It’s nerve-wracking to run a business right now. If you haven’t had to close yet, you’re one of the lucky ones. But is your luck going to run out? You’ve got to at least prepare for the possibility.
Shutting down a business is not as simple as locking the door and waiting for the all-clear. A business owner must make a number of preparations to make sure everyone is taken care of and that the business can run smoothly in the event of disruption.
Here are five things you should immediately do if you are concerned about the possibility of closing down — or at least significantly altering operations — due to COVID-19.
1. Assign a workplace coordinator
A workplace coordinator is responsible for handling any COVID-19-related issues and how they impact your workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends identifying someone in your business to serve in this role.
If you're a small business, that person may be you, but if you don't have the time, you should find someone else who can fill that role.
A workplace coordinator will help you take care of the logistics of preparing the business to handle disruptions such as managing how staff members interact with each other and working with landlords and service providers.
2. Discuss leave and telework policies with your staff
Schedule a sit-down with your staff to talk about policies regarding leave and telework. If your employees can work from home, don't force them to come into the office out of concern that they won't get the work done.
Instead, spell out what you expect them to accomplish on a daily or weekly basis. If they do need to come in, talk about what they need to do to keep themselves and others safe and encourage them to stay home if they feel unwell.
3. Explain to staff what will happen with their pay
Be open and honest about pay. If you can't afford to pay them past a certain point if the closure lasts too long, it's your responsibility to be upfront about it so they can look for other jobs should the worst happen.
Remember that they also have bills and families to feed, and they likely can't afford a significant income gap during this time.
4. Talk with your suppliers and partners
Your relationships with suppliers and other business partners are vital to the long-term success of your business — and for their own. Have a frank discussion with them about exactly how the relationship will be affected in the event of a closure and what plans are in place to mitigate those effects.
Come up with ways to continue the relationship in the event of a closure such as a discount for advance ordering of supplies for when you do reopen. This can provide short-term cash to the supplier while saving you money when the business is back in operation.
However, first calculate your cash burn rate to determine if such a deal would shorten how long you could stay closed and still remain solvent.
5. Invest in software
Business software helps you get more organized, which is a must during these challenging times. If you’ve been handling everything by hand or with spreadsheets, it’s time to upgrade.
If you’re in sales, CRM software will help you create a teleworking structure for your sales team so everyone can be on the same page even when they’re not in the office.
Video conferencing software allows you to continue to meet face-to-face with your staff even when you’re not in the same place, no matter what industry you’re in. And e-commerce software will help you connect with your customers regardless of the circumstances outside.
You’ll get through this
It’s understandable to be concerned or even to feel desperate as revenues shrink. But with the right planning and preparation for reopening — including reorganizing your business to handle the new reality and the changed habits of consumers — you will survive this and become stronger.