“Working remotely and shopping online is here to stay”
For most small businesses, businesses with less than 100 employees, it is safe to say that the current Coronavirus crisis is like none other faced by small business owners in the recent past.
Regrettably, the predominant voices we hear these days are not offering a lot of specific steps to take or advice on how to survive the pandemic and save your business.
Here is what is to be done:
First Thing First: Proceed to an immediate financial triage
Your first concern, at least initially, shall be to figure out how you are going to pay your bills this week, next week, the weeks after and how long will this last. Here are some important steps to take on the financial front right now:
- Create a cash-flow budget listing with fixed versus variable costs: Fixed costs are these costs that will keep your doors open. One way or the other, they must be paid. Create a list of priorities about which ones are most important and try to set money aside based on the timing of when they are due.
- See how you can cut in unnecessary costs: These are the costs that are not producing revenue or securing key business functions.
- See if you can reduce your payroll: Consider possible layoffs, terminations or furloughs of employees. Doing so, make sure to remember, your employees can be one of your greatest assets, and if you cut too deep, you may not get them back thus, creating even more costs to replace them. Furloughs are much more preferable to layoffs or terminations. Furloughs can be a variety of things tailored to your situation. It may employees working at a reduced rate, employees not working at all and staying home, employees being paid a minimal amount, or that will be paid fully at some point in the future. Whatever you do, do not ask employees to work for free: This would be highly unethical and you will most certainly have to face legal problems later on.
- Find additional financial resources and sources of revenue: Be creative in your marketing approach. Consider any savings or resources, including possible loans.
Taxpayers have an unprecedented tax payment extension. However, as a small business owner, you might be able to find some extra money by filing your taxes now. For most small businesses, there is a good chance they could be untitled to a refund.
Government Assistance Loans
The Federal has authorized loans to small business owners. These are mean to be used for business debt, covering payroll, costs to operate the business. Prima facie, this may seem like a safe or logical choice. However, just remember this is still a loan.
If your business is already barely getting by, unless you have a pretty good creative and innovative crisis management plan in mind, it may not be the time to do into more debt.
Paying debts does not generate any income. If the only reason you have to take a loan is to pay debts, maybe it would be a better idea to close your doors entirely; Your business will definitely not survive the Coronavirus.
There are alternatives and I am here to help you.
You are still in business! Be clear with your employees regarding your specific policies within the business and safety protocol regarding the virus.
Be flexible on sick leave that employees want to take, and try to reduce areas of the company with groups of more than 10 employees. Cancel large events and use conference calls and webcams to communicate when possible.
Following all federal, state, provincial and local government directives and looking out for the safety of your employees and customers, although a pain in the …, is appreciated and will be appreciated in the long run.
Employee retention and satisfaction issues is not all about cutting costs. It is important for business owners to show leadership. As a small business owner, set the tone, be the calm in the storm. Pay attention to your employees’ concerns and adapt.
Do not plan too far out. Things are changing fast and often. There will be setbacks. Plan for the next few weeks, then the next month. While these plans will change, there are still a few specific ideas or steps to consider with your team:
- If you have employees, make sure they are assured about being protected. You want to retain the key people who drive your business.
- Make sure your employees know to not come to work sick and that you are being generous with sick leave at this time.
- Focus on your key people and get rid of the deadwood. This is an unique opportunity.
- Make a talent assessment in your company on who is valuable and how your business will be different if this person is not working for you next week.
- Do not get stuck in decisions you made last week or the week before. Be willing to adapt to the situation and revise your plans accordingly. Whatever you decide to do today, just remember that you may have to live with these changes once the crisis is over.
Marketing and Sales
If you are open for business, make sure your customers know that and how to interact with you. Make sure to communicate clearly and consistently with your customers. . Use your social media presence to keep your customers up to date. Make it easy for them to purchase your product and services
If you typically do not use social media, it is now time to do it. If you are not already doing so, implement a newsletter or series of emails to your customers. Have a webstore window. Be creative. Find new opportunities to market and sell your products and services. Consider new ways to deliver your service or product.
Now is a good time to focus on your existing customers, provide excellent service, make sure you retain your important relationships.
Offer discounts if necessary and think outside the box.
Operations, Research and Development, Product and Service Improvements
Things being slow, this is the ideal time to tackle those projects you have been putting off. Do not waste it on Netflix or getting sucked into the never-ending news coverage. Instead, invest this time in improving products, services and finding efficiencies.
Use this time to improve your processes and efficiencies, improve products and services or make the changes you have been meaning to do over the past few years or months. Come out of the storm stronger and have a better product or service.
Conduct training in your company or get training yourself in areas you know will improve your company. If you know you are weak on social media marketing, or accounting and budgeting, IT, or a niche thing in your business category that could drive your business, invest your time into this.
Get your team doing the same.
Remote Work and Technology
Many small businesses are having employees work remotely for the first time. If you are ne at it, make sure you set the expectations for those working remotely. Implement a work-from-home agreement in writing with your employees and have them sign it.
Set-forth expectations and implement a procedure for a weekly productivity report to be completed each day and then summarized by the week so that employees are tracking their workloads, customer interaction, and projects. You can also include in this agreement terms for reduction in pay if necessary based on productively or sales.
For most businesses, not everything can be remote. Assess what functions can be done remotely and what must be completed in the office. Try to get as many people as possible to work remotely but realize it is probably not possible for all, depending on job function, employee skill, family situation at home of the employee.
Finally, as an investment in and for the future, increase your level of technology as quickly and as affordably as possible.
Working remotely and shopping online is here to stay.
Assess Your Business’s 2020 Strategic Plan.
If you did not make a Strategic Plan for this year, it is time to make one now. If you have one, there is no better time to make modifications.
Start on projects that have been on your wish list and revaluate your objectives for the year. Adjust the plan and outlook for 2020 as you know more about your business.
Learn, Be Charitable and Show Humanity
For most of us, we are all learning a lot about how we could have better prepared for this disaster. For many of us, this is a wakeup call: Nature is getting back at us! Only the strongest and fittest will survive.
Start taking notes and do not return to the status quo when this is all over.
- Have a financial reserve or savings account for your business that could help in times of need or disaster.
- Have a personal financial reserve of a few months of living costs.
- Build a small food storage at the least. Maybe a few months’ worth of household goods, such as toilet paper, soap, feminine products, laundry soap, etc. Do your best with the resources and space you may have.
- Consider new revenue sources and small diversifying your business.
- Finally, try to serve and help those in your community.
The more you help others worse off than you, the better you will feel. People you help today will remember.
This is good investment of your time and money.
Whatever you do, don’t be a Sorry Ass!
Michel Ouellette, ll.l, ll.m
Business Growth Strategist
Systemic Strategic Planning / Crisis & Reputation Management
Michel Ouellette / Joseph Michael Dennis, is a former attorney, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.
JMD Systemics is here to help.
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