How COVID-19 Can Impact Your Business
and How to Be Successful Despite It
Initial surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau have discovered that the majority of small businesses in the United States have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus. Nearly a third (31.4% to be exact) of the nation’s businesses also expect that “it will take more than six months for their businesses to return to normal.”
In other words, the tendency to quarantine individuals in their homes with nothing to do and nowhere to go has had a dramatic, potentially catastrophic effect on the majority of small- and medium-sized (SMB) American businesses.
How COVID-19 Has Impacted American Business
The aforementioned Census Bureau survey went further than simply stating that COVID-19 has had a broad and general impact on business. For instance, it also reported that:
- A staggering 83.5% of restaurants reported negative effects from the pandemic.
- Over 60% of businesses in the educational, healthcare, social assistance, arts, entertainment, and recreation sectors were closing their businesses for at least one day per week.
- 44.9% of businesses reported that there had been disruptions in their supply chain.
That last point serves as a good example of the fact that the pandemic is, indeed, a temporary problem. For instance, Verizon Wireless reported that U.S. fleet miles dropped an average of 17% during the pandemic. However, it also reported that the numbers are recovering quickly.
Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that the economy, and SMBs, in particular, have a long road ahead of them. The potential threat of a second round of the virus remains an eerie menace, too.
With the economy struggling and the business landscape reeling from prolonged quarantines, many SMB owners are casting about trying to figure out the best way to approach the next few months and more.
Should they try to go back to business as normal, and as soon as possible? Should they wait to reopen until quarantines and reopening phases have completely ended? The answer for most businesses likely lies somewhere in the middle.
Regardless, with so much uncertainty looming, here are a few suggestions for ways that you can safeguard your business against the troublesomely unpredictable months that lie ahead.
The biggest difference between this economic crisis and any before it is the recent ability to lean on the e-commerce world. Valued at over 3.5 trillion dollars and rising fast, the e-commerce marketplace was already the wave of the future before coronavirus forced everyone online — which is exactly why it shouldn’t be abandoned as SMBs scramble to return to brick-and-mortar operations.
Use the COVID-19 push to establish and build on an online presence. Plan in ways to keep a cutting-edge business website and accompanying online marketing efforts alive as you attempt to return to normalcy. This will provide you with a robust and healthy online safety valve if your geographically limited physical operations are troubled again in the future.
Lean on Remote Work
Along with focusing on e-commerce, it’s worth investing in a remote-work infrastructure even if you won’t necessarily need it going forward. The virus forced many companies to shift to an online, work-from-home model, and many owners can’t wait to go back to the in-person alternative.
However, with the threat of a second wave and other viruses always a possibility down the road, it’s wise to keep those remote-work wheels well-greased. Create employee handbooks that codify your company’s remote-work policies. Look for applications like Trello, Slack, and Zoom that you can officially adopt as your team’s “remote work toolkit.” Basically, make sure that, if the situation arises again, you are ready to work remotely with as little drama as possible.
Guard Your Tech
With so much emphasis suddenly being put on technology, it’s also important that you take steps to maintain good cybersecurity within your company’s operations. Make sure that your employees are properly safeguarding their equipment with cybersecurity software.
In addition, take time to stay up to date on the latest cybercrime scams — things like phishing emails and fake tech support — and make sure your staff members are informed about them as well.
Stay Lean and Mean
While it may be tempting to go for a robust “return to normal” once you get the green light, it’s worth thinking ahead for a minute before you kick things into full gear. For instance, if you run a restaurant and you had 50 employees, you may want to consider how you can resume operations without necessarily hiring your entire staff again.
You may want to do so in order to play the part of the hero, but if a second wave of infections were to create another shutdown, you don’t want to lay off half of your workforce again.
In other words, make sure you reduce your expenses wherever possible as you reopen. You can start with things like recurring office supply orders or employee training before you reduce your staff. However, always beware of how many people you’re adding to your payroll as well so that you don’t set yourself up for a painful scenario down the road.
Don’t Skip the Details
The last few months have been so unconventional that it’s important for SMBs to make a conscious effort to track any and all details that need to take place as they reopen.
For instance, on March 16th, Florida’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady announced that the judicial system would be more or less shutting down during the pandemic. Courts remained closed and have only slowly begun to reopen throughout the phased re-entry into normal life.
This delay of justice caused many business owners to push legal concerns to the back burner, where it’s easy to forget about them. However, if you have an important legal proceeding, it’s essential that you don’t lose track of it in all of the reopening confusion. Add it to your list and then calmly inquire into when your local courts may reopen. You may have to do this more than once as you wait for a schedule to be put into place. It’s worth the effort, though, as you can remember to take care of your legal business when the time comes.
Surviving the Storm
COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-lifetime curveball that caught nearly everyone by surprise — SMBs included. However, entrepreneurs shouldn’t simply throw their hands up in frustration at the unforeseen circumstances. They should take advantage of the uniqueness to prepare for the unknown.
Use the coronavirus lessons to embrace things like e-commerce, remote work, and a flexible and hyper-efficient business model. If you can apply what you’ve learned over the past few months as you go forward, you’ll have the best chance of surviving and thriving no matter what the future may bring.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
This eBook is designed to help you through the process of ‘going digital’ and managing other aspects of life during a pandemic.
From how to get yourself online, through how to keep safe, to working, learning and staying in touch with friends and family remotely, the Skills You Need Guide to Living the 'New Normal' in the Age of Covid-19 covers the key skills you need to survive and thrive.
About the Author
Magnolia Potter is from the Pacific Northwest and writes from time to time. She prefers to cover a variety of topics and not just settle on one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her outdoors or curled up with a good book.