Author: Luke Smith
Although the COVID-19 pandemic started out as a health crisis, it has wide-reaching consequences that affect the economy and businesses of all sizes. Millions of people worldwide are sheltering at home. Many have lost their jobs or have been furloughed. The level of economic uncertainty makes it difficult (or even impossible) to continue doing business as usual.
Small businesses that don’t adapt quickly to the new normal may not survive. The challenging part is, the new normal changes daily as information about the coronavirus and its impact evolves. What can a small business do to weather the storm and position itself as a market leader when the crisis is over?
Enact a Crisis Management Plan
If your business did not have a crisis management plan before, there is no better time than now to enact one. A crisis management plan is designed to help your company respond to a disaster or catastrophic event. A crisis could do real damage to your business if your company is disrupted. Great focus should be put on safeguarding company operations and systems to navigate through and survive the catastrophe.
Keeping a business running, even if at the bare minimum, is essential. Identifying your key departments and appointing a point person as the representative of each department is a good start. Each representative will communicate between the departments and you in a time of crisis.
A list of key departments and essential personnel should be distributed to all team members involved just in case the headquarters are shut down or infrastructure is interrupted. The list should include different types of contact information, including phone numbers, emails, and social media contact information, to increase the odds of effective communications if one form of contact goes down.
Cybersecurity and data protection should be a top priority. A crisis management plan starts well before the disaster happens. Small businesses should schedule regular, off-site backups of company data. All sensitive data and information should follow safety and privacy protocols to ensure the information is safe. Protocols should include data encryption and cloud-based backups through secure, third-party business, and enterprise providers.
If the plan allows for employees to work offsite until the company headquarters are back online, make sure part of the crisis management plan includes employee training on basic cybersecurity. All staff should be trained to follow basic company safety protocols. The safety protocols should be included in the employee manual and provided to all team members for reference.
Some safety protocols should include:
Using company email addresses for communications
Maintaining up-to-date antivirus and malware software on remote computers
Knowing how to connect to and use a business virtual private network for accessing and transferring data
Adapt and Streamline Services
Depending on your business operations, you may have to adapt to avoid interruptions for your company and your clients. First, it’s important to understand your client’s current habits. Most people are spending more time on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is the case, shift your communications and marketing to social media to reach customers.
You may need to take a new approach to how you doing business. For example, if your company provides IT services to other businesses, you may need to reduce the number of site visits to follow COVID-19 safety measures. Your company may need to shift to software that can remotely access, view, and control client computers to continue IT services. Or if onsite work is necessary, ask clients to provide a private office where a technician can work at a safe distance.
Not all small businesses are struggling right now from lack of work. Some retailers are experiencing significant growth in online sales during COVID-19 and should take advantage of the higher traffic. Take advantage of the increased traffic to entertain visitors who may be bored at home by providing more inspirational content along with your products and calls to action. Put special focus on your company’s customer service and communications, especially if there are disruptions in the supply chain which are causing delivery delays.
The COVID-19 Crisis Comes With Opportunity
Although the pandemic creates challenges for people and businesses worldwide, it can help companies learn how to smartly adapt and transition to newer and better business models. Use the opportunity to learn from the experience and set your business up for success now and in the future.