As countries around the globe fall under uncertainty since the factious spread of the COVID-19, it’s hard to determine exactly how hard the economy will take effect, particularly for small businesses. It’s important to take into consideration and evaluate the persuasions that might affect your SMB.
In times like this, it seems to be that the only thing news outlets are talking about is COVID-19. So, making sure that your business will overcome these rough times is a task that should be handled carefully.
If your business implements immediate change without thinking about the future, it might complicate and increase the risks of collateral damage. The more significant the change, the more you will be able to adapt and be agile in the short-term. Thus, the better your business will fare in the long-term.
Perceived impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) among Italian companies in March 2020, by macro sector, taken from Statista
While some industries seem to be more impacted by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, this doesn’t mean that the crisis is limited to all types of businesses. Yes, it’s mainly affected industries such as airlines, tourism, and hospitality sectors but this can be seen as a domino effect. If one industry is affected eventually it will reach the other end of the spectrum.
For example, the more people are staying home either voluntarily or in quarantine, they are less likely to go out to shop frivolously, both online and in stores, or seek out special services.
In order to limit the damage, you must start by protecting your small business, as early as possible!! Here are some things you can take into consideration to help ensure that you are doing everything in your power to limit the damage of your business during times of crisis.
In this article, we’ll explore five key ways in which you can prepare your small business for the times of a global crisis, such as the Coronavirus epidemic. With these tips, you’ll be in a better position to defend your employees, your company, and your clients.
1. Consider Shifting To A Work-From-Home Policy
Many major companies are implementing a work-from-home policy for their office employees. In fact, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and more tech giants have already requested that a number of their employees stay home to avoid going out as much as possible.
If an employee has recently returned from abroad, chances are that there are already policies in place that require them to self-quarantine for 14 days. There’s no reason why your employees can’t continue to contribute and work from home while they are stuck at home. Assuming they are in good health, including them in team meetings and regularly assigning them tasks may actually even make their self-quarantine seem a little less daunting.
Many employees are worried due to the fact that they never know when they might come in contact with someone carrying the Covid-19 virus and will then be forced to self-quarantine. Additionally, as school boards close down elementary and high schools for weeks on end, parents may be forced to stay home with their children. All these are stressors as people wonder if they’ll be able to continue to work during the epidemic or if they’ll be losing out on paychecks.
Working from home isn’t something new. There are tons of remote workers around the world who are just as effective, if not more, than in-office workers. If your company isn’t yet set up to allow for the possibility of working from home, there are a few things you can do to make the transition as seamless as possible:
- Use apps like Zoom or Skype to run meetings.
- Make sure your employees are actively using your project management software so everyone can be aware of which tasks are completed, in progress, or stuck
- Communicate regularly with your staff via phone calls, text messages, or emails. It’s a good idea to send out regular mass updates as well as one-on-one check-ins to see how each employee is doing.
- Keep a positive attitude. Working in an office has an inherent social aspect, and that’s markedly absent when working from home. Be sure to maintain some semblance of company culture by updating your team on important milestones, birthdays, or even virtual lunch breaks where you can all chat together in between working.
2. Keep An Open Path of Communication With Clients
Your clients are aware of the virus and the measures in place to try and contain it. You don’t have to explain why you’re making changes to your small business’s operations, however, keeping them in the loop of what the changes are and how they might be affected will help put their minds at ease.
For example, if you’re going to start implementing a work-from-home policy, this might take a bit of time as you try and get new software up and running or get employees used to the new set up. Let your customers know that this is what you’re doing, and as a result, it may take a little longer than usual to respond to their inquiries.
If you’re in the business of shipping and delivering products, let customers know in advance that there may be delays due to operational changes.
Engaging with your clients is now more important than ever. Keep your channels clear and open so that clients can contact you with any questions or concerns. WiseStamp lets you add social icons to the signature of each email, so it can be useful to remind clients that those buttons are there should they wish to contact you on social media.
You can also use your email signature to add a disclaimer that displays information on steps your company is taking to ensure health and cleanliness standards. By having this information in every email, you will help show your clients or business partners that you’re taking the situation seriously and also acting responsibly.
3. Create a Plan On How To Adapt Your Business Operations
If there’s only one certainty during this epidemic, it’s that nothing is for certain. Therefore, it’s crucial to implement a number of plans for different scenarios.
Consider the following questions:
- What would happen if you become ill and cannot oversee your company’s activities?
- What would happen if one or more of your employees become ill and cannot come into work?
- What would happen if your business begins to decline due to your product or service becoming unused during the Covid-19 outbreak?
- What do you do if your yearly bottom line is affected by a decline in business or productivity?
While these aren’t pleasant scenarios to think of, they are all possibilities and it’s important to prepare accordingly. For example, many tourism companies that sell international airfare and vacation packages have shifted their focus to local tourism within the country or state. This solves two issues: the issue of people wanting to fly but being unable to, and the issue of the main services of the business going out of demand.
In order to create plans for all of these “what if” scenarios, you might need to start thinking out of the box. Try and think of ways of how your products or services can be slightly altered to meet the needs of consumers during these trying times. For example, you might want to begin preparing your taxes now instead of waiting for the deadline to ensure you’ll be able to gather all the necessary paperwork if an illness or quarantine prevents you to do so in the future.
Furthermore, it’s important to consult with other specialists or professionals to ensure your business is ready for whatever lies ahead, such as accountants or financial advisors. Sit down with them and try and make financial plans in the event you need to take out a loan, rework your yearly budget, implement price drops for your products or services, etc.
4. Make Sure You Have Available Alternatives
If the nature of your business allows employees to work from home, then you’re at a significant advantage already. Millions of workers don’t have the option to work from home.
For them, continuing to work is not a decision they make lightly. It’s something they must do in order to survive financially and provide for their families. If your small business is a retail store or a service-based business, for example, it’s likely that you can’t simply send your employees home with a laptop and a new Slack or Google Hangouts subscription.
The reality is, your employees may not be able to show up for work due to either being sick or quarantined. In order to prepare accordingly, it’s a good idea to look into hiring temporary workers now, before you’re stuck without anyone to cover a shift.
Reach out to recruitment agencies, temp agencies, or even post an ad to hire an extra part-time employee so you can train them in advance. Many people in the hospitality and tourism industries have recently lost their jobs due to a decrease in demand, so there’s definitely extra workers out there who would be glad to help you replace sick or quarantined employees.
If your business relies on clients coming to a physical location either to make purchases or conduct meetings, see how you can alter your operations to allow them to purchase online, over the phone, or consult with you virtually on platforms like Zoom or Skype.
5. It’s Important to React, Not To Panic
Right now, it’s better to overreact than not to react at all. It’s already been a couple of months since the COVID-19 virus epidemic was detected and began spreading, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to implement positive changes in your small business.
The best thing you can do is stay on top of the advice coming from your local healthcare professionals and encourage your employees to do the same.
With some small changes to the way you work, your business should be in a much better position to weather the storm of this epidemic.
Just think one day (hopefully sooner rather than later), this will all be behind us and your business will function as normal once again. However, after you’ve faced this adversity and came out the other side, you, your business, and your employees will be stronger for it and more well-prepared to take on any challenges that lay ahead.