Ten Ways to Manage Business During Uncertain Times: The COVID-19 EditionThe coronavirus pandemic and spread of COVID-19 has halted business across the United States and around the world. These are unprecedented times—for all of us. By now, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the amount of news, information, and resources available. We narrowed the information down to 10 ways to manage your business and work from home. We hope that you find these tips useful during this difficult time.
- Explore government relief options to help your small business weather the storm
- Keep communicating with your customers.
- Take your business...online.
- Leverage selling on platforms with a wider reach.
- Capitalize on virtual office & productivity tools.
- Check-in with your team and set new “rules of engagement.”
- Work from home effortlessly...even with kids.
- Start prioritizing money.
- Build upon a business continuity plan.
- Stay healthy (and encourage the same for your employees, too)
While the federal government is still reconciling on a relief bill, the best thing to do right now is to check in with your state-specific resources. Every state is responding differently. Your governor’s office’s website, local small business organizations, and small business agencies will have information on business assistance programs.
If you need to find your local Small Business Administration (SBA) office.
If you need a list of America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and which one is closest to you.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a helpful Coronavirus Small Business Guide. Find your state or local chamber.
Right now, it’s important to keep the conversation going. Stay in touch with your customers! (And, if you had any previous communications set to go out automatically, edit these so you don’t sound “tone deaf” to this situation.) As we all react to the same situation, businesses are taking different approaches. For example, while some restaurants have closed completely, others are still open for takeout and even spearheading relief efforts. Many brick-and-mortar stores have closed, but there are others that have transferred inventory online.
Let your customers know what you’re doing. If you’re closed for the time being, share that news. Otherwise, let them know that you’re still open, how you’re preventing the spread of COVID-19, and how they can support you right now.
Helpful tip: If you don’t already stay in touch with your customers via email, now is a great time to start. Get your news out with Constant Contact email marketing, an easy-to-use email template service that doesn’t require you to be an email marketing or design genius. We are pleased to partner with Constant Contact and provide its existing customers with 3 free months of email marketing. Sign up now.
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The best way to stay competitive in this era of social distancing is to take your business online. If your brick-and-mortar store doors are closed right now, enlist the help of your healthy employees to share (and sell!) merchandise on social media. You can also add inventory directly to your website.
Upload professional photos of your product, build out your inventory management system, and figure out shipping and payment processors to keep the sales rolling in. If you’re looking to convert your shop into an online store, we can help you get there with our WebsiteBuilder eCommerce plan starting at $12.99/mo.
The effects of self-quarantining and social distancing mean that a lot of people are turning to social networks for social engagement. Link up with Amazon, Facebook, Facebook Marketplace, and Instagram and sell what you can on their platforms. eBay and Etsy are other options to consider. It’s sometimes easier to catch people’s attention on a site they visit regularly.
Productivity doesn’t have to suffer as more and more people start to work from home (WFH). Online tools, video conferencing, and productivity trackers can keep everyone focused and engaged. We suggest Google Workspace and Microsoft Office 365 stay connected with your team in this remote environment. If you want to work remotely but not feel remote, chat tools and Microsoft Teams unlock ways to interact and conduct every meeting virtually.
Also, for those who have never “WFH” before, here are a few helpful hints:
- Get ready every morning (no pajamas, no matter how comfy)
- Have a dedicated space for working
- Take breaks
- Set goals
- Be flexible with yourself and others
- Communicate more than you think you need to (with family & coworkers)
First things first: these are uncertain times—for all of us. Setting a “new normal” for your co-workers will help everyone adjust to this new routine. Establish how you’ll check in with one another (daily? 2x/day?) and set the ground rules of how people can best communicate (email, text, video conferencing, etc.). Give yourself (and others!) some grace and flexibility. Leave space for the unexpected to happen. Also, check-in with each other. Leave some time at the beginning of each meeting to talk about how everyone is doing.
With school canceled, kids are also at home and sharing space with working parents. Everyone’s spaces are intermingled. Setting boundaries at the beginning of each day can help. Embrace the situation. Chances are you won’t be the only one who has a kid wander into the background of your Zoom meeting asking what’s for lunch. (Remember this dad who was reporting for the BBC?) Take breaks. Alternate with your partner who’s on “kid duty.” Again, be flexible. These are uncharted waters. We’re all still getting the hang of this.
If you’re looking for more strategies for success, The Wirecutter’s How to Work From Home With Kids is a useful resource with really good tips.
The economy is already starting to sputter. That said, now is the time to reduce spending where you can and start saving to ensure down the road, you’ll be in the best possible financial standing. Reduce non-essential spending where you can. Ask yourself: Which bills are critical at this point? If you’re unable to make payments, contact your service and credit card providers and explore what options are available. Ask about temporarily skipping payments or if there are hardship programs available.Disclaimer: Please note the information provided here is not meant to be financial advice. We recommend contacting your financial institution or financial advisor for professional assistance.
Commerce informs so much of business, but this is also a time to zero in on potential issues with production, inventory, shipping, and handling. If domestic supplies are dwindling, is there an international option? What will happen to a business if you need to keep the team working from home longer than you originally anticipated? How will you continue to manage supply and demand? Even if the answers to these questions are unclear, asking the question is still important.
The last bit of advice we’ll offer is to keep up the habits that keep you and your family healthy. Social distancing, washing your hands, sanitizing your phone periodically, checking in with friends and family, and eating healthy are all important. If you’re looking for any additional self-care suggestions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a few resources for helping children cope with disasters, taking care of your own emotional health, and ways to manage your health at home.
The COVID-19 crisis is disrupting business as usual for individuals, families, and small businesses. But, it’s also bringing us closer together. We hope these ten tips will be useful for you and your business as you navigate your own way through this worldwide pandemic.
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