Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you know the catastrophic effect the coronavirus outbreak has had across the world over the past few months.
With events being cancelled left, right and center, and the death rate continually rising, more and more people are being told to work and quarantine themselves at home to combat the threat of the virus.
However, while this may be a sensible move from a public health perspective, many small businesses around the globe have been hugely affected by the governmental decisions, losing clients and consequently staff in order to stay afloat.
Plus, with the threat of COVID-19 not looking like it's going away anytime soon, the level of global uncertainty appears set to continue over the coming months. So what, if anything, can you do as a small business owner to combat the threat?
In this article, we take a detailed look at some of the key challenges the coronavirus outbreak has brought with it, highlighting the four key areas you, as a small business owner, need to be particularly wary of.
1. Moving online
Due to the need for employees to now work from home, unless your company works online already, you’re going to need to implement methods in which your workers can access company documents while away from the office. However, depending on the type of business you run, this could be much easier said than done, so it’s important to think outside the box when it comes to staying profitable.
Say, for instance, you run a restaurant that relies on customers coming through its doors. Rather than waiting it out and hoping the outbreak will eventually figure itself out, act accordingly; sign up to Deliveroo or another similar service so that you can still keep your customers happy. Not only will this show that you’ve thought of them in this trying time, but it’ll also ensure your level of profitability won’t be impacted as badly.
2. Managing remote workers
While on the topic of employees moving toward working from home, small business owners will need to alter their management approach accordingly. After all, this change in the working environment will be scary and new to all of your employees, so they'll look to you to guide them through the transition.
In order to do this effectively, here are a few key things you need to think about:
Remote Leadership Team If your business has employees with more remote working experience than you, let them take the reins. Feed off their expertise and appoint them to your business’ remote leadership team, to help guide your employees through the required changes.
Communication Plans In the office, many employees will have an area where they can relax and have a quick chat with colleagues, and a separate area where they can discuss pressing work issues. Utilizing tools like Slack and Whereby, you can quickly set up remote workspaces where employees can carry on with this principle online—having one space available for more informal chats, and another for more important conference calls.
Culture Humans are naturally resistant to change so one of the more important things you can do is embrace what’s happening. This is especially important for companies with a strong ‘in-office’ culture that need to recognize that remote working is a process, rather than a binary switch in need of being flipped.
3. Losing clients
Uncertain time periods affect everyone, everywhere—and that includes your company’s clients. Therefore, as sad as it is to say, it’s important to face the reality that you may lose clients and customers along the way, simply because they can’t afford to continue paying for your company’s service.
Staying ahead of the game and recognizing your ‘at-risk clients’ can combat this eventuality to a certain extent though, again using effective, out of the box methods to keep them onside. For example, if you run a marketing or advertizing agency, you could think about offering your ‘at-risk clients’ a survival package to keep them on your books.
4. Losing staff
A ripple effect of a small business losing its clients is the loss of revenue. This lack of profitability, in turn, leads to you having to make a series of incredibly hard decisions as to which members of staff are worthy of retaining.
These are decisions that no small business owner ever wants to make. However, when faced with the time of overwhelming uncertainty we're in right now, keeping your business going simply has to take priority over everything else—as difficult as that may be.
The coronavirus outbreak has been and continues to be a major concern for businesses across the globe. However, it’s important for small business owners to stay optimistic and continue doing all they can to manage employees in the correct manner.
It’s likely there will be more difficult times ahead, with some heart-breaking decisions needing to be made along the way. But, as the renowned business leadership writer John Wooden once said: “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”
Perhaps now is the time for small business owners to do exactly that.
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