How should small business owners manage the corona virus, aka COVID-19? It’s a question on the minds of many entrepreneurs, as Fortune 500 companies announce new protocols for travel, meetings and even use of coffee cups. At Consultant Journal, we know many entrepreneurs, small business owners and consultants wonder about the business impact.
Refer to the CDC, WHO, your local health authority or another reliable, science-based source for health information. Their recommendations should inform your decisions. Keep in mind that recommendations may change. In the meantime, based on current information, you can take the following steps:
- If you have employees, you’ll want to review the steps you take to make sure they are safe from illness.
- Wipe down and clean surfaces frequently
- Encourage workers to stay home or leave work if they have symptoms noted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Instruct workers to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, elbows or shoulders, not their hands
- Encourage frequently soap and water handwashing for 20 seconds or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Make sure staff have access to well-stocked washing facilities
- Encourage waving or nodding for greetings
- Consider whether racism or profiling may be affecting your employees and review HR protocols to help provide emotional and work support
If your business meets with clients in person, you may want to look at your policies and processes to help keep clients and yourself healthy. Think about what’s actually needed for your sales and marketing:
- Wave or nod instead of shaking hands
- Keep washrooms well-stocked with paper towels and soap
- Bring along hand-sanitizing hand wipes or cleanser, if access to washing facilities is difficult
- Consider which appointments must be made in person, whether trips are necessary and how you can make better use of teleconferencing and web meetings
- Offer flexibility for cancellations related to health, review your fees and pricing around cancellations for illness and suggest tech tools for managing communication as needed
- As with employees, check that racism and profiling are not affecting your work and look for opportunities to improve engagement, diversity and human rights
- Update your website, social or client communication to let people know how you’re managing health and what options you are offering
- Make sure you have two-way communication options for clients.
Business Process Review
From a business point of view, you may also need to take precautions:
- Look through your HR policies, including paid time-off, sick leave, caregiver, short-term disability benefits and policies. Look for opportunities to offer work from home, make-up shifts, sick days, leave or other flexible conditions that promote health and wellness
- Review internal and external communication policies and protocols. If there is a shut down, how will you inform staff and stakeholders, for example?
- Do trial runs and document practices for using telemeetings, including teleconferences and web meetings. You may be already doing these, but sometimes employees, contractors and clients may be new to the experience.
- Prepare your company for the possibility of a shut-down. Review what you would need to do to maintain inventory, reserves and contract fulfillment.
- Take some time to review your childcare and family caregiver situation; encourage employees to look into options too, including working from home
- Take a look at your cash flow and what a change to sales or staffing could do. Consider arranging financing ahead of time, as part of business continuity preparations
- If you haven’t already, you may want to look into business continuity plans and insurance
- Look for opportunities to automate business processes to minimize disruptions and make sure any credit cards, lines of credit and other investment tools are up to date. Some tools you may find helpful include Zoom, Slack, Google Docs, Trello
- As with employees and clients, review whether racism and profiling may affect your business or those around you. Look for ways to address issues, provide better support and be a better member of the business community
- You’ll also want to stay up to date on news around the virus. Be reasonable and make sure you’re using reliable news sources. The CDC and your local health authority are likely good options.
While COVID-19 may impact your business or your personal life, this situation also presents a good opportunity to modernize and automate your business and determine where you can create the most success with personal contact. You may actually find some of the steps improve your workflow, customer engagement, employee retention and other important performance indicators.
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