The coronavirus has caused disruptions for businesses of all sizes. Thousands of organizations must close their doors or work remotely to mitigate the spread of disease. While some companies remain open, they too are suffering from the lack of public spending as millions file for unemployment — worse than the downturn in 1982, which saw 695,000 claims. This situation has caused widespread panic, especially among smaller businesses who fear they may have to foreclose if the crisis continues for much longer.
While anxiety and hysteria may be easy to give into at a time such as this, your company will make it through if you keep a level head and continue as best you can. Assess your current financial situation and begin to look for ways to keep operating efficiently. While your organization may not emerge from this crisis unscathed, it can survive. Minimize the toll this pandemic may have on your business by following these tips.
Obsess Over Hygiene
If your workplace is still open for business, you and your employees — and everyone they come into contact with — are at a higher risk of spreading or contracting the virus. Therefore, it’s essential to assess the situation and determine how to minimize this threat.
Wash your hands frequently and disinfect everything customers touch each time they enter or exit the building. If you’re in the foodservice industry, consider only allowing a few people in at a time or only offering carryout and delivery services.
While some businesses remain open, many more have closed their doors. If you’ve done the same, consider working from home and allowing your employees to do so as well. Shifting your sales strategy online will prevent any major losses of business or revenue.
You might also use this time to increase your online presence and connect with customers virtually. Before taking your services to the digital realm, however, clearly communicate your expectations, work-from-home policies and other logistical details to your employees so that everyone’s on the same page.
Keep Communication Open
As you and your team work remotely, it’s imperative to keep all lines of communication open. Host video meetings to ensure everyone stays updated, start a work group chat or set everyone up with the same software so that you can collaborate on projects.
You might also utilize a cloud-based phone system. Doing so will allow you and your employees to receive phone calls, listen to voicemails and store phone data remotely. Cloud phone services also provide SMS options, multiple extensions and the ability to forward calls.
Reduce Overhead Costs
Of course, even if you decide to operate during the pandemic, you may not be making much of a profit compared to previous months. In fact, your accounts may be slipping into the red at this point. Regardless, it’s crucial to cut as many overhead costs as possible to save money and minimize spending. Schedule fewer employees, cut meetings in half or consider limiting store hours to reduce electricity, labor and operational costs.
Take Out a Loan
If you’ve cut as many overhead costs as you can and are still struggling to pay the building lease or employees, it may be time to speak with your bank or credit union. Taking out a loan may not be ideal, but in a crisis, it may be your only option. The U.S. government is also offering business loans to small organizations under the coronavirus stimulus bill. The maximum interest rate is 4% and allows you to defer payments for six months to a year.
Be Honest With Clients
Regardless of whether you keep your doors open to the public or decide to work remotely, being honest with your customers should be a top priority. Continually update them on store hours, online specials and ways they can continue to support your business. If you’re struggling financially, consider opening up to your loyal clients about it. Start a go-fund-me and ask for help. You might be surprised how supportive your audience can truly be.
Get Business Interruption Insurance
Standard business insurance policies likely won’t cover a pandemic like COVID-19. Consequently, you may be out of luck if an employee falls ill or you have to suspend operations. However, you should consider getting business interruption insurance in case of future crises like floods or storms. Having a policy before something happens could be the difference between receiving monetary compensation and completely going under.
Create a Disaster Preparedness Policy
In addition to purchasing an insurance policy, you should also plan ahead by creating a disaster preparedness plan. Most businesses were utterly unprepared for this pandemic. However, we can learn from this crisis and better prepare for future incidents.
A good plan will include work-from-home policies, how to handle travel, productivity expectations and more. Communicate this concept with your staff before another event to ensure everyone is fully prepared. Next time disaster strikes, you’ll all know exactly what to do.
Safety First During a Crisis
While keeping your business alive and operating is a huge priority, safety should always take precedence. If your organization cannot operate safely, it’s best to close your doors for the time being. Once people return to work and consumers begin spending again, the economy will undoubtedly bounce back.
However, if you fear temporarily halting operations may be a fatal move for your company, focus on mitigating costs and applying for loans. Hopefully, when everything blows over, your business will still stand strong and be better prepared for the next disaster.
Megan R. Nichols is a technical writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. She regularly contributes to sites like Industry Today, Born2Invest, and Business Process Incubator. Follow Megan on Twitter @nicholsrmegan and subscribe to her blog to stay in touch.