Since January 2020, the new coronavirus has been changing the course of our lives, and we keep moving in a very unexpected direction. Our plans for the year are now outdated, and we need to adjust to the new reality. The effect of the deadly COVID-19 virus is massive on every kind of business, big or small.
The world economy has taken a significant hit due to COVID-19, and businesses are struggling to keep their companies operating. Although we hope to get back to normal life as soon as possible, there are certain things to keep in mind during the pandemic. First, business owners must take steps to avoid and slow the spread of COVID-19 while helping their company survive. Because this is quite a challenge, in this article, we will address the ways small businesses can prepare for COVID-19 and the unpredictability that comes along with it.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new coronavirus – a respiratory illness that travels from person to person. The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, meaning it’s a global outbreak of disease. The first case of the virus was in China, but soon travelers brought it to different parts of the world. On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency because of the virus. As of March 30, 2020, statistics show 33,986 have died because of the infection. The USA currently has 164,744 active cases, 3,163 deceased, and 5,507 patients who have recovered from the illness.
How can Businesses Prevent Spreading COVID-19?
To stay informed about the virus outbreak, follow the World Health Organization and your local government health department. It’s essential to check the information daily, as the number of infected individuals keeps increasing, and guidelines might change. You can also follow the World Health Organization on Facebook or Instagram.
“To reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreak conditions on businesses, workers, customers, and the public, it is important for all employers to plan now for COVID-19. For employers who have already planned for influenza pandemics, planning for COVID-19 may involve updating plans to address the specific exposure risks, sources of exposure, routes of transmission, and other unique characteristics of SARS-CoV-2”–Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Using the previous industrial hygiene practices and traditional infection prevention, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed COVID-19 planning guidance.
“Stay Home Save Lives” – Businesses that Need to Close during the Pandemic
Regardless of the country you live in, the world leaders have one unifying message for their citizens: stay home. Staying home will save lives by reducing the risk of exposing yourself to the illness and then spreading it to others. With no vaccine available for COVID-19, staying in is the most effective way to keep the virus from spreading. The reasoning is that an infected person might not show any symptoms of the illness from 2-14 days after catching it. This means there may be hundreds of infected individuals walking around – unaware that they have the virus.
However, keeping residents at home hasn’t been a simple task for many countries. There are now thousands of people at health centers, medical workers are among the infected, and there are very few, if any, spots left at the hospitals. To keep people home, different governments have declared a state of emergency. Many cities now look like ghost towns, and most U.S. states have shut down non-essential businesses. It means that only essential businesses can remain open during the pandemic. But how do we know what’s essential or non-essential?
“Non-essential businesses are generally recreational in nature. They don’t provide groceries, health or financial support, or utilities. Restaurants fall in this category, but most locations have allowed restaurants to continue to operate as long as they close dining rooms and switch to exclusively take-out and delivery.”– Business Insider
In the US, States have agreed the non-essential businesses are:
- Gyms and recreation centers
- Salons and spas
- Casinos and racetracks
- Shopping malls
- Bowling alleys
- Sporting and concert venues
List by Business Insider
The businesses for which the category varies by region include:
- Restaurants and bars
- Liquor stores
- Industrial manufacturing not related to an essential function
- Labor unions
- Marijuana dispensaries
- Home office supply stores
List by Business Insider
If you own a business and question which category it falls under, check the information with your local government.
Stay in Touch with your Customers
While many of us must close our offices and encourage workers to stay and work from home, we shouldn’t forget about the customers who can no longer walk through our doors. Luckily, we all have the internet and that’s where we can stay in touch with our clients; we can communicate and connect by using social media, email, our website, or other platforms.
In Wuhan, for instance, a cosmetics company closed 40% of its stores, but the company’s beauty advisors used online platforms like WeChat to increase online sales. The result was 200% growth in sales compared to the prior years – according to Harvard Business Review.
It’s important to share information and updates with your customers; they must know where they can reach you to get more information. Write about the steps you will take during the pandemic. Let them know if you are still delivering your products and if you expect any delays. Also, let them know about your plans – are you going to keep producing your products and selling them online?
And don’t forget that it’s a tough time for all of us. Try to support your followers with heartwarming posts, positive information, and some hopeful news.
The internet helps you stay in touch with not only your customers, but with your employees too. There are many tools available to communicate with your workers so that they can complete tasks from home. Different applications enable you to have a group conversation and, during the video calls, you can share screens, upload attachments, watch media, etc. Downloads for online video conferencing applications have increased dramatically in the last few weeks. Zoom – a video conferencing software – has had 600,000 downloads between March 16th and 22nd. Two months ago, it had only 90,000 downloads per week. There is other software you can use like Skype, which also has a group call option or Teams from Microsoft.
When you work remotely, let your employees know when they need to be online, what time the call is, and what applications they need to download.
Host Online Events
If you planned to have events for your customers, and now need to cancel them because of the outbreak, think how you can host them virtually instead. If you had a cooking masterclass planned and now need to cancel it, why don’t you create a Facebook event, or ask people to sign up on Google docs? Then you can use software like Zoom to host the masterclass from your kitchen. You can also use features like Instagram Live or Facebook Live if you want to host a webinar.
Think of creative ways to stay in touch with your clients while trying to entertain them. Own a gallery? Maybe you can paint with your followers online. Teach them how to use watercolor, talk about different techniques, or even come up with a simple drawing workshop that doesn’t require art supplies at all, but a regular pencil and a piece of paper.
It’s also a wonderful idea to have a FAQ session on Facebook where you can answer your customers’ questions regarding the situation and your plans.
Resources to Help Your Business Survive the Pandemic
Many businesses are struggling to keep their companies working while their sales are decreasing, and they need to close their stores. Luckily, there are different grant and loan programs available to help you survive the pandemic.
For example, Facebook announced a $100 million program for small businesses
“We know that your business may be experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19. We’ve heard that a little financial support can go a long way, so we are offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits to help during this challenging time.”– Facebook
According to Facebook, up to 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries will receive the grant. The application process will begin in the coming weeks. Until then, you can sign up for more information here.
If your business operates in the Seattle area, Amazon launched a Neighborhood Business Relief Fund.
“Today, we’re creating a $5 million Neighborhood Small Business Relief Fund to provide cash grants to local small businesses that need assistance during this difficult time.”– Amazon
To apply for a Neighborhood business Relief Fund click here.
If you own a restaurant or a nightlife business and have financial difficulties because of the virus, Yelp is providing $25 million in funding relief for small businesses.
“These relief efforts are available to small, independently owned restaurant and nightlife businesses and franchisees in the U.S., Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico with fewer than five locations.”– Yelp
To find out more about the Yelp funding program, click here.
We hope after reading this article, you feel more confident about keeping your business going during this challenging time. It might be tough to keep things the way you want them during this unpredictable time, but we can assure you that better days are coming.
“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible”– Christopher Reeve.