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How to Help Your Small Business Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Essential Steps for Small Businesses to Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus has brought the global, state, and local economies to a crawl – something no one anticipated. Instead of waiting for the worst, small businesses are rapidly evolving. Understanding your options as a small business owner can help you successfully pivot during the pandemic and navigate the challenging times ahead.

Perform Financial Triage

While there are plenty of causes for concern, paying the bills should be your top priority. That includes this month and the following ones. You should have an idea of how long you can stay afloat financially and where to cut costs. You should also note the fixed costs, project future cash-flow, and create a list of financial priorities.

You should cut any unnecessary expenses. That includes anything that does not produce revenue or protect the business. Additionally, while employees can be your greatest asset, you may have to layoff, furlough, or terminate people. These are difficult decisions, but acting swiftly is essential to make headway on a negative balance sheet.

If you still need cash-flow, consider taking out a business loan or extending your line of credit. While the economy has ground to a halt, small business owners can benefit from historically low-interest rates. The decision to take out a loan depends on your financial situation. You can talk to a United financial advisor to find out whether a loan is right for your company.

There are some alternatives to lessen the stress, too. The IRS extended the Tax Day deadline from April 15 to July 15. The Small Business Administration (SBA) expanded access to loans. Plus, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides paid sick leave for certain employers.

The CARES Act is also setting aside $350 billion to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program. The program offers 100 percent federally guaranteed loans, regardless of whether the business has been previously denied credit. Loans can total to 2.5 times the company’s average payroll, up to $10 million.

Use Smart Tools

Many small businesses will have employees working remotely for the first time. Fortunately, modern technology allows companies to work anytime, anywhere, and on any budget.

The operative word is can. Some small companies need to quickly update and adapt their IT to enable remote business operations. Resources, like Microsoft Teams, Tools, and Zoho Remotely, offer conferencing tools and file-sharing capabilities to keep everyone on the same page.

In the meantime, small business owners should set clear expectations about company policies about COVID-19 and weekly productivity. This tracking may come in the form of an internal memo or an Excel sheet that tracks customer interactions and project completion, respectively. If some parts of the business require on-sight personnel, make sure to establish best practices with those employees about work, security, health, and safety.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is king. The shift towards remote customer purchases and interactions has only reinforced this notion. Small businesses need to maintain a presence in customer’s lives to survive. That means actively monitor the coronavirus situation and providing regular updates. Relevant news includes:

  • Store hours
  • Availability (pick up, online-only, drive-thru)
  • Contact information
  • COVID-19 policies (sanitizing stores, waived fees, deferred payments)
  • Community outreach
  • Event cancellations

Companies already online have a leg up here. The key is adapting to the specific needs of consumers because the coronavirus is changing how people spend money. According to consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, people are investing in products that protect, connect them. For instance, Target is emphasizing its enhanced cleaning procedures and additional staff for pickups and delivery.

The coronavirus outbreak should not be strictly about creating sales opportunities, though. Instead, companies should focus on building empathy through social media. This approach may require marketing and advertising strategies to stay in touch with customers and their interests.

Secure Your Data

The increase in remote working has heightened cybersecurity risks. For many companies already dealing with sensitive data, there is little margin for error. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of businesses, employees, and customers to have more robust data security.

Hackers target companies with work-from-home policies because they’re more vulnerable than physical stores. The most common entry points include outdated VPNs, insecure home servers, and a lack of multi-factor authentication.

Warding off the data security threats requires a multi-pronged approach. Employees should beware of suspicious emails and links that ask for credentials or sensitive information. Installing patches and updates, such as anti-virus software, adds another layer of protection. Additionally, businesses should also check that its network is secure through a VPN, IAM, PAM, or VPAM.

It is also worth noting that some smart tools, like Zoom, collect and store personal information and share it with third parties, including advertisers. In the case of Zoom, the company also has broad authority to continuously collect and share user data both now and in the future. Make sure to factor in these privacy risks before selecting any applications.

The Bottom Line

Successful businesses during the coronavirus outbreak will be those that can readily adapt. That means finding ways to transition operates to safe working conditions without sacrificing customer engagement. The process will undoubtedly involve trial and error. Small businesses that make it, though, will be better off in the long-term, knowing they can stay survive anything.