The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is developing rapidly, leaving many small business owners uncertain about their future. Those we’ve spoken with expect the coronavirus to have a significant impact on their revenue.
Unfortunately, it seems these concerns are justified, but there are some actions you can take to protect your small business while at the same time, protecting yourself, your employees, and your customers.
In this article, I’ll lay out what we know about how coronavirus is impacting small businesses, how you can minimize losses, and steps to protect your business. These suggestions are by no means exhaustive, as there is much we still don’t know about how this situation will play out. But we hope they will be a good starting point for business owners who are overwhelmed and unsure of what actions to take.
First, I want to make clear that your number one priority should be to stay safe and take care of yourself.
Take care of yourself
Situations like this are stressful enough on their own, and managing a small business in the midst of the chaos can amplify that stress. Before you rush into action, if you’re struggling with excessive stress and anxiety, look for some ways to alleviate that. I know that when you’re overwhelmed and concerned about your small business, it can seem like you don’t have time for things like self-care. But this situation is a marathon — not a sprint – and it’s important to take care of yourself throughout.
Resources for managing stress and anxiety
There are many resources on the internet for how to manage anxiety related to the coronavirus outbreak for you to explore. To start, here are three things you can try to get some relief:
Take a 10-minute break to do some light breathing exercises or yoga. Purposeful, mindful breathing has been shown to be an effective tool against anxiety.
Consider limiting your coronavirus news consumption. It’s important to stay informed, but refreshing your feeds constantly for tidbits of news on the coronavirus isn’t going to prove productive. Instead, check the CDC website for updates periodically and try to spend most of your day focused on other things.
Talk to your friends and family. It’s important that even though this situation leads to increased social isolation, that you stay in touch with people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend for a phone call — or better yet — a video chat.
And here is a GIF of a baby elephant, which has been very effective for me personally:
Actions you can take to protect your business, your employees, and your customers during the coronavirus outbreak
Here are some simple, short-term actions you can take immediately to address some of the most-pressing small business concerns caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Again, safety is the number one priority. Take extra efforts to implement CDC-recommended precautions in your business as soon as possible. Among the most important recommendations are:
Actively encourage employees, especially those who are sick, to stay home. Implement systems that allow them to work from home if possible.
Emphasize the importance of cough and sneeze etiquette as well as hand hygiene within your business.
Perform routine, thorough environmental cleaning.
Adapt and use digital tools to continue to serve customers
As people across the globe are being asked — or required — to stay home as much as possible, your business will likely experience a dip in customers. One way you might be able to curb the dip in revenue is to offer your goods and services online.
If you’re selling items and you aren’t already selling online, look into setting up a basic online store. Some store owners are also offering pick-up services, where customers can call or email ahead of time with the items they are looking for, and pick up a wrapped/sealed order without entering the store. Many restaurants are offering “non-contact” food delivery.
Depending on your type of business, there might be other ways you can continue to offer services. For example, my local fitness center is continuing to offer personal training via video conference, and many yoga studios are doing the same.
Get the right message out to customers and potential customers
Once you’ve implemented CDC recommendations for operating your business safely, ease your customers’ minds and possible concerns by telling them about it. Tell them you’re taking this situation seriously and share what policies and processes you’re following to keep them safe as they engage in business with you.
And of course, be sure to include in these messages any important updates you might have about your business hours or product availability.
If you need more help communicating about the coronavirus as it relates to your business, look at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s coronavirus response toolkit.
Once you have your most important messages and updates written out, here’s how to share them:
Update your website homepage
Update all of your business listings (most importantly, Google My Business)
Send an email to your subscribers
Post an update on your social media channels.
Finally, if you have a physical location, put up signage in your storefront with the same information on the precautions you’re taking.
These are five ways you should consider updating customers about your coronavirus response immediately.
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