Running a business is never easy, but COVID-19 has created a slew of additional challenges. From lockdowns to capacity restrictions, businesses everywhere are struggling to adapt to the new normal. The pandemic is especially difficult for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Don’t panic! You don’t need to let COVID-19 bring an end to your business.
So, how do you keep your business afloat during a pandemic?
Online meetings & teleworking are a couple of the ways that businesses are coping. However, those solutions don’t work for every business owner..
Luckily, we’ve uncovered a variety of tactics that you can use to ride out the pandemic. Whether you have an online or a local business, the following 12 tips can help you remain successful.
1. Review Your Local COVID-19 Restrictions
If you want to avoid costly fines and penalties, you first need to review the COVID-19 restrictions in your local area. States, counties, and cities tend to have different approaches to dealing with the pandemic. Some areas are also harder-hit compared to others.
Start with your state restrictions and work your way down to the local level. If you operate a business with a physical location, find out if you can allow visitors inside. If visitors are allowed, determine the mask requirements and capacity limits.
Make sure that your employees are also aware of the restrictions. Since the actions of your employees are still your responsibility.
2. Assess the Impact of Restrictions and Guidelines
The next step is to determine the impact of the restrictions & guidelines on your daily operations. You’ll need to ask yourself a series of questions related to your business processes.
For example, can you still receive orders from vendors and suppliers? Can employees still show up to work? Do you need to offer contactless drop-off for physical goods? Determine how these issues will change the way you work.
If your employees can still show up, what measures do you need to use to protect their health? If you can offer contactless drop-offs, how much extra time do you need to devote to each order? Assess the financial and logistical impact of each change.
3. Prioritize the Health of Your Employees
Your employees should be your main priority. Unless you’re a solo entrepreneur, you can’t run a business without staff.
Every decision that you make during the pandemic requires you to consider the health of your employees. For example, if your employees need to meet with clients, consider using remote conferencing solutions, such as Zoom or Skype.
If your employees need to show up to work in person, make sure that your facilities are clean and sanitized. In fact, your state or city may require you to follow specific cleaning procedures to remain open.
Those are just a couple of examples of prioritizing your employees’ health. As you evaluate your business processes, think about how to limit physical interaction.
4. Establish Remote Work Policies
At the start of the pandemic, many businesses had to shut their doors to employees and guests. Instead of completely shutting down, some businesses allowed employees to work from home.
Remote work eliminates the need for employees to visit the office. They can still accomplish a wide range of tasks with the right policies in place.
While many regions have now let businesses reopen, maintaining remote work arrangements may protect your staff and business. If your area experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases, the state may reinstate some of their restrictions.
Of course, remote work is not an option for every business.
5. Adjust Shifts to Limit Onsite Employees
If you produce physical goods, which covers everyone from manufacturers to bakeries, you may need to adjust your work schedules to limit onsite employees.
Determine the bare minimum staffing requirements needed to maintain your core operations. You may also use a staggered shift pattern to help maintain social distancing. A staggered shift pattern includes separate start and finish times for employees.
For example, a few employees may arrive at the usual start time while others stagger in at set times throughout the morning. This keeps employees arriving and leaving at different times, limiting their exposure to each other.
6. Check Out Your Competition
Competitor research is an essential part of running a successful business. This is one thing that has not changed during the pandemic. You should always pay attention to the competition.
Your competitors likely face the same restrictions and difficulties that you face. Review your competitor’s marketing strategies and operational changes.
Checking out how your competition is dealing with the virus may provide some insight into how you can cope with the same challenges.
7. Use Government Resources
The Federal Government rolled out a series of protections for businesses during the pandemic, including a loan program. While the money is mostly dried up, there are still resources available.
Through the Small Business Administration (SBA), businesses can apply for loans and debt relief. This includes the new Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). The EIDL program is designed to help businesses meet financial obligations and cover operating expenses.
If you don’t qualify for an EIDL, check out the SBA Express Bridge Loans. You already need a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender but you can access up to $25,000.
Another option is the SBA Debt Relief program. The agency may pay your principal, interest, and fees for microloans for up to six months.
8. Maintain Communication with Your Clients
The confusion surrounding various COVID-19 restrictions may lead some consumers to wonder which businesses are open. Make sure that your clients know that you’re still doing business.
When contacting your clients, explain any changes to your operations that may affect the services or products that they receive. For example, your clients may need to discuss matters over the phone or using video conferencing apps instead of appearing in person.
Keeping your clients informed reduces any confusion and increases the chances of them sticking with your business.
9. Sell Off Unessential Assets if Necessary
If COVID-19 has limited your operations or sales, you’re likely to face shrinking profits and growing debt. Even as your profits decrease, there are ways to avoid letting your debt spiral out of control.
Start by selling any assets that are not essential to your operations. A manufacturer could have legacy equipment that may not be needed for a streamlined production run. An office may be able to get rid of unessential printers, desktops, and other electronics.
Businesses that operate in multiple locations may also consider consolidating their operations and shuttering one or more facilities.
10. Negotiate with Your Lenders and Vendors
After selling unessential assets, you may find that you’re still operating in the red. Negotiating with lenders, vendors, and landlords may allow you to delay payments or establish a new payment plan.
Many businesses are willing to work with their customers to overcome the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. When it comes to leases, property owners may be willing to delay the monthly rent. Vendors may be willing to hold off on invoices until your cash flow stabilizes.
You could also employ this same technique with your clients or customers. If you offer a service with a monthly charge, consider forgiving late fees or delaying payments. This builds goodwill with your customers, as it shows that you care more about their welfare than their cash.
11. Get Creative with Your Marketing and Sales Strategies
The pandemic may alter the way you operate, requiring you to update your marketing and sales strategies. This is an opportunity to get creative with your marketing.
The strategies that you use now can dramatically boost brand awareness and trust, especially if you avoid capitalizing on the pandemic. Use the current environment to build stronger connections with your target demographics instead of going for a quick sale.
For example, instead of simply emailing customers to notify them of your reopening date, you could provide useful tips or ask for their input. Try to make life easier for your customers and connect on a human level.
12. Remain Adaptable to Change
As a final tip for dealing with COVID-19, businesses need to remain adaptable to change. The changes that you make today and in the coming weeks may not last long. You may need to implement additional changes and rollback others.
Your current business plan is already likely different compared to your pre-coronavirus plans. No one can predict how the rest of the pandemic will play out.
Cases may start to surge in the fall or winter, forcing states to think about reinstating restrictions. We could also see the pandemic slowly fade away after the vaccines arrive.
The bottom line is that you need to evaluate your business processes one by one. Determine which processes are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and then find a way to work around the challenge. However, you also need to stay flexible with your plans while putting health and safety first.
Avoid panicking, evaluate your options, and establish a path forward. We all are somewhat learning-as-we-go here, but if you stay positive & continue to grind it out..you just might fuel your business’ success during these times.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.