The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has completely changed human lives on our planet. It has disrupted all normal operations including businesses all across the world. The virus brought with it one of the most unfortunate times humanity has ever faced on earth.
The pandemic has affected businesses throughout the industry spectrum. However, those related to hospitality, retail, and personal service are the worst affected. No doubt, operations of businesses of all sizes were hit. But, the smaller businesses took the hardest hit.
The vaccination drives going on across the world may make things look brighter and better. But, to think that the pandemic is over, could be the biggest mistake on our part. At least the effects are far from over. And hence, it is important for us to understand the gravity of the situation and plan things accordingly.
Here in this article, we will talk about what can be done to help small businesses survive the adversities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While none of the businesses are immune to the pandemic, those with limited financial support are at the biggest risk. McKinsey’s analysis of surveys on small businesses concludes that about 1.4 to 2.1 million businesses across the US could close permanently due to the disruption caused in just the first four months of the pandemic. These businesses account for 25 to 36 percent of the total small businesses in the US.
Preparation During COVID-19
While it may be impossible to completely avoid the adverse effects of the pandemic, there are certain preparations that can help you minimize those effects. Here’s how you can prepare your business during the pandemic:
1. Your safety first
It is extremely important for you to stick to the guidelines set by the governing authorities. It helps you stay safe during the pandemic. If you are safe and healthy, everything else will fall in place eventually. Hence, prioritize your safety and well-being.
2. Informing customers
Keep updating your customers about your business through WhatsApp, social media platforms, phone calls, or personalized emails. It will ensure your customers are updated about the modifications made to your business operations or services. Moreover, it reflects your commitment to your customers.
3. Getting your employees ready
Provide the necessary resources to your employees to keep them ready for the changes being made. Keep them informed with relevant documents and advisories from the Department of Health and other concerned authorities.
Protecting your Business and Employees
There are numerous protective measures that can help you protect your business as well as your employees. The following are some of those ways:
1. The first plan of action
Dealing with a pandemic like the COVID-19 is entirely new for the majority of businesses. It is therefore important to define an initial plan of action.
On one hand, you have employees who are worried about their safety as well as employment. While on the other, you have investors who are worried about their money and want to know your contingency plan. Make a team of some skillful people and ask them to study all such problems. Then, along with the team, make a proposal for moving forward.
Keep your shareholders and investors informed about your future plans and things that may impact the overall revenue of your business. Study the sources of your cash flows and build alternative plans. Ask your accounting department to complete a risk assessment on your books. It will help you have a clear picture of all the potential gains or losses.
Make a concrete plan before sending your employees home. The plan must have well-documented remote work expectations and a transparent communication platform. Ensure your employees have the necessary tools for all their IT-related issues.
2. Financial preparation
While your business financials may feel volatile amidst the pandemic, you are not the only one. There are methods you can adopt to minimize your financial losses.
Make a business continuity strategy, listing down the potential struggles as well as worst-case scenarios. Work out each such case and be ready with ways to deal with it. This will help you move ahead quickly and with confidence.
To bring down the possibility of any confusion, build a clear communication strategy. This should cater to both internal as well as external business communications. Define proper channels to communicate effectively with everyone including your employees, contractors, investors, and customers.
You must also have a supply continuity arrangement. This will ensure you have all the goods and resources you require, in case a vendor terminates production.
Think out of the box and bring virtual solutions and e-commerce options to continue selling your products or services.
3. Preventing your workplace
If you can’t afford to send your employees home due to the nature of your business, create a workplace protection plan that will make sure your employees remain safe.
If any of your employees are experiencing cold, flu, or other COVID-19 related symptoms, send them home right away.
Sanitize your entire workplace including door handles, surfaces, commonly used things like pens and keyboards.
Ask your managers to make schedules that enable adequate rest times for all employees between shifts.
Observe the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) on sanitizing and hand-washing. Ensure your workplace has an adequate supply of sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. Install signs across your workplace to remind employees to regularly sanitize their hands and wash them properly.
Ensure all your employees maintain a safe distance of 2 meters while working. This will decrease the risk of contamination.
4. Travel safety
To further reduce the risk of contamination and infection avoid all unnecessary business travels. In case of unavoidable travels, follow the appropriate safety measures.
Avoid traveling to states that are in a declared state of emergency or to places with known COVID-19 outbreaks.
On returning from your travels, maintain a safe distance from elders and people having a weak immune system or a chronic health condition. This will ensure the safety of others.
In case you discover that you have come in contact with an infected person while traveling, do not come in contact with anyone for a minimum period of 14 days. During this period, keep a track of your body temperature and contact the medical authorities if you experience any of the COVID-19 symptoms.
While traveling, avoid public transportations and try to minimize the number of persons you come in contact with. Sanitize your hands after touching common surfaces or door handles. Also, refer to updated travel advisories issued by the department of health or other concerned authorities before traveling.
5. Tips for hosting events
Avoid hosting events and public gatherings as much as possible. If you have to host an event urgently due to your business requirements, then consider the following tips:
- Supply protection kits: Provide face masks, hand sanitizers, and tipsheets to all participants.
- Avoid person-to-person contacts: Engage all the attendees online and avoid distributing business cards.
- Make isolation zones: Ask people feeling sick to avoid attending the event. However, if a person starts feeling sick during the event, he/she can go to the isolation zones to avoid contact with other attendees.
Other than the aforementioned tips, you can also consider administering refunds so that people who don’t feel completely healthy can cancel their subscription to the event. You must also plan for employee absences so that your event doesn’t get affected in case your best person gets sick.
6. Remote work practices
Remote work is the best way to avoid person-to-person contact and ensure your safety as well as that of your employees. You can maximize the productivity of your business by employing good remote work practices.
Make sure that all your employees have the required tools to work from home efficiently. The tools may include video conferencing applications, instant messaging applications, and a reliable internet connection.
Have complete transparency in communicating your expectations. Employees must be aware of their working hours and task deadlines. They must know how to communicate their availability and which meetings to attend virtually.
Encourage your employees to have a designated place to work from their respective homes. This will enhance their productivity as they can stay organized and focused throughout the day.
Take appropriate measures to safeguard your business data and employee details. Ask your employees to connect to work using a private network and avoid using public networks available at co-working spaces or cafes. This will help you ensure data security while working remotely.
7. Uplifting the morale
Teamwork is an essential ingredient for enhanced business productivity. Your employees may start feeling disconnected from their colleagues and teams while working remotely. It is important to uplift their morale and make them feel connected.
Schedule virtual meetings with your employees and teams. This will help maintain the personal relationships among employees and strengthen their connection with your business.
Take out some time for virtual fun. Organizing fun sessions and casual catch-ups can help your employees disconnect from their daily routine and re-energize them.
Incorporate transparency and patience that make sure your employees know that you are all together in this fight against the deadly virus. Keep reminding them of practicing patience and gratitude towards one another.
The economic impacts of the COVID-19 are huge. It has taken the hardest toll on small businesses. While there is no quick fix for this dreadful situation, there are small things that make a large difference.
Strategizing appropriately and incorporating cost-efficient solutions can help your business see through this difficult phase. From implementing protection plans to ensuring the mental well-being of your employees, everything counts.
If you are a small business owner you can execute the aforementioned plans to ensure minimum damage to your business. And if you are just a common person, you can volunteer and support your nearest businesses in any which way possible. This will have a positive impact on businesses and will strengthen their courage to carry on amidst the pandemic.