By James J Talerico,
As someone who has devoted his career to advising small businesses, here are my thoughts for surviving the Coronavirus.
1. First, take a deep breath and assess your situation. Small business owners and their managers are looked to as leaders by their employees, customers, vendors, et. al., so they need to educate themselves about what’s going on and communicate their plan regularly with their business’ stakeholders. These stakeholders are looking for honest information and a plan, or vision, for dealing with the crisis. You can be honest if you don’t know an answer and express your feelings and concerns, but always have some kind of response about what you are trying to do to mitigate risk for the person(s) with whom you’re speaking. So, the first step is to acknowledge your leadership role.
2. Make sure that your personal health & well-being is a priority. This should really be number one, because you are no good to others if you don’t take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, periodically communicate with family members and friends, and invest some time learning new things and reading inspirations quotes to keep you motivated and in a positive state of mind.
3. Implement your plan for getting through this crisis. In September of last year, I dedicated a broadcast on the Price of Business to disaster planning after the wave of continued natural disasters in the US, and I wrote an article that is on the Price of Business web site that outlines how to create a disaster plan in the event of a crisis. The five-(5) steps of disaster planning we discussed during the broadcast include: (i) prevention, (ii) protection, (iii) mitigation, (iv) response and (v) recovery.
If you have a written disaster plan and strategic goals & objectives for the year, it’s time to pull them out and take a pencil to them. If you don’t have a written plan, you should begin creating a weekly action plan for each function of your business during this crisis, and then monthly with some longer-term goals & objectives as we emerge from the crisis.
I have broken this section into four-(4) parts: communications, financial planning, redeploying your employees, and learning from this crisis:
A. Communications –
- Your communications to employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders should be flexible, follow federal, state and local instructions, be focused on the here and now, and reassure employees without being misleading or dishonest;
- You should follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines closely, with respect to social distancing, clean work areas & environments, and good hygiene;
- Be sure to meet daily with your management team. My preference would be to meet on a visual platform like Zoom, Facebook Live, or Goggle Hangout, instead of by conference call;
- Your Covid-19 communications plan should include general information to stakeholders about what you are doing in light of the crisis, as well as creative sales, marketing and customer service strategies;
B. Your Financial Plan –
- Take stock of your financial situation, resources, access to capital and short- & intermediate- term financial needs;
- Create a cashflow forecast to track your actual cash inflows and outflows;
- Cut back on any unnecessary purchases & spending, and, if needed, try to renegotiate burdensome loans and contracts.
Each of these steps will help ensure you are in a better position to make good financial decisions.
C. Redeploy Your Employees –
- Assign a skeleton crew to work from the office to deal with day-to-day issues, like mail, shipping, and deposits;
- Consider having employees work from home, furloughs, and possible layoffs and/or terminations. Unfortunately, many small business owners will be faced with some very difficult choices because of the Coronavirus;
- Focus your idle employees on special projects, training, and process improvement work after having them sign off on a “work from home procedure.”
- Establish VPN access for these employees but have strong password requirements to avoid a possible cyberattack and insist that your employees sign off on this procedure with significant consequences for not strictly adhering to this policy.
D. Last, learn From this experience. Talk with your employees about how you can learn from this experience, so you will be in a better position when faced with the next crisis.
For more information on managing this crisis, download the US Chamber of Commerce’s “Coronavirus toolbox.”
4. If you can, doing something that will have a positive impact on small businesses and the local community. My grandfather was a small business owner and he believed strongly in this. For instance, you can donate perishable inventories, excess PPE, or pay your suppliers early. Whether you want to promote these actions or not is up to you.
5. Last, take advantage of the available federal, state and private resources you need to make it throught the crisis.
The Coronavirus is going to have a significant impact on small business. It will be stressful, but now is a time to work together. Be kind to and understanding of others.
That said, the primary message here is that those leaders who invest in preparation and embrace these ideas are going to be in the best position to manage this crisis.
About the Author
A nationally recognized small to mid-sized business (SMB) expert, Jim Talerico has consistently ranked among the “top small business consultants followed on Twitter.” With more than thirty – (30) years of diversified business experience, Jim has a solid track record helping thousands of business owners across the US and in Canada tackle tough business problems and improve their organizational performance.
A regular guest on the Price of Business on Bloomberg Talk Radio, Jim’s client success stories have been highlighted in the Wall St Journal, Dallas Business Journal, Chicago Daily Herald, and on MSNBC’s Your Business, and he is regularly quoted in publications like the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, and INC Magazine, in addition to numerous, other industry publications, radio broadcasts, business books, and Internet media.
Jim Talerico is a certified management consultant CMC©, an honor bestowed on only 1% of all consultants worldwide.
Increase your knowledge of the latest small to mid-sized business (SMB) trends by tuning into Jim’s regular appearances on the Price of Business !
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