How Can Businesses Continue Operations during the Coronavirus?
Even just a few days before the coronavirus (a.k.a. COVID-19) forced businesses across the country to start closing down, what business owner could or would have forecasted this sort of disaster happening to them? It came out of nowhere, and business owners had to decide how to proceed. Should they just close the doors permanently? Should they bleed out money while hoping things will turn around? Or should they make lemonade out of lemons?
This is probably the general feeling among most business owners that were negatively impacted by the unforeseen coronavirus. If you do decide to keep your business’s doors open (literally or figuratively) and continue operations, you might find some helpful tips below.
Stay in Close Contact with Your Own Employees
When it became a reality that businesses might have to halt operations or significantly change them, it was a potentially frightening concept for business owners to absorb. It was also a frightening concept for the employees of the business. With such a sudden disruption, it’s only human to worry about if and when there will be another paycheck. What if there are younger mouths that need to be fed? How long will the power stay on at home? What about mortgage, insurance, and all of the other expenses adults have in their lives?
One of the first things to do in this situation is to communicate with your employees and learn how this pandemic has affected their lives. When making decisions about how to move forward, consider your employees and how you can help them through reassurance and support.
Communicate with Your Customers
Depending on what type of business you have, maintain communication with your customers at all costs. You can do this through social media, more frequent newsletters, phone calls, or even visits with careful social distancing. You can offer them special deals through discounts, accelerated rewards, gift cards, or even delivery of your product. Maintain your relationship with your customers, and they will take notice. If possible, they will continue doing business with you and/or remain loyal to your business when the pandemic is finally over.
Let your customers know that you are fighting this invisible virus by taking every conceivable measure and precaution to maintain a safe and clean atmosphere and product. You want them to feel safe enough to continue business with you. Some restaurants have done a fantastic job of doing this by constantly sanitizing along with wearing masks and gloves. Some places have even required customers to wear masks in order to protect their own employees. Assess the situation and decide what steps you need to take to protect your business and your employees while still maintaining your customer base.
Assess the Situation and Make a Plan
This may sound easier than it is, but it will be advantageous for your business to gather as much information as possible while forming a game plan on how to proceed. There will be many factors that should be considered when planning for the immediate and long-term future of your business. You have to consider finances, timeline, your own deadlines such as when bills are due, closing down some operations, and possibly increasing technology to adapt your business.
You may have to pivot and change the way your business operates. One good example of this is a restaurant that has recently been in the news. During the time when restaurants closed, one restaurant decided to convert into a market. Instead of providing cooked foods, they sold vegetables, oils, spices, breads, flour, wines, and anything else they could think of that would help them make a profit and continue relationships with their customer base. Especially in a time when people could not go to restaurants and were forced to cook at home, these are exactly the supplies still needed for that.
Another interesting example of redirecting operations is a food truck owner who travels with the fair from city to city. This business owner normally sold typical fair food including turkey legs, cotton candy, oversized pretzels, Bundt cakes, and several other culinary delights not normally seen anywhere but at the fair. When the pandemic halted public events like going to the fair, this business owner found a spot where they could park their food truck and open up for business. Having such rare menu items was a real niche that kept their income flowing during this downtime.
If Possible, Keep a Positive Cash Flow
Since the future of your business is so unpredictable during a crisis like the pandemic, it’s important to do everything you can to continue having positive cash flow. Even if you can break even, that’s better than losing money and waiting for the well to run dry. If you have to resort to bringing in smaller profits, do what you have to do. You may have to sell equipment, rent out some space, or trim your staff. Through your assessment mentioned earlier, do what you can continue making profits.
Maintain Your Good Credit
Try to keep your credit score in healthy shape, at all costs. If you think you might not be able to make payments, contact your creditors and negotiate, if possible. During the coronavirus crisis, many lending institutions and credit card companies are allowing deferred payments with no penalty. Taking advantage of this could help keep cash in your bank accounts until business gets back to normal. However, if you still have credit card payments, do everything you can to make those payments and keep your credit healthy.
Deal with Suppliers and Vendors
It’s a good idea to communicate with your customers and vendors and find out what they want or need to continue doing business and maintain a relationship with you. Armed with this information, you can work with your suppliers to negotiate changes while continuing operations with them. The bottom line with suppliers is they want to maintain your business, and they will most likely work with you. You can possibly negotiate for better payment terms or even prices for supplies and materials. These guys are in the same boat you are, and they will likely work with you.
Finally, when things start opening up and everything is getting back to normal, make a list of what has worked and ideas of how to continue making and increasing profits. People will be ready to patronize your business, so you have to be ready for them when they do. Try to outthink your competitors and do what you can to grab those customers before your competitors do.