How Can Small Businesses Survive During COVID-19 Lockdown?

The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading rapidly. New updates come in almost constantly, and for small business owners, it can be a scary time. As the situation changes shape, it’s important for business owners to mitigate risk while protecting their employees and providing support to their customers. But how can that happen during a complete lockdown? Here are a few tips to help small business owners survive during these uncertain times.

Set Up a Remote Work Plan

If it’s possible, establish a remote working plan. When almost 70% of entrepreneurs start their business from home, remote work isn’t a totally foreign concept. If you’re running a small tech or marketing business and most of your work is on the internet, you’re in luck. Transitioning that kind of work to a remote setting is relatively simple. In addition, free tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom can help you and your staff stay connected and productive, even when you’re not in the same place.

Of course, this all only works if you establish clear standards from the start. When you’re implementing a remote work policy, communication becomes more important than ever. Make sure you’re setting clear expectations as to when you expect team members to be available or online for meetings or specific projects. In addition, make sure you’ve specified how your team will communicate. Choose one platform for everyone to use and stick to it to eliminate confusion or missed messages.

And finally, when you’re implementing a work from home policy, make sure everyone has the software and hardware they need to get the job done. Don’t be like the 34% of companies who fail to test their backups regularly. Have backups for your backups, and be prepared to eliminate barriers when it comes to work equipment and efficiency for your employees.

Reduce Meetings and Travel

The most important thing you can do to protect your team during this unprecedented time is to minimize — and really to eliminate entirely — any opportunities where they may be exposed to the virus. Team meetings can easily be held virtually, as we discussed above. Technology like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom can make that transition nearly seamless. Going digital with your agendas is easy, too. When there are already 4 trillion paper documents in the U.S., is there really a need to add more to the mix?

It might seem like a pain, but any planned travel for conferences or other events should be canceled as well. If you or one of your team members gets sick as a result of travel, that poses a big problem. This could be especially detrimental if you’re already working with a small team to begin with. Not to mention a liability if they catch COVID-19 while traveling for non-essential reasons.

Re-Negotiate Contract and Debt Terms

For many small business owners, the lockdown currently unfolding is placing them in a serious financial bind. Whether you’re going to be short on rent or you have another outstanding debt like the 30% of Americans dealing with bad credit, now is the time to reach out and negotiate the terms of your contracts. If you’re a small business owner and you’re renting a space, it’s important to ask your landlord about reconsidering when rent is due. Your business isn’t operating currently and nobody is using the space — it’s a pretty good case for an extension on your rent payment. Another option small business owners have is asking banks to temporarily defer any interest payments on outstanding debt. Applying for SBA loans is an additional option that can provide some relief for business owners who may not be able to re-negotiate with landlords or banks.

Be Flexible with Employees

We’re living in an unprecedented time. Schools, stores, offices, and all manner of other institutions around the world are shutting down. One of your team members might have a child whose daycare was shut down. Now they might have to handle childcare alone from home. Another might have a college student who came home for spring break and who now can’t return to their school. When something comes up, try to be as understanding as possible. Give your employees the flexibility to complete their work however they can. When you set up a remote working program that is results-driven, the need for rigidity in a daily schedule isn’t very important. It may take some time for your team to figure out how to achieve work normalcy when so many things around them are changing and uncertain.

Be Transparent with Your Customers

It is crucial to remember that everyone is facing this crisis together. That means it’s more important than ever to communicate 100% transparently with your customers about what your business is going through. If you already had contingency plans in place to go fully remote, let them know that their work will be delivered without any interruption. If you need some time to sort things out before work can start up properly again, be honest with your customers. Not only does this help build your relationship, but customers can empathize with brands who communicate clearly that they’re facing into some of the same issues.

It’s also important to communicate the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk for your team and your customers’ work. Giving your customers insight into how you’re protecting your employees, delivering the work on-time, and supporting your local community can go a long way in building trust.

These are truly uncertain times, especially for small businesses. Taking some of these steps can help keep you afloat during the COVID-19 lockdown. In addition, you can rest a little easier knowing that you’re protecting your employees and serving your customers during this strange time.