The coronavirus pandemic seems to be disrupting life in new ways every day, and small business owners across the globe are concerned about how deeply they will be impacted.
With the stock market swiftly wiping out recent gains, it is also clear that small businesses will be knocked around on several fronts. Not only will businesses be hit due to the empty streets and everyone self-isolating, but we are likely facing a few weeks of skittish consumer spending.
Still, depending on your business, there could be ways to keep your doors open and stay safe during the crisis. Take some time to plan and see how your business can shift.
Even if you aren’t in an area where there is a shelter-in-place order, you should expect to see a massive drop in foot traffic as millions of people self-isolate. Unless you run an essential service like a grocery store or pharmacy, you should examine how your business can go online.
It may be possible to sell your products through online platforms like Amazon, your own website, or over the phone. If you are a service-based business, you could schedule appointments online or offer teleconferencing with clients. No matter what you do, ensure that you are keeping surfaces sterile and practicing proper handwashing techniques.
Restaurants in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area were forced to become delivery and take-out only in mid-March, but a to-go situation can fit operations outside the food service realm, too. Explore ways that your customers can order products online, over the phone, or from outside your door.
This temporary change might be better than trying to rapidly switch your business into an online company. However, it’s probably smart to try to do both at once—prepare to sell to the customers in your neighborhood and around the world, especially if the crisis stretches out across several months.
There’s no way easy around it—in this new environment, whole sectors of the economy will shut down temporarily. Tourism, hospitality, and food service are being hit extremely hard, and the pain might not subside for weeks, if not longer.
If you find yourself in this bind, there may be a way to rapidly pivot the scope of your business to meet the new reality. Look at what you have—distribution networks, strong email contact lists, storage facilities, or fleets of vehicles can be used for a wide range of purposes.
First and foremost, follow all the rules put in place by federal, state, and local authorities. The last thing you want for your business is for it to become a vector that spreads the virus.
If you stay open, keep any areas people touch sanitized on a routine basis. Ensure all health protocols are followed. At a time like this, safety—not profit—should be everyone’s most important priority.