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Foot traffic has evaporated overnight under necessary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Small businesses watch in dismay as cash reserves to pay rent, pay utilities, and most importantly, take care of staff, dwindle. Small businesses that pivot nimbly and focus on the essentials have a shot at coming through the pandemic intact. Here are some ways small businesses can survive COVID-19.
Staff will look to the business owner for reassurance. Business owners must take good care of themselves in order to take good care of staff. Loyal, skilled, and experienced staff will help businesses get through the crisis and rebuild when restrictions ease. Remain calm and demonstrate all the social distancing and good hygiene behaviors that public health experts recommend. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Disinfect surfaces several times a day.
Allow as many workers as possible to work from home. Communicate clearly that no one should come to work if they feel sick. Mark workspace floors with tape or decals that indicate appropriate distancing. Most of all, communicate clearly with staff about what you are doing to keep the business afloat and ensure they will have jobs and paychecks for as long as possible.
Update your website and signage to explain what you are doing to ensure safety for employees and customers. Describe your sanitation practices and tell customers what you’re doing to try to keep going. Tell your patrons how they can help—by purchasing a gift card for future use, or by supporting community causes important to your business during the time you may not be able to contribute as much.
The relief package Congress has passed provides for low-interest loans for small businesses, and some of these turn into grants that need not be repaid if the business continues to pay employees. The US Chamber of Commerce has aggregated all of its advice about ways small businesses can survive COVID-19 on its website, including information about financial assistance.
The ripples from this crisis affect everyone. Lenders and vendors understand that small businesses are on the brink of disaster. Many will work with businesses to spread out payments or forgo fees for a month or two, maybe even longer.
Do anything you can do online. If you don’t already have an online shop or service request form set up, now is the time to supercharge your efforts to update your web presence and your ability to do business online. This may require beefing up your network, adding capacity, or upgrading cabling to add devices or workstations. Restaurants and grocery stores have pivoted to provide delivery and curbside pick-up. Retailers can beef up their online ordering capacity and provide deals on shipping. Consumers will understand that all businesses are under stress, and if you might suffer shipping delays, just say so. Keep your customers informed, and they will stick with you through this crisis.
Finally, accept that this pandemic will permanently change how businesses operate. Patrons will never look at a doorknob or hear a cough as anything other than potential sources of contagion from now on. Businesses that adapt nimbly to contactless delivery, remote video consultation, and prolonged social distancing will be the businesses that thrive beyond the coronavirus crisis.
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