The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has impacted the world – families, businesses, economies – in a way I’ve never seen in my lifetime. My heart goes out to those impacted so directly already. While there are no cases in Maine as of this writing, health officials are, of course, recommending that we take steps to prepare. We are in what my kids’ school calls the “Before Pandemic” stage.
Being careful not to panic and to rely on trusted and official sources, we are preparing here at work by making plans to navigate some of the anticipated challenges. We’ve been researching, talking to other business connections, listening to our community leaders, and connecting with clients. As a result, we’ve put our notes together to provide you with a short list of 10 things small businesses can do right now to offset the coronavirus impact.
1. Follow advice from trusted sources.
It is normal to worry and stress over the latest updates surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Be sure that you are getting those updates from the most trusted sources. Unfortunately, the internet allows for the spread of a lot of misinformation and even well-intentioned friends on social media can give bad advice. Here is a great article with links to recommended sites.
2. Focus on your staff.
Staff morale is a key concern while waiting for the potential health and economic fall-out of the COVID-19 outbreak. Your employees could be worried about their job security or the impact on life at home. They may be wondering about their own health risks at work and that of their families. It’s important that you take time to hear their concerns and address them to the best of your ability.
Take proactive steps to ensure their safety and be transparent about your commitment to prioritizing their needs. The Center for Disease Control provides additional advice here.
3. Invest in business insurance.
If you don’t have business insurance already, now is the time to look into options. If you have business insurance, now is the time to review your policies. Things to consider are business interruption coverage, workers’ compensation, and general liability.
4. Offer paid sick leave.
This might easily fall under “focus on your staff”, but I’ve left this piece of advice here because I think this goes beyond just your team. This is for the good of your entire community and beyond. Employees who don’t have paid sick leave are less likely to take time off when they are sick. If they come to work when they are sick, they are more likely to spread the illness. Paid sick leaves enables those who are ill to stay home and avoid infecting others.
5. Find ways to work remotely.
While it’s definitely not possible for millions of workers around the country to work from home, those who can should definitely strive to do so. On the plus side, there are all kinds of ways to work remotely these days. Time to submit to technology and invest in the likes of Google Drive, Slack channels, and Zoom meetings!
On a side note, don’t forget to support your staff who might not be used to their new home office environment. Be sure to provide clear guidelines and expectations and communicate regularly.
Larger companies might need to update their phone systems in the time of COVID-19. Here is a list of top VoIP business phone systems that allow you to communicate with your team and customers wherever you are. They have all the necessary features like video conferencing, call recording/forwarding, cloud storage and plus, they’re more affordable than the traditional phone system.
6. Expand contact with your customers.
While the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve and while we wait for what’s to come, it’s important that you increase contact with your customers. Take time now to reach out to them, reassure them, provide information, explain updates to your products or services, or simply stay in front of them. Let them know that you are still there and help them understand any impact the current circumstances might have on their experience with your business. It’s much better to be transparent and proactive.
7. Begin planning a post-COVID-19 marketing strategy.
It feels a little early to be talking about this already, but I remain hopeful that we’ll all get through this together. That means that on the other end of this outbreak, small businesses will be adapting their marketing plans to life post-COVID-19.
While it’s hard to know exactly what this is going to look like, it’s fairly safe to say now that consumer spending habits will be a little different and businesses will need to consider how to develop their marketing messaging around that. Will you need to run a sale to get foot traffic back in the door? Will you need to reschedule a conference and broadcast that to the right people? Is there a chance that your product line might change based on the impact on global supply chains? Does your menu need to be updated based on demand?
These are all things for small businesses to be thinking about now so that you’re prepared to hit the ground running when life returns to a bit more like normal.
8. Apply for aid relief.
Large companies around the country are providing aid relief to small businesses in an effort to offset the economic impact of COVID-19. Consider reaching out to your bank, mortgage lender, local Chamber of Commerce, and your credit card company for additional resources and information. Pay attention to other relief efforts, such as the possibility of a tax filing deadline extension or other relief efforts in your area.
9. Move your services and products online or create an online revenue stream.
Taking this advice requires thinking a little outside the box and will depend greatly on the kinds of products and services you offer. However, in my experience, there are very few businesses that don’t have at least one or two ways they could benefit from an eCommerce set up. And, bear in mind, what else are folks going to be doing at home while laying low? (Hint: surfing the internet!)
For consultants and business coaches, it might be business as usual simply by moving their meetings to a virtual space. For a restaurant, this might mean on-line ordering and moving to a door delivery service. For a cosmetic practitioner, this might mean developing an online subscription box of skin care items that your clients can order and providing online tutorials.
There are all kinds of ideas and now is the time to seize the moment to make it happen. Even if this isn’t necessary in the end, you’d still be left with a potential money-making option.
10. Bonus Tip: Be extra kind and compassionate to those around you.
We’re all in this together and I encourage you to be extra kind and compassionate during this crazy time. How we treat each other during a crisis will be remembered – for better or for worse. On that note, I’ll wrap up with one of my favorite quotes, “In a world where you can choose anything, choose kindness.” -Unknown
We’ll be updating this article as we come across other helpful tips and we’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you doing to prepare and what strategies are helping your business during this time? Comment below or drop us a line.
Jenny Green, Co-Owner of Fisher Green Creative, specializes in digital strategy development, social media marketing, and SEO for small businesses. Away from helping clients or studying the latest marketing trends, Jenny volunteers her time coaching youth soccer, enjoys a cold craft IPA, and works to save the elephants. Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn or email.