“Dow plummets 2,000 points, oil prices drop as global recession concerns mount” -USA Today
“Stocks Plunge as Coronavirus Fears Escalate, S&P 500 Enters Bear Market” - TheStreet
“Global shipping has been hit by the coronavirus. Now goods are getting stranded” - CNN Business
Due to the ominous overtaking of the coronavirus, or “COVID-19,” things are looking dire on both health and business fronts. According to Entrepreneur, more than half of global companies don't have any contingency plans in place to mitigate damage from Coronavirus.
Despite this, two things are for certain:
- It isn’t a time for panic.
- It IS a time for prudent planning and preparation.
But as diverse businesses that always must be judicious with our resources... for what should we prepare? And how?
The CDC and FEMA established extensive guidelines for “large businesses,” to include things like identifying a “pandemic coordinator” and making their “alternate facilities” available in the event of emergency.
But for small businesses, and microbusinesses (with five or fewer team members)? We’ve been left in the cold to fend for ourselves and figure it out as we go. The BBB created a supposed "Coronavirus resource site," but... it's extremely lacking in the usefulness department.
Once we outline typical challenges YOU might face during the Coronavirus pandemic, we'll offer 20 essential Coronavirus tips for your business to counteract those concerns.
Possible Small Business Challenges During a Global Pandemic
Increased sales volume
Depending on your products and services, you might end up stretched thin and over-stressed at a time like this, as inventory sells out unexpectedly due to random accelerated demand.
One fashion face wear company’s inventory was quickly depleted when COVID-19 panickers unexpectedly descended like grade school children on a burst piñata. Hand sanitizer, tissues, and disposable masks continue to sell out worldwide, with many being resold at exorbitant prices as opportunists take advantage of the hysteria.
Decreased sales volume
Or, contrasting the last point, your well might run dry. Without a solid contingency plan, you could end up scrambling as business leads dwindle and product interest diminishes ... because your typical target market is preoccupied with disaster control.
Absent team and employees
From employees, to independent contractors, and even vendors to whom you outsource services, you may see many of them pull away in the days ahead. Some may fall ill, some may need to stay home with children or the elderly, while others might need to care for loved ones who’ve already fallen ill.
Low inventory and supply shortages
Another major challenge might be low or sluggish inventory, as global shipment systems face delays or outright reversals, due to inspections, quarantines, closed ports, cancelled trade routes, and disrupted air cargo.
The Essential Contingency Plan:
20 Smart Strategies to Protect YOUR Profit During a Pandemic
The micro- or small business faces challenges in three major areas during a recession, pandemic, or other natural disaster:
- A struggle to stay profitable
- The battle to remain efficient
- The need to avoid unnecessary vulnerability and risk
Below are 20 smart strategies to recession-proof your business and stay ahead of the game.
6 Action Steps to Protect Your Profit:
1. Focus on the needs of existing clients
As microbusinesses, it’s common to become too busy, overwhelmed, overworked, or simply neglectful of existing clients.
But it’s much easier (and cheaper!) to sell to someone who already likes you and trusts you, versus stepping out to find and “buy” new clients.
Consider what your existing clients have already purchased from your company. What add-on or brand new service can you assemble QUICKLY during this time that you haven’t offered them before?
2. Rework your marketing message
People are thinking less about growth and sustainability during times of hysteria, and more about surviving and damage control.
Can you redirect marketing focus to stress new benefits from the same services... to keep your services relevant during times of crisis?
Example, for a personal injury attorney:
- “The Coronavirus distraction has traffic more erratic than ever, with drivers racing from work to home, shuttling scared kids from closing schools, or checking urgently on elderly loved ones. With motorists' minds on other things, they’re more likely to use excessive speeds, or leave the scene of an accident. Should YOU become the victim of others’ negligent driving, call...”
Example, for a yoga instructor:
- “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to assure our clients that we’re taking extra precautions to ensure your health and safety at XYZ Studios. We’re disinfecting common use surfaces every hour on the hour, encouraging visitors to wash hands before starting their yoga practice, placing hand sanitizers on every table...”
3. Switch from tangible to intangible products
Now is a great time to expand your offerings of intangible products, and create one if you don’t yet have any. By “intangibles,” we mean something that can make you money while you sleep with little to no intervention from you or your team.
- - a consulting, coaching, or mentoring video course
- - a digital book/e-book
- - a how-to course with built-in ongoing homework
- - a membership site
- - etc.
What informational product or service can you create quickly that’s a spinoff of your top selling offer(s)? Something you can frame as interesting, timely, and urgent to clients in the middle of a pandemic?
4. Tie your marketing to media coverage surrounding the disaster.
What’s being talked about in the news? How can you piggyback off of those hot, common themes to get fast publicity for your microbusiness?
Be careful here -- this can be very risky business.
If used incorrectly, your brand appears insensitive to people’s true, real-life struggles and your credibility takes a hit, having the opposite effect.
For instance, it wouldn’t suffice to merely mention the disaster in your marketing. See the article I wrote on CNN’s heinous social media missteps during the #AskACop Twitter campaign for examples of poorly-managed “PR piggybacking.”
5. Conceptualize ways to make your business recession-proof
Certain services will always be in demand, even in a down economy.
In Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, Dennis Kimbro told the story of the Great Recession of 1918. Most people, having spontaneously found themselves out of work, had resorted to beating down the doors of still-operating companies to beg for jobs.
“I’ll do anything,” they pleaded.
The problem was, those companies themselves were already anxious, struggling to stay afloat, and had no desire to take on the added risk of poorly-trained, desperate, low-level workers. Instead, they were already actively reducing their workforce to the barest essentials to tighten the financial reins and ride the recession wave.
So, one sharp Black entrepreneur flipped the script.
He went out and studied relentlessly, interviewing the top experts in the field for a “crash course” on business growth and sustainability. Then, instead of going to those same struggling businesses crying for employment... he went to them with a strategic offer:
- The offer to show them how to grow and sustain thriving businesses even through and in spite of the recession.
So when the Dow is lower than it’s ever been, oil prices are tanking, and both businesses and consumers are on the brink of panic... what can YOU offer to help YOUR business ride the wave and come out stronger on the other side?
6. Prepare team, inventory, procedures, and policies for an overnight influx of orders.
Once you build in new products, services, policies, or procedures... now it’s time to prep for the potential load. Try to create systems, automation, and protocols to handle the increased load before it happens.
Otherwise, operations WILL buckle under the pressure of increased volume that could hit you hard overnight, leaving your business gasping for air.
For a limited time, I'm partnering 1-on-1 with up to 50 Black-owned businesses, to help keep YOU in profit through COVID-19. Click here to learn more.
7 Action Steps to Maintain Operational Efficiency
Many companies -- and consumers -- are making the transition to telework and social distancing, faced with shelter-in-place orders. If this hasn't hit your town yet, brace for it now.
Here are a few ways to prepare:
7. Set up virtual communication systems to easily allow for remote working
If you run a brick-and-mortar, how will you communicate with your staff, team members, and vendors if you’re all forced to work exclusively from home? Look at tools like:
- ClickUp for task and project management
- FreeConferenceCall.com (completely free phone and video conferencing, with screen sharing)
8. Digitize and securely store your most important files
You might consider having your tech person set up an easy company intranet to combine communication and file sharing in one, like in Flowlu (free for two users).
Or, you may just keep it simple, and use Box, Google Drive, or Dropbox for simple file sharing. (The latter two can both be used with ClickUp above, which builds file sharing into itself pretty seamlessly.)
9. Re-assess your company’s highest priority goals and refresh action plans
What is mission critical to keep running at this time? Look not only at products and services, but also processes, policies, and procedures. And what is dead weight?
This is a good time to temporarily suspend all non-vital services and activities, to keep things running as nimbly as possible.
You won’t be able to pivot when a situation requires if you’re bogged down by policies, systems, or processes that can’t flex in response to a volatile environment.
10. Refresh your team on mission-critical policies & procedures
After trimming the fat, ensure that you and your team are clear on what you’re rocking with and what you’re chucking, so everyone operates -- literally -- on the same page.
And re-review those systems and policies you decide to keep, so everyone knows (or remembers) how to do those parts of their job effectively.
11. Track confusion and breakdowns in internal systems
As you migrate to different ways of doing certain work, keep a list of what goes wrong.
If it’s easy to fix on the fly -- do it right away. If it will require more time and thought, determine how vital that system is to your current operations.
If a system breakdown puts a huge damper on efficiency, profitability, or health and safety, prioritize a rework of that system as soon as you can. But if you can hold off on it, do it until you emerge from any recession. Then embed the reworked system or process into the go-to contingency plan you’ll create to use when the next crisis hits.
12. Automate all systems possible to free your time, efforts, focus, and energy
When short-staffed, overstressed, overworked, or distracted, creating hands-free systems becomes even more critical for your business.
What work are you doing that’s just getting in the way of true efficiency? Seek to find tools to automate those tasks. Or, create streamlined processes to handle them swiftly and decisively, if you can do so on the fly.
13. Update “online properties” with changes that will impact your operations
Will your business hours or location change, or any processes change significantly? Update online places like Google Maps, Yelp, Merchant Circle, and other listings, to make sure clients and customers stay informed and revenue doesn’t suffer needlessly.
7 Action Steps to Stay Healthy & Safe
Consider these strategies to avoid unnecessary risk and exposure to COVID-19 until everything blows over.
14. Reduce and/or eliminate hand shaking
My bank sent out a notice this week saying that all hand shaking was suspended in the branches until everything returns to normal.
Consider adopting a similar internal policy. Then send a similar memo to staff and clients, empowering them to avoid unneeded contact without offending.
15. Avoid all unnecessary business gatherings
Migrate to video and phone conferencing in lieu of face-to-face meetings.
Use tools like Facetime, Hangouts, Zoom, or YouTube or Facebook Live, to help your prospects, clients, and team practice safe social distancing.
16. Stress and educate team members on exceptional hygiene
As a semi-recovering germaphobe, I’m super-averse to hand shaking in general. I always carry sanitizer and wash my hands often.
While this should be common practice, you’ve seen the reality of it. So this one is still definitely worth a mention, a memo, and “LOUD” signs posted in common areas to remind team (and customers, if serving them in person) to clean their hands often, sneeze into elbow bends (not hands!), and self-quarantine at the first signs of any symptoms.
17. Even move recreational social gatherings to an online environment
Save the company parties, cookouts, outings, etc. until our communities are in the clear.
Continue social interactivity using online tools, like Wooclap. This free-to-low-cost tool requires only a smartphone, is super-fast and easy for users to set up, and makes distance learning fun, practical, and engaging. (It even works great for non-tech-savvy users.)
18. Revisit sick leave policies
Your typical policies are almost certainly impractical for the magnitude of the Coronavirus pandemic. Re-review them to ensure that team members aren’t penalized excessively for taking safety precautions to protect the health of themselves and others.
- When should previously ill team members return to work?
- When should they return to work if they weren’t ill, but they’ve cared for an ill loved one?
19. Provide basic supplies to control the infection
Have the Health Department check that your hot water reaches the right temperature at all hand and dish washing sinks, and doesn’t take excessively long to do so.
In common areas, make sure your brick and mortar has hand sanitizer, tissues, and trash receptacles around -- as is possible. Ensure that hand soap and paper towels or other approved drying devices are fully stocked.
If working from a home office, keep these same supplies around and encourage family members to use them judiciously, practicing the same level of caution you’d practice at school or at work.
20. Take extra care with sanitation and hygiene in jobs where contact or food contact is required
Personal chefs, barbers, massage therapists, restaurateurs, servers, Reiki providers, etc., should all be extra cautious in sanitizing common areas and in maintaining safe, hygienic contact with clients.
The key to success and sustainability is being proactive -- not reactive. We’ll all come out the other side of this stronger and even better prepared for the next downturn, so long as we stay focused, organized, and results-oriented.
Don’t wait to take measures to ensure that YOUR business takes the necessary precautions to protect your profits, your efficiency, and your health.