The COVID-19 outbreak has created an unprecedented scenario for today’s small businesses. We won’t find a one-size-fits-all approach for businesses to navigate these circumstances, but we shouldn’t panic. We need to assess the situation, understand potential near-term scenarios, and plan to the best of our ability.
It’s still unclear how the coming months will play out. Some businesses will provide a fundamental value to their customers, such as grocery stores, drug stores, and healthcare providers. Others may see a slow down as foot traffic and discretionary spending slows over the next 60-90 days.
So, what can you do as a business owner?
First, make sure your employees keep themselves safe. Many businesses have moved to a work-from-home policy, and those that can’t have enacted stricter sanitation and cleaning policies in the workplace. Still, these policies are ineffective if employees don’t practice social distancing outside of work, so encourage them to follow CDC guidelines.
Second, keep in touch with your customers. It’s better to know how they are feeling than to be caught off guard. If you’re B2B, there may be customers that are well equipped to serve others during this period, and perhaps there’s a way your business can help. If you’re B2C, assess how you could be of service to your customers while people are staying home. Be mindful that your customers are likely feeling the same stress you are.
Third, cash flow is king. Prepare for a 90-day cash crunch; defer payments on debt where possible, and be wary of costly investments and expenditures. If you haven’t opened a line of credit, it may be wise to your bank right away to ensure you have emergency access to cash. With the CARES Act, your business may also be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Plan to help with payroll and other eligible business expenses. You can contact your bank or visit the SBA.gov website for more info. You may also be eligible for a SBA Disaster Assistance Loan. Click here to learn more.
Finally, set up a game plan to hit the ground running in a post-coronavirus world. There may be a slowdown in revenue, but it’s a good time for housekeeping. Improve internal processes, refresh your website, develop new capabilities, or implement a new advertising and marketing strategy; anything to kickstart growth again in the coming months. If your employees are working from home, they may not have a full workload – utilize their time for these and any other internal projects.
If you’re ever in doubt about what to do next, reach out to your peers or other trusted advisors. When things are uncertain, talking with people you trust can help turn ideas into a plan.