Small businesses around the world are struggling to survive following the COVID-19 outbreak. While a lot is unknown about the future of the virus and the economy, there are steps you can take to adapt your business to the current reality. The key steps involve reducing unnecessary expenses and discovering new ways to increase your revenue while keeping your employees, customers, and community safe.
New information about the virus and government regulations are being announced regularly. Keep track of the latest information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These organizations provide recommendations on how to keep your community safe, including information about the virus, how it spreads, and what precautions you should take for your business. In addition, pay attention to local, state, and federal mandates that may impact you, such as orders to close non-essential businesses.
Understanding the current reality, consider how you can adapt your business to continue to serve your customers, such as offering different goods or services. Look to and connect with other business owners in your field for inspiration. Depending on your business, some ideas to explore include:
There may be several sources of money available to you to keep your business afloat. Some places to look include:
Take a look at your current contracts and leases to save on unnecessary expenses. For instance, if you made a purchase for supplies you are no longer able to use or had to cancel events, talk with the other party and review contracts to see what options you have for refunds. The contract may also specify which party is responsible for lost costs.
Similarly, if you are in an office lease, the same contract principles apply which may allow you to break the lease. Regardless of what is in your lease, reach out to your landlord to request decreased rent or rent abatement. Your landlord is not obligated to give you a break on the rent, but knowing that many businesses are in the same situation, they may be willing to negotiate a new lease on better terms.
Many businesses are reducing their staff, whether it means laying off employees, cutting hours, or putting employees on furlough. Take a look at your staff to determine what employees are essential, what redundancies exist, and how you can restructure the workflow.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind before making any changes. When the economy bounces back and your customers return, you will want to have trained staff available to keep your business going. Letting go of key staff now may create additional delays and stress in bringing your company back to normal. In addition, the money you can receive from some financial programs, like the Paycheck Protection Program, may be reduced if you decide to lay off employees or cut hours.
Take a look at all of your expenses, and see what you can cut, if only temporarily. If you have standing orders for any inventory or office supplies, halt future purchases if possible. Take a look at all services you pay for on a regular basis, from cleaning to advertising, and see where you can cut costs. For utilities and insurance, check if your service providers are offering any fee reductions due to the outbreak.
No matter what capacity your business continues to operate, create a safe environment for your employees and your customers. Some policies to implement may include:
As your business changes, whether you have to close doors, change your hours, or are offering different goods or services, stay in contact with your customers. If you do not yet have social media pages for your business, now is a great time to create those pages to share updates. Let your customers know what steps you are taking to stop the spread of the virus, including new sanitation policies and changes in products or services.