to the prior year’s sales,” writes Harvard Business Review.
If you’re closing your store, find ways to keep your employees earning a paycheck by selling on social media, putting your email list to good use or using a video tool to reach new leads. If you are a restaurant, unfortunately, curbside pick up is pretty much your only option at this point.
6. Play the long game
Think of this as a marathon, not a sprint. Many companies are suspending their marketing completely but they may be missing out. This can be a huge opportunity to create brand awareness for your company. No need to go for the quick sale in times like these. Focus on your core customers. They are by far your best ambassadors for new business. Take care of them and they will take care of you.
As reported in SmallBizTrends, “27% of businesses expect the coronavirus to have a moderate to high impact on their revenue. Another 30% expect the virus to have a moderate to high impact on their supply chain.” Here are a few things you could do to help ease the pressure:
- Set up weekly calls/emails to let customers know how things are progressing on your end
- Speak to your suppliers, investors, partners and local officials on a daily basis
- Use social media to share updates
- Create a sustainable business plan that will help you stay above the red and stick to it
- Cut down spend that is not essential to keeping your business running
- Try using video calls instead of in person meetings.
- Practice the CDC’s recommendations for office cleaning
- Manage your own stress and practice self-care
I can’t stress that last bullet enough, it may be a while before normalcy returns. You know when you get on the plane and the flight attendant starts talking about emergency tactics and they get to the part about putting on YOUR oxygen mask first before helping anyone else? Yup, the same applies to your business. You need to take care of yourself if you want your business to be here when this is over. Do that and the rest will fall into play. Remember without you, you don’t have any customers.
7. Taking care of your business means taking care of your employees too
I know, I know, so obvious, right? But just like you’re thinking “how will I survive” they are also thinking the same thing. Just like communicating with your customers will ensure that your business weathers this storm, communicating with your employees will increase their confidence in you. They know your back is against the wall, but every little thing you can do to mitigate their worries will only reap you major benefits. Some ideas to consider:
- Pay them for their scheduled time if you need to close your business
- Maximize PTO
- Create additional tasks
- Complete business plans that weren’t enough time to do beforehand
- Create a remote plan (if applicable) for them to make their time at home more efficient
One last thing, we are are in this together and we will get through this together. Stay safe and stay clean.