The COVID-19 shutdowns that rolled across the country have had a serious effect on the economy. What is turning into the worst recession in decades has many small businesses reeling - and wondering if they will be able to hold on. While some are sticking firm to their established d methods, many have adapted and changed with the new environment. Looking at the changes they are making can help you gain insight into what small businesses must do in order to weather the economic downturn associated with the coronavirus shutdown. 1. Rethinking Their Service Programs
Businesses that were once strictly in-store are having to find new ways to interact with and serve their customers. Curbside pickup and delivery options were quickly expanded to limit physical interactions in stores. In some cases, restaurant waitstaff was able to stay employed by changing roles and becoming delivery drivers instead. Many small businesses turned to social media sites to share product offerings and keep customers updated about specials and any operating changes. These new policies can be expected to last for a long time as people are still wary of returning to previous levels of contact with others.
2. Increasing Safety Protocols
No matter what size business you are looking at, safety procedures have been changed. For some businesses, that means adapting to remote working conditions or staggering shifts. For others, it means a complete change in how things are done. Guidelines to help improve safety for workers and customers include:
- Implementing one-way traffic patterns in stores
- Installing plexiglass dividers
- Increasing opportunities for hand washing
- Requiring employees and customers to wear appropriate PPE
- Encouraging everyone to stay at least six feet apart
3. Finding Alternate Revenue Streams
Some businesses choose this time to expand operations or switch manufacturing to match current needs. Many textile companies reworked production lines to make PPE including gowns and masks. Distilleries around the country swapped over to make much-needed sanitizer. Not everyone could switch gears so quickly and, with the economy in turmoil and revenue streams drying up, many businesses face difficult decisions. Small business loans can provide a lifeline for a business that needs quick access to working capital. You can choose to go through a traditional lender or through one of the many federal, state or local programs for disaster relief.
Legislation passed through Washington offered several options for emergency relief for small businesses. Economic Injury Disaster Loans offered an upfront grant of up to $10,000 to businesses that applied quickly. Another highly talked about program of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is the Paycheck Protection Program. These loans are available to small businesses to cover employee wages. As the government worked to roll out massive programs within a very short period of time, there were problems with program implementation. EIDL funds were depleted rapidly and the grant amounts were quickly reduced and restricted to agricultural businesses. Many businesses reported difficulties with the PPP application process and the availability of funds. There are also concerns about repayment guidelines and loan forgiveness options.
4. Making Social Commitments
When things get tough, some businesses shine in their commitment to others. Even small businesses have had a big impact in local communities with their donations of supplies and services. Restaurants have fed millions of people for free. Other businesses have donated massive quantities of desperately needed PPE to hospitals and medical workers. Some technology companies have offered free wifi hotspots to communities with limited access to internet service so that children can continue to learn even while schools are closed. Whether they provided meals to families at homeless shelters or helped keep doctors and nurses safe with PPE, thousands of small businesses really stepped up and made a difference.
What works fo tone business may not help another during these difficult and unpredictable times. Whether you have to rethink how you interact with customers, boost safety processes at your business or look for alternate revenue sources to offset stagnant sales, the most important thing you can do is remain flexible and willing to adapt to the changing times.