One of the most heartwarming things we have heard in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is efforts of big businesses. The corporate giants of the world are contributing with aid funds, emergency pay, prioritized essentials, and some are even opening their doors as shelters and hospitals. But these efforts are for businesses that have billions, maybe trillions, of dollars in the rainy-day fund.
COVID-19's impact on the business world is really hitting small businesses the hardest.
Local shops, restaurants, and services that rely on regular traffic from neighbor-customers are facing a complete change in economic environment.
E-commerce deliveries are through the roof but everyone is too afraid or too sick to leave home for a haircut, a meal, or a massage.
This article highlights the many ways that the coronavirus response is impacting small businesses, and what you can do to survive and thrive.
Limited In-Store Customers
The first undeniable change is the number of customers who are willing to visit your store in person.
You may have dozens or hundreds of regulars who walk through your doors each day, but not during the pandemic.
Shopping centers are like ghost-towns between quarantine and social distancing.
Businesses that have relied on in-person services or shoppers are having to find new approaches.
Fortunately, the economy hasn't stopped. It's just gone online.
- Take It Online with E-Commerce
The first thing you can do is to simply refocus on online sales.
If you don't have an e-commerce site and delivery service set up yet, now is the time to join the flock of other small-businesses getting this sorted out now.
If you're already an e-commerce brand or have an online store for your brick-and-mortar business, you're in luck.
Coordinate with your delivery drivers to ensure greater safety with face-masks, gloves, and sanitizer used with each delivery.
- Sanitize and Schedule Widely - Send Out an Open-Doors Bulletin
Some businesses are actually managing to keep their doors open.
The first step is to add a sanitization process.
Ensure that no surface or object even looked-at by a person without a mask is sanitized regularly.
If you keep appointments, book them so that two clients/patients never cross paths, or that your clients can be seen at a more-than-6-feet distance from each other.
Then send out an email blast letting all your regulars know that the doors are open and your team is ready to help them social-distance safely while still providing your usual superb service.
Risk of Infection in the Workplace
The next serious concern is that your employees can't come into the office safely unless you protect them from infection.
Infection spreads through particles from the lungs.
Those particles come out as droplets in breath that are breathed or coughed out and land on surfaces nearby.
When someone touches that surface, and then touches their face (we do this hundreds of times a day) they become infected.
- Allow Telecommuting
The very best thing you can do to keep infection out of the workplace is to keep people out of the workplace. Anyone who could perform their duties from home, encourage them to do so and establish an online communication system for at-home employees.
- Minimize Staff
Prioritize having only a skeleton-crew in the office. Assure anyone who needs to stay home and use that buffer-space to increase the physical distance between employees. The fewer people in the office, the less chance that someone will bring in the virus or spread it to others.
- Distance Desks
COVID can travel up to 6-feet through the air in a cough, so we advise a 10-foot distance between desks just to be safe. The further your staff are from each other, the safer they will be.
- Create Sanitization Policies
Make and enforce clean-workspace policies. Explain how wiping down everything before and after you touch it is important. Provide cleaning wipes, alcohol, or bleach-solution to make this happen. When you can, go through the half-hour disinfecting process.
Business Model is Abandoned During the Pandemic
The last major challenge for small businesses during this time is the possibility that your business is temporarily irrelevant.
Maybe you provide travel services, plan events, or give massages.
There are dozens of industries that are almost completely bereft of business because everyone is staying at home and not risking physical contact with anyone oustide their household.
What can you do? As it turns out, quite a lot.
- Close Shop and Hunker Down
Your first and potentially best option is to close-up shop. Like a beachfront store during a hurricane, you'll save more money by turning off the lights and rolling down the gates for the time being.
If people can't patronize your business right now, there's no need to lose overhead on non-productive days spent open.
Send a warm letter to your customers letting them know that you're closed for the time being (just in case one or two venture out) and send your team home to stay safe.
If you have the financial room, consider offering your staff the now-industry-standard 2-weeks emergency pay.
- Reinvent Your Business Model for Remote Services
Some small business owners are getting creative with the new delivery-only economy.
Maybe you used to sell things in-store but now, you can re-task your team as delivery drivers (or hire drivers from other out-of-work professionals) and take your goods directly to the customers instead. Provide safe no-contact deliveries and make sure your customers can order and pay online.
If your business offers a service instead, find ways to provide that service remotely. Hold appointments through video chat instead of in your office.
Host classes by live-streaming instead of filling your classroom. There are tons of ways to reinvent a business model for online and no-contact only procedures.
- Redirect Team or Business Toward Community Aid
If you really can't provide your goods or services right now, consider redirecting your business resources and team energy toward aiding the community.
Local restaurants, for example, are turning their kitchens into emergency meal stations, and delivering meals to isolated families instead of hosting guests in the dining rooms.
Try to get creative and find a way to contribute as a team, especially if your staff is eager to participate.
If you can't redirect your business, then simply redirect the team. Form a cohort of mask-wearing delivery drivers to help your town's already overworked existing drivers and replace drivers who have to stay home.
Or volunteer online or in-person wherever volunteers are accepted.
For more insights on how to adapt your small business to the current circumstances, contact us today.