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COVID-19: Preparing Your Small Business for the Unexpected

  • Whether you are very concerned, a little concerned, or not at all concerned with the recent developments of the coronavirus, as a business owner you still need to be informed and prepared. There are many potential impacts to you, your team, and your clients/customers. It’s always better to have a plan that you never need to use than to be caught without a plan. 

    The first step is to make sure you are informed. While you don’t have to stay glued to the news or memorize the latest numbers, it is important to know if your geographical area is affected. Make sure you are aware of any alerts or mandates in your area and learn the facts and symptoms about coronavirus from reputable sources 

    If you have a physical location – even a home office where you have staff or clients/customers – you need to think about proper cleaning and sanitizing. You may not be worried but guaranteed your staff or your clients/customers are. If you use a cleaning service, contact them to make sure they are prepared and make sure their protocols are in line with recommendations. If you handle your own cleaning, do your research and develop a plan. Minimize reusable items such as towels and replace them with single use items. (You can go back to more environmentally friendly practices later.) Consider placing hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes around the office for staff to use while there. Make sure your staff and customers know you are addressing this by sending an email or posting a sign.  

    If you have staff, do you have clear protocols already established? Have you communicated the protocols to them? Have you advised staff to stay home if they are feeling sick? Are they comfortable knowing there will not be any repercussions for staying home? If someone comes in sick, will you send them home? Will they be paid? What are your sick/PTO policies? Do you have any employees in higher risk groups? If an employee needs to be quarantined, how will that be addressed? If they have children and the schools close or child care becomes unavailable, what will you do? If you have employees who get sick and can’t work, what plans do you have to cover their work? 

    Make sure your employees are aware of the recommended prevention methods. Post a sign or send an email reminding staff of proper hygiene. This includes hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, sneezing/coughing into their arm, etc. Stay informed of the recommended methods from reputable sources and share that information with your team.  

    Can your employees work from home? If they can, are they set up (equipment, internet connection, etc.)? Can they access what they need? Make sure they have all login information available to them from home. If you don’t have a remote work policy, now is a good time to create one. Virtual meetings can be an option to replace in person meetings. If you need staff on-site, can you stagger the shifts so less people are there together? What will you do if the office is forced to close? 

    Are you up to date on emergency protocols? Do you have current contact info for your staff if you need to reach them? Is that information accessible from outside the office? How do you communicate with your clients/customers in case of a problem or closure?  

    What else about your business may be impacted? Do you order supplies that may be delayed or out of stock? Will your prices increase? Will you potentially have a decrease in sales? Can customers get your product or service online if they can’t physically get to your business? Do you have events, meetings, or conferences planned that may be impacted? What about travel plans?  

    Even if you are not worried and this turns out to be just another cold or flu, it’s better to be prepared than not prepared. Stay informed and make sure you have policies and contingency plans in place. Communicate about the steps you are taking. Be a leader. Your employees and clients/customers will appreciate it and your business will be better for it.