10 ways for small businesses to weather the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic

Prepare, don’t panic

This is an uncertain time for business owners worldwide, but it’s no time to panic. Here’s what you can do now to start preparing your small business to weather the effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

10 ways for small businesses to weather the effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis

  1. Curate credible resources for COVID-19 coronavirus information.
  2. Plan for change.
  3. Practice “social distancing.”
  4. Figure out what you want to say to customers.
  5. Make it easy for customers to contact you.
  6. Stay top-of-mind with content that helps your customers.
  7. Craft smart emails to communicate with customers.
  8. Engage on social media.
  9. Leverage a supportive community.
  10. Above all, stay healthy.

1. Curate credible resources for COVID-19 (coronavirus)  information

From federal health advisories to local organizations offering must-know COVID-19 info, here are some best practices for bookmarking resources that can help you, your employees, your customers and your community manage better through the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Plan for change

To start, evaluate changes you might need to make in the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Will you need to adjust the way you do business?

  • Outline a plan and prioritize action items. The Chamber of Commerce recommends prioritizing critical operations:

    “Be prepared to change your business practices if needed to maintain critical operations (e.g. identify alternative suppliers, prioritize customers, or temporarily suspend some of your operations.)”

  • Adopt a customer-first mindset. It’s never been more important to nurture existing customers. Show them how much you appreciate their support. Think about how you can help them manage their way through the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.For example, as a result of coronavirus-related disruptions, some utility companies are trying to help customers who can’t pay their bills right now.

An important update from the Ministry of Education in the UAE #COVID19.

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⚠️تنويه هام: . . ستقوم #وزارة_التربية_والتعليم بإعداد وإرسال قائمة بأسماء الطلاب المستحقين وأرقامهم والذين ليس لديهم اشتراكات في خدمات الانترنت المنزلي، ومن ثم إرسالها إلى مزودي الخدمة لتمكينهم من توفير خدمة البيانات عبر الهاتف المتحرك مجاناً للخدمات ذات الصلة "بالتعلم عن بُعد" تمكيناً للوصول للمواقع الالكترونية والتطبيقات المحددة من قبل الوزارة وبالتنسيق مع المشغلين #هيئة_تنظيم_الاتصالات #اتصالات #دو @moe_uaestudents @etisalat @du ⚠️ Important announcement: . . @moe_uaestudents will prepare and send a list of eligible students and their numbers who do not have subscriptions to home internet services. The list will be sent to service providers to provide free mobile data @MOEducationUAE @dutweets @etisalat

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Stating that they will prepare and send a list of eligible students and their numbers who do not have subscriptions to home internet services. The list will be sent to service providers to provide free mobile data.

  • Check local resources for possible closures or cancellations that could affect your business operations. For example, school closures will likely impact a childcare provider who operates in line with the local school district’s schedule. Companies like Zoom are stepping up to help educators. Zoom already offers a free plan, but they have lifted the 40 minute limit for on free accounts for schools affected by the coronavirus.
  • If you rely on a single global supplier, consider diversifying your supply chain.
  • If you need to focus more on a specific aspect of running your business, look into outsourcing other tasks. For example, you might hire a freelance writer to help with customer emails or blog posts. Or you might hire a virtual assistant to answer the phone and manage your calendar, freeing you to do business-critical work.
  • Modify travel plans. Stay on top of travel health notices from the CDC here. Some airlines, like Egypt Air, are waiving change and cancellation fees.

How will you support employees?

If you have employees, will you need to make changes to support your workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are some things to consider:

  • Communicate to your employees on the steps you’re taking. Provide an easily accessible FAQ sheet to keep your team updated with COVID-19 coronavirus news.
  • Arrange for remote work / work-from-home options. A number of companies are offering free and discounted tools and services to enable remote work.

For example, LogMeIn has created a “Remote Work Toolkit” to help employers and entrepreneurs seamlessly transition into a remote workplace. The resource page features tips for working remotely, ideas for maintaining a work-life balance, steps for creating an emergency plan, and more.

In the past week, the conversation around #remotework has increased. Does your organization have an emergency plan? Check out our #remotework toolkit for a seamless transition to a remote workforce. http://bit.ly/2xsMGyw 

  • Review paid time off and sick leave policies.
  • Listen with empathy. Like just about everyone else, your employees probably have concerns about the COVID-19. Be available to hear them and respond in the best way you can.

How will the COVID-19 (coronavirus)  pandemic affect your small business’s finances?

It’s likely hard to NOT think about how this virus is impacting your bottom line. But there are steps you can take to help mitigate the financial fallout.

  • Work up a cash flow forecast. Partner with a financial professional, if necessary.
  • Consider applying for an tax extension.
  • Look into rent and supplier deferment programs.
  • Explore emergency funding options.

Related: Top 20 crowdfunding platforms

3. Practice “social distancing”

The CDC defines social distancing as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.” They recommend practices ranging from avoiding handshakes to taking transactions online.

This can be especially tough if you’re a brick-and-mortar business like a restaurant or hair salon or comic book shop. Tough, but not impossible.

4. Figure out what you want to say to customers

Many companies have been doing their best to keep people up-to-date with what they’re doing in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. You’ll no doubt want to do something similar, even if it’s just a statement you post to your blog or website, rather than emailing it out.

Some messages you might want to send to customers include:

  • Thank them for their support.
  • Explain what your business is doing and how it affects them.
  • Detail the changes you’re making, including to terms of service.
  • Tell them about updated refund and cancellation policies, if applicable.
  • Tell them how to get in touch with you.
  • Reassure them that we’re all in this together.

Be sure to check out Twitter’s recommendations on brand communications in the time of crisis.

5. Make it easy for customers to contact you

To help you make it easy for your customers to contact you on a consistent basis, here are a few measures you can take:

  • Website. Give your contact information prominent placement on every page of your website.
  • Online business listings. Be sure your contact info is up-to-date on online business listings like Google My Business and Yelp.
  • Email. Make sure to include up-to-date contact information in all email correspondence with customers. All them to reply to your emails directly.
  • Social media. Let customers as well as other business owners know you’re active on social media to connect with you and drop you a message. Include links to your social profiles in emails, blog posts, etc. so customers know they can also connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other networks where you have a presence.
  • Chat apps. Using tools like Facebook Messenger and Twitter Chats — and letting customers know that you’re available on Messenger during certain hours — can help customers feel connected to you in real-time.
  • Dedicated phone number. Enable customers to easily get in touch with you over the phone by sharing the best number to reach you. If you’ll be available via phone outside of normal business hours, let them know.
  • Signage. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, post your up-to-date contact info on highly visible signage.
  • Online bookings and scheduling. Let customers know they can manage appointments with you using online tools (bonus if your website includes the ability to schedule and modify appointments). If you’re a Microsoft Office 365 user, you might already have access to Microsoft Bookings.

6. Stay top-of-mind with content that helps your customers

Redirect downtime to creating content that helps your customers (and boosts their confidence in you).

  • Blog posts. Article ideas include “How Can You Cope With X During the COVID-19 Shutdown? (X is the problem your company solves for customers),” “What We’re Doing During the COVID-19 Shutdown,” and “The Top 10 Things We Love About Our Customers.”
  • Videos. Take your blog articles above and tell stories about them. Videos are a great place to tell stories, not just relate lists of information. Also, consider doing some video interviews with colleagues.
  • Podcasts. If you don’t want to do video interviews, start an audio podcast instead. Record them with a basic voice recorder app on your phone, or use a program on your laptop like Audacity, GarageBand, or even Skype and Call Recorder (a Skype add-on).
  • Webinars. Webinars are a great way to educate people about your company’s offering without actually doing any selling at all. Premium webinar packages include GoToWebinar, Microsoft Teams Live Events, Zoom, and free options include Google Hangouts or YouTube Live.
  • Social posts. Of course, now that everyone is staying at home, they’re all watching Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so it makes sense that you meet them where they are. Engage with people, talk with them, have conversations with them.

Many people are nervous, so help them cope by just having normal conversations with them.

This is not a good time to hard-sell your products, but it’s a great time to relate to people as people. Share your stories, blog posts and videos with them. Since those are pieces of content that will inform, explain, educate and (perhaps) entertain, they’re worth sharing on social media.

This is also a time to serve as a resource for your customers.

Pay attention to them, set up an alert for certain industry terms, and then respond to the posts that use those terms. People may have questions or even some ideas, and it’s worth engaging with them about it.

7. Craft smart emails to communicate with customers

COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis affecting the entire globe. And though every country is handling it differently, one thing remains certain: we are all in this together. And anything you can do to bolster that sense of solidarity with your customers is appreciated.

Emails you send to your customers should address the crisis immediately. In these messages, you can:

  • Talk about how it’s impacting the world and your company.
  • Discuss what you’re doing differently in its wake.
  • Be upfront about what you plan to do for your customers during this trying time.
  • Discuss how COVID-19 coronavirus might impact your ability to serve your customers, if relevant.

8. Engage on social media

Many people are turning to social media for information and a sense of connection to the world, especially as they are practicing social isolation. Here are some more ways that you can use social media to continue to build and sustain relationships with your customers.

  • Update your social media profiles with any changes to your hours or what services you’re providing. For significant updates, like reduced hours or closures, be sure to pin that post at the top of your profile for easy reference.
  • Share real-time updates. Beyond just email messaging, you can connect with your customers on social media to give them real-time updates on how you and your business are handling COVID-19 coronavirus.
  • Share helpful content, including blog posts and videos.
  • Build community through asking and answering questions.
  • Leverage automation and scheduling tools to keep your social presence up-to-date.

9. Leverage a supportive community

Physical distance separates us all, yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the effort to build community within companies and with customers.

  • Form strategic partnerships. Look for opportunities to partner up with other local businesses, or explore strategic alliances through organizations like BNI.
  • Get active in professional and trade organizations.
  • Join online forums and meetups.

COVID-19 Meetup

  • Encourage support for fellow small businesses. Refer customers. Announce partnerships.
  • Find a mentor.

These times are tough, but that can be mitigated by reaching out to others.

10. Stay healthy

Despite all that’s going on in the world and the fact that many of us are cooped up in our home offices or at the very least practicing social distancing, it’s still important to take measures to protect or enhance your health in mind, body and spirit.

If you’re a business that provides health and wellness services, your customers need you now more than ever. For example, Nicky Fitness, a fitness instructor in the UAE, is offering free online workouts.

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Day 5💥 Home workout * * 1️⃣ Standing Knee drive x10 2️⃣ Squat / Pulses x15 3️⃣ Single Leg Deadlift x10 4️⃣ Back Extension / Skydiver x10 5️⃣ Partner Cross Crawl x20 6️⃣ Jump Lunges x10 Repeat x5 times or as many times as you can. Time yourself & try to complete as quick as you can 💥 * * * Save the video, tag us when you do it & send it to anyone who will benefit from it ❤️ Enjoy, N&H @little_h92 * * @myproteinae @dubai @mydubai @dubaifitfam @repsuae @uae_fitnessdubai @dubai92 @dubaieye1038fm @khaleejtimes @toughmudder_uae @spartanarabia @empiricmiddleeast @aminoapp.dxb #nickyfitness #partnerworkout #gymclosure #homeworkout #dubaipt #personaltraining #gymbuddy #partnerworkouts #bodyweighttraining #noequipment #fitness #dubaifitness #exercise #motivation #inspiration #dubaifitcouple #trainathome #quarantine #fitcouple #workout #nogym #keepfit #n&h

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Many healthcare providers also are offering telehealth services.

The CDC offers up a number of suggestions for taking care of yourself and others during this difficult time, noting that while everyone reactions differently in times of strife, the stress and anxiety the outbreak can cause is valid.

The CDC’s recommendations for reducing stress include:

  • Limiting your consumption of news and social media about the pandemic.
  • Taking time to participate in physical exercise daily. Even within your home, you can stretch, do yoga, or follow along with an aerobic fitness routine from YouTube.
  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Dedicate time to relaxation when possible and/or participate in an activity you enjoy.
  • Take time to talk with friends on the phone or through video chat/FaceTime.

These are all things you can do to look after your own health. But you should extend these concerns to your employees and business partners as well. This can take many forms including:

  • Sharing factual information about COVID-19 coronavirus with your employees.
  • Offering flexible schedules.
  • Reducing workload expectations.
  • Offering paid time off/medical leave/family leave if you have the ability to.
  • Share exercising and nutrition tips/advice/assistance whenever you can.
  • Basically, support your team as best you can.

Summing up

The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis is causing unprecedented disruption to individuals and small businesses around the world. But we’re all in this together. Use whatever strategies in this article you feel will help you steer your unique venture through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

If you’re a GoDaddy customer, don’t hesitate to contact us if you need help.

The following writers contributed to this article: Ashley Grant, Brandi Johnson, Brenda Barron, Dan Hughes, Elizabeth Leer and Erik Deckers.

Image by: Bench Accounting viaUnsplash.