HOW ANY SMALL BUSINESS OWNER SHOULD RESPOND TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Small business owners are being faced with an unprecedented, rapidly evolving challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked global markets, forced a response that has historically only been executed in a time of war, and presented challenges— as well as opportunities— that very few are equipped to properly manage.
During circumstances such as these, any business must evaluate their current financial and operational guidelines to adapt to the temporary shift in consumer demand. Small business owners need to stay informed and educated on consumer demand shifts as well as policy implications of the virus, while also executing plans that allow the business to rise to this challenge.
Below, you will find information regarding financial, operational, and personal steps you can take to protect your business, employees, and community.
THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TODAY
Business owners should constantly educate themselves on the level of precaution their state is taking against the pandemic while also focusing on guiding your employees through this tumultuous time. The confidence to guide your staff through this will develop alongside your knowledge and understanding of the exact challenges you are facing. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released information for employers and businesses that describes exactly how businesses can combat the spread of this virus. The first concern of any business should always be the human capital: understanding the CDC’s guidelines will help you protect your staff and your community.
The next step is to clarify the financial and operational steps that are necessary to keep your business alive. Mark J. Kohler described in an entrepreneur.com column that the first step in dealing with the coronavirus is “immediate financial triage.” He mentions valuable actions such as:
- Creating a cash-flow budget with fixed vs variable costs
- Analyzing cuts to unnecessary costs that are not producing revenue or securing key business functions
- Finding additional sources of revenue
- Considering accessing savings or other resources, including possible loans.
Any small business should allow the U.S. $2 Trillion stimulus package to aid them if their circumstance calls for such support. The Small Business Association has a page on Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources specifically for those affected by the coronavirus. Also, every struggling small business should specifically apply for the low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, as well as a Payroll Protection Loan (for sole proprietors or businesses with less than 500 employees). The Payroll Protection Loan falls under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which every small business owner should also consider as a required document for their review.
It is important throughout this process to talk to your financial advisor or someone who has greater financial expertise if you are not already well-versed. As you review these loan options, carefully evaluate the operations of your business to ensure that you can adapt to the shift in demand and standard practices. If you were struggling before, applying for a loan will not solve your problems. You should investigate this thoroughly.
HOW TO ACT TOMORROW
SHIFTING OPERATION STANDARD
After managing the immediate financial and public-health obligations of your business it will become time to shift your focus to operations, which will need to be able to suit the reality of a physically distanced society. The US Chamber of Commerce has a few strategy recommendations that act as a fantastic structure as to how exactly small business owners will need to adjust. A theme emerges from other strategy recommendations: despite all the existing guidelines from countless public and private resources, they all mention that you need to clearly communicate the newly established company policies for your employees. Take it as your responsibility to educate them on how to best protect themselves and their community both inside and outside of the work environment. These guidelines should not only include behavioral augmentations that will need to be repeatedly reinforced, such as cleaning frequently touched surfaces, but it should also include guidance to subjects such as how the company will respond should there be a spike in absenteeism.
LEADING WITH COMPASSION
Despite the stress that may arise from this unusual circumstance, be honest with your employees and lead with compassion. Mark Cuban has recently shifted his focus to helping small businesses through this downturn, and his action echoes what he hopes to see among small business leaders: cooperation. This is a time calling for all hands-on-deck, and supporting one another through this will make the return to normalcy ever more expedient. Gather the thoughts of your employees when it comes to solving tough challenges, stay connected with your customers, and understand how you can help fulfill their needs. You may even work together with your competitors. Strong communication and compassionate leadership are needed more than ever right now. The actions you take today can inspire loyalty and define your brand for decades, understand that dynamic, and investigate this matter thoroughly.
The reality is even the nation’s leading epidemiologists cannot accurately say with a high level of confidence how this pandemic will pan out given the nature of the virus as well as the dynamics of human behavior. Martin Reeves, a senior partner and managing director in the San Francisco Office of the Boston Consulting Group, has distilled the insights from the coronavirus into 12 lessons for leading your business through the coronavirus, as a leader in one of the worlds largest global consulting firms, his unique perspective may be valuable in contextualizing the bigger picture.
For the much smaller scale business owners, what are the steps that are going to need to be taken to emerge stronger than ever once the dust settles? Digitization seems to be the most obvious shift for many small business owners. While this may feel like a burden to many, digitization is an opportunity to communicate clearly and consistently with your customers. If possible, try to refine your existing services rather than begin entirely new ventures. Always be ready to adapt, but also keep in mind that the changes you make during this period will outlast the virus, so adjust your actions accordingly. Part of being adaptable is staying up to date on the necessary information (and ignoring the unnecessary information). Rather than source all the information yourself, guides like the one created by Inc. Magazine can be a fantastic resource in finding quality information on topics such as how to properly respond to the pandemic, leadership, cybersecurity, and even managing stress.
It is important to keep in mind how your actions today will impact your company in the long run. Will you be able to maintain the changes you made once everything returns to normal? Will your customers appreciate the actions you took during this period of uncertainty? Expect your actions today to define your business and your brand for decades to come, so what do you see as the best course of action? Need advice, schedule a discovery call with Joe and see how Corpsava can help.