The COVID-19 virus unfolding in the US and worldwide has profoundly affected most businesses. When people are being advised – or in some cases ordered – to stay home, it is going to affect the say they buy products or services.
Companies that depend almost exclusively on foot traffic such as retail stores, entertainment venues, and bars and restaurants are going to be devastated, at least in the short run. And all businesses are going to have to deal with most employees staying home either by choice or by government order.
But there are two critical things to remember about the COVID-19 crisis:
- It won’t last forever.
- There is no down time for successful businesses.
People are still going to buy products and services. For many, it may be a few weeks or a month before they resume their normal buying habits. But everybody will continue to live their lives even if it’s temporarily behind closed doors.
Businesses that can adapt to the rapidly changing environment by doing things like offering online ordering, facilitating seamless delivery, and adjusting on the fly to running their operations remotely will succeed in both the short term and the long term.
Managing Your Business Remotely
Before the crisis occurred, some took steps to allow employees to work from home at least part of the time. Now it’s essential for managers to learn how to do it with no time to ramp up.
There are plenty of things you can do to shift your business operations online right now. For example, if you don’t already have a PayPal account, create one today so you can accept seamless online payments and pay vendors without cash handling.
The online tools are already there. You can use Quickbooks for billing and invoicing; Skype to hold virtual meetings with employees and clients; ZenDesk for sharing emails and documents; Avaza Project Management for collaborating with others; LytronLeads.com for checking leads 24/7; and much, much more.
Most of America’s 200 million working people will be staying home for at least the next two weeks. That includes small business owners. But how you use this time can determine the future success or failure of your business.
Here’s what’s likely to happen: Most people will delight in the novelty of staying at home for the first couple of days. Eventually, however, the tedium of being trapped indoors without social interaction will start to wear on them. So where will they go to satisfy their need to interact with other people if they can’t go to bars, restaurants, or stores?
Why, online, of course!
People aren’t going to stop buying food, water, and personal necessities. They are still going to need most of the services they used before they were trapped in their homes by the crisis. We all still need to eat, drink, and be entertained. But if we can’t leave our homes for a while, we will just have to shift our focus to the Internet to fulfill these needs even more than we already have.
So how can your business serve your customers online? Successful small businesses will adapt to service captured audience right now and establish long-term loyalty for when the crisis eventually ends.
People are going to be sitting at home for the next couple of weeks. That means most won’t have much else to do except watch and judge the actions of others.
Already in the COVID-19 crisis there have been villains, including the brothers in Tennessee who bought up all the hand sanitizer in their town in order to sell it at price-gouging rates on eBay and Amazon. And the young people in Chicago who ignored government orders to follow social distancing protocols and instead crowded into bars and parties on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
But there are heroes as well, such as the people who volunteered for the first human trials of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine in Washington State. Or the NBA players and team owners who put up their own money to pay hourly workers thrown out of work by cancelled games. And the health workers who put their own lives at risk to help those seriously sickened by the virus.
How will your company fare when all is said and done? Will you be the hero or the villain? What can you do right now to help your community? The actions you take during the crisis can profoundly affect the way people think of your company once it has passed.