In this time of a global concern, many small businesses are scrambling to pandemic-proof their business. The good news is there are things you can do to navigate this unprecedented change.
Consider these short-term steps and long-term tactics:
It goes without saying that working through worst-case scenarios before they actually happen is the best time to develop a communication process and plan. But that’s not the current reality.
When there are short-term communication gaps of a couple of hours, it’s easier to overcome. What happens when that stretches into weeks or months? There are some communication options that can help, like free conference calling systems for group calls, switch from in person to online training, or set up a regular meeting times to call for day-to-day or week-to-week updates.
However, how would your company respond if there was a total outage, like what has happened with the earthquake in Utah? These are not something small businesses want to think about but it makes the difference between a short-term interruption or a long-term closure.
If they have social media platforms, many businesses are using them to communicate with their clients or employees. Most importantly, if you’re open for business, communicate that you’re open to your customers.
It might seem like a simple idea, but don’t assume people will know that you’re open. Make sure to update your Google hours of operation. Also, post notices that explain how you’re staying open by shifting services, such as restaurants that are moving from dining in to take out only or work out facilities who are taking one client at a time to comply with federal, state, or local requirements.
Focus On What You Can Do
There are always things you can do even during dynamic changes. Remember to:
Direct Them to Resources
While it’s not always possible to pay employees for non-work hours for an extended period of time given your other overhead expenses, there may be other resources, like Unemployment or emergency benefits. When Jacki Smith, CEO of Coventry Creations saw her orders drop off instantly because of the Coronavirus, she immediately stepped into helping her business customers, retail customers, and her team. “For my B2B clients, I sent them SBA resources and ways to contact local economic development government contacts. For my B2C customers, I am being a voice of encouragement and stress relief with best practice videos.”
Make Decisions Using Your Company Values as a Guide
Those company values are more than a list on a poster. They are designed to serve as a grounding foundation especially during challenging times. What Smith did next for her hourly team speaks volumes about how they used their company values of Compassion and Profitability to determine her actions.
When her wholesalers were shuttered due to the Coronavirus, she was forced to lay off her hourly staff with no orders to manufacture. While she is being responsible to pay her overhead bills (like rent and utilities), she distributed $200 cash to each hourly worker to make sure they can get food for their family, provided them with step-by-step instructions on how to apply for unemployment, and provided area food banks and other resources. Smith’s generosity and compassion with her employees paid off in other ways. Smith’s daughter works at a restaurant that decided to close during the pandemic. They had a lot of extra food so they gave it to each of Smith’s employees.
With rent, utilities, and other overhead expenses, not every small business is in a position to pay their workers during a national emergency, but you can focus on what you can do. Communicating the resources and communicating often can make a real difference in employee engagement when it’s time for them to return back to work.
Finish Your I’ll-Get-Around-To-It List
If you’ve been waiting for some time to get to a project, now may be the perfect time to get it done. As appointments get cleared on your calendar, replace them with a project from that long list you never got around to doing.
For clients that cancelled, call them to reschedule even if it is on your calendar two months from now. Simply putting projects on your calendar or rescheduling appointments puts them into existence helping you to continue moving your business ahead.
Take Care of Yourself
As a business professional, you might be inclined to take care of everyone but yourself. It’s more important than ever for your self care. Shut off the news and tune in to what you can do even taking care of your own health and well being.
Denise Ervin, CEO of Infinite Well Beings and Registered Nurse, said to S.T.O.P:
“Stop what you’re doing
Take a deep breath and breath out twice as long as you breath in
Observe what’s most important and
Proceed with action
With this simple exercise, you decrease your body’s stress response. By becoming more mindful and grounded, you can be more productive and stay healthier.”
Develop Your Emergency Preparedness Plan
While you may be developing your Emergency Preparedness Plan on the fly, make sure to cover processes, like employee communication plan, educational plan when there is a global emergency, hygiene practices, sick leave policies, absenteeism, staff evacuation plans, alternative working arrangements, protocols for check signing (particularly if the main signer becomes ill), or managing your supply chain and distribution network disruption.
It’s not only important to address the immediate needs, but to also look long term. When the emergencies are over, remember to update your policies and procedures on all of the stop-gap ideas you put into place while these alternatives are fresh in your mind. Let the current circumstance also be a lesson to put aside an emergency fund to cover business interruptions, particularly ones that are not covered under insurance.
This unexpected interruption reveals what’s missing in your business. Make a running list of whatever was missing so that you can put it in to strengthen your company. Set an appointment one month from today to remind yourself to address your list.
With the ever-expanding global trade and international travel, identifying procedures for a sustained and systemic interruption is something to consider in your continuity planning and in pandemic-proofing your small business. Companies that have a better chance of adapting to major sudden shifts, are those companies that proactively work on their business by engaging in ongoing preparation.
About the Author
Lisa Mininni is the best selling author of Me, Myself, and Why? The Secrets to Navigating Change and President of Excellerate Associates, a business mentoring and organizational/leadership development company. She is also the Founder of the Business Innovation Lab, a coworking, office, and conference center in Livonia, Michigan. She started Excellerate Associates shortly after 9/11.