Covid-19 is creating struggles around the globe and all economies are being impacted, leaving many small businesses owners uncertain about their future. But we will get through it, together.
There are a number of things you can do to protect your business so that you have the potential to come out of this stronger, better and more resilient than ever before.
Tips for getting through COVID-19 with your business intact
Communicate changes and stay in touch
This is an uncertain time for many people. Communicating effectively and efficiently is going to be key to maintaining your customer relationships.
Leverage social media to your advantage to spread the message and if your business is affected, keep your customers up-to-date on critical information:
- Are you still operating as usual (hours, locations, activities, etc.)
- What measures is your business taking to keep your customers happy and healthy?
- Are there alternative ways they can experience your brand that doesn’t involve in-person contact?
If you’re a local business, take advantage of updating your Google My Business to reflect any changes in usual business.
Furthermore, choose good news. Bad news are everywhere so go against the tide and use your communication channels to spread a message of optimism, about getting through this as a community. Associate your brand with these messages.
Go online to continue to serve customers
As people are being asked to stay home as much as possible, your business will likely experience a dip in customers. One way you might be able to curb the dip in revenue is to offer your goods and services online.
If you’re selling items and you aren’t already selling online, look into setting up a basic online store. Some store owners are also offering pick-up services, where customers can call or email ahead of time with the items they are looking for, and pick up a wrapped/sealed order without entering the store.
Depending on your type of business, there might be other ways you can continue to offer services. For example, some fitness centers are continuing to offer personal training via video conference.
Know your risk
Scenario mapping is a really important tool, although uncomfortable.
Consider your worst case scenario, however painful, and work backwards from there. What is the most vulnerable position the business has the possibility of being in? What are the protective measures that would need to be taken to avoid that? If the worst case becomes your reality, what is the protocol?
Reach out to your lenders to negotiate short-term relief
This could either be in the form of deferred payments or extended credit lines.
The Government has announced a financial package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. But as a small business owner, you need to be proactive in reaching out before the situation snowballs into a bigger financial challenge.
Check your contracts
Make sure that your contracts are up to date and that they’re not being affected by the COVID-19.
If you or a counterparty is affected and you’re unable to perform contracts in the manner agreed you must check whether the contract contains a force majeure clause.
This is a clause which relieves parties from the consequences of non-performance in the event of circumstances beyond their control, often so-called ‘emergency’ circumstances. Where there is no force majeure clause, contracting parties may be able to argue that the impact of COVID-19 has “frustrated” the contract. This would release parties from any future obligations.
As the current economic environment is sadly not looking promising, another legal aspect to consider these days are lay-offs and short-time working.
When you lay off an employee, you essentially stop providing them with work and pay for a period of time. They still remain your employee, but will not be required to work.
In contrast, short-time working is where you provide an employee with less work and less pay for a period of time. Again, they still remain your employee, but are required to work less than their standard hours.
Both of these should only be used on a temporary basis to provide a solution to a sudden or short-term downturn in business. There are two different ways that an employer can try to implement lay-offs or short-time working, and this depends on the contract of employment.
If there is no term in the contract allowing lay-off or short-time working, an employer could be in fundamental breach of contract. Communicate with your employees to reach an agreement and get legal advice before taking action.
Tighten your belts
Any extra cost cutting needs to be done today. Examples include minimised travel, cancelling any non-essential subscriptions or reducing online sponsored posts.
Successful remote working
Set clear parameters – give your staff a clear business response, create a plan for the day and communicate efficiently.
Updating each other, checking in, dialling in to Google Hangout to see each other’s faces, it’s all a crucial part of successful remote working.
Prevention is important
If you are sending the team home with company laptops phones, or they are using their own, what does your insurance cover?
Additionally, ensure that you have considered what would happen if someone in your team contracted Coronavirus. Get to grips with what self-isolation means and that your staff know exactly what is expected of them, what is their responsibility, and how to keep themselves out of any danger.
Take care of your mental health
Situations like this are stressful enough on their own, and managing a small business in the midst of the chaos can amplify that stress. The distraction of reading constantly about Coronavirus is unproductive at best and destructive at worst so limit your news alerts to those most relevant.
Take advantage of staying at home and ensure that you are taking some time for you, doing exercise even if it is at home, working on personal development and educating yourself on different areas.
This moment can be taken as an opportunity to reflect, develop new ideas and get back to normality stronger.
We are all in this together, there is no one benefiting from any of the measures that are having to be taken. It is stressful, unknown, difficult, and there is a reality that there are lives at risk.
Everyone’s problems are ultimately their own, but be kind, be thoughtful, be considerate, and work with people, not against them. If there was ever a time to lean in, it has arrived.
At Linkilaw, we remain available to answer your questions, provide legal support to your business operations and help you brainstorm new ideas as you take this time to reflect and regroup.
We are here to get you ready to get back in the game stronger than ever when this crisis is over – and it will be.