Coronavirus is one of those rare events that it is hard for any business to prepare for, and it has had a profound impact on small businesses. The government’s response of making loans available for small businesses was a life raft for the businesses that qualified, but far too many small companies have received no government aid.
Given that small businesses employ almost half the workforce, it is essential to everyone that small businesses remain afloat during this economic catastrophe. The necessary response to the coronavirus pandemic required that many small businesses radically change their business model or close their doors altogether. Small businesses operate without the vast capital reserves of major corporations, so many small business owners have been unable to weather the storm.
The importance of developing a continuity plan
To give your business the best chance of surviving the coronavirus pandemic, you need a continuity plan. Developing a continuity plan will serve you well during the pandemic and will continue to be a valuable tool to have for any future upsets.
What is a business continuity plan? In its simplest form, a business continuity plan (BCP) is a written outline of how a business will continue to operate during a disruption in service. A well-formed plan should contain a contingency for every part of the company, prioritized by importance. Each small business’s plan will be unique to that company based on size and what industry the business serves.
The continuity plan is a fluid document that will need to be modified to fit whatever disruption or problem the small business encounters. It is not too late to create such a plan for your small business, as the pandemic will continue to cause significant disruptions even as the country moves toward reopening.
Continuity plan for the coronavirus pandemic
Given that the cause of the current economic turmoil is a pandemic, the health and safety of employees and customers have to be the primary focus of any continuity plan. This part of the plan will require that each business assess the potential risks and evaluate what steps can be taken to keep employees healthy at work.
Protect the health of your staff and customers
- Provide telecommuting for staff where possible. If an employee’s job can be done from home, there is no reason to require that they come into work. Technology today makes it easy to track time spent working, access company systems remotely, and video conference to keep the lines of communication flowing.
- Encourage sick employees, or employees who have been exposed to the virus, to remain at home. Offer extended sick pay if possible to prevent employees from attempting to work because they have bills to pay and prevent any employee who appears ill from remaining at work.
- Reduce the number of customers you serve at any one time. If your small business is a restaurant, encourage carry-out orders, and reduce the number of tables in your dining area. If you run a store, limit the number of people inside the store at any given time.
- Increase cleaning and disinfecting. Strive to exceed the CDC guidelines for your business.
Identify your most critical services, and have a contingency plan for disruptions in your supply chain.
- Reduce non-essential services until the worst of the pandemic is over. Focus instead on keeping your core services functioning at peak performance.
- Stay in close contact with your vendors so that supply chain disruptions will not catch you unaware.
- Have back-up vendors for critical supplies.
Prepare for the reduction in business.
- Most small businesses will see a significant reduction in business, thanks to the coronavirus. Take steps to reduce expenses wherever possible, including cutting employee hours if necessary.
- Look for creative ways to change your business model to suit the current environment. If you are a nail salon, you could consider having clients by appointment only. If you provide a consulting service, consider implementing online consulting into your business model.
- Cut overhead where possible, and speak with creditors before there is a problem. Many lenders are working with their business customers to provide temporary relief during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cultivate community goodwill
- During a difficult time like a natural disaster or pandemic, businesses who go above and beyond to help the community earn well-deserved respect. Your current and future customers will remember what your business did or provided, and you will cultivate loyalty through service.
- Work with your customers and clients with compassion if they have lost their jobs or experienced other hardships.