After the COVID-19 global pandemic is over, businesses will be judged by what actions they took in the time of crisis to help other people.
Did they take care of their employees who were suddenly left without a regular income? Did they contribute to the welfare of their customers who were filled with anxiety and uncertainty? Did they give back to their community, especially the first responders, medical professionals, and others on the front lines of the crisis?
The actions you as a business owner take now will likely determine whether your business makes it or not after the crisis is over. A national emergency is a test of character for individuals and organizations alike.
It also offers you a rare opportunity to step up and do something heroic.
Fight for Survival
People’s instinctive, natural first response to any type of danger is to hide and wait until it is passed. During this crisis, this may be acceptable and even recommended for individuals, but not for small business owners.
Instead, people who own their own businesses find themselves in a fight for survival. Nobody could have anticipated that the coronavirus crisis was going to essentially shut down most non-essential businesses for an extended, undetermined amount of time. Even if you had known, would it have been possible to take steps to do anything to keep your business going? Probably not.
Instead, business owners are now charged with finding long-term solutions to what hopefully will be a short-term shut down. Here are a couple of suggestions.
Be an Essential Business
In California, New York, Illinois, and other places hit hardest by the virus, officials have ordered that any non-essential business be shut down until the crisis has passed. For the owners of these businesses, this likely will be disastrous. Most small business owners don’t have the capital to keep going with little or no income for even a few weeks, let alone an open-ended period that possibly could last months.
That’s why it’s important that you get your business declared an essential business by any means necessary. Right now, there is no clear definition and much confusion about what does and does not constitute an essential business. Governments have never had to make these determinations before. And there is no consistency from one jurisdiction to the next.
In Pennsylvania, for example, all liquor stores were ordered closed by the state governor. But in Illinois, they remain open. In some states were cannabis has been legalized, dispensaries were ordered closed. But in others, recreational marijuana is considered an essential business.
Where there is confusion lies opportunity. Get on the phone with whoever the decision maker is and explain why your business is essential. Call your attorney and ask what suggestions they have. Contact competitors and bond together to save your industry. Find out if similar businesses are remaining open in other states or jurisdictions and use that as justification for keeping yours open.
Staying in business even with limited sales and possibly no staff is better than closing your business altogether because you may never be able to reopen.
Publicize Your Actions
News organizations always have huge news holes to fill. But since the COVID-19 crisis began, there has been a profound lack of good news to report. So news outlets are desperate for something, anything, that is positive.
Newspapers, TV station, even national news organizations see it as part of their mission to their viewers and readers hope. They literally need news to balance out all the bad news. So, give it to them.
The first step is figuring out what you can do to help your community.:
- Can you afford to keep paying your employees even for a few weeks?
- Do you have supplies you can contribute to medical caregivers such as masks or equipment?
- Can you temporarily retool your production line to accommodate the most urgent needs?
- Can you coordinate volunteers to sew masks or deliver food to people trapped in quarantine?
Do something, anything that will help people. Then tell people about it.
Nobody is going to criticize you for helping other people. In fact, it will frame your business as heroic in a time of crisis. Not only will this help your community in the short run, but it will improve your business’s reputation and possibly help you survive in the long run.
Pay Attention to Recovery Programs
Finally, local, state and federal governments are scrambling to find ways to rescue the economy. This likely will take the form of direct payments to taxpayers, bailouts to big industries like airlines or banks, and low-interest or interest-free loans to small businesses.
This type of funding likely will be critical to saving your business. So, it’s imperative that you pay attention to what’s available and be the first in line for what you qualify for.
There won’t be a never-ending flow of free money. It almost certainly will be short-lived and on a first-come, first-served basis. So be diligent and take advantage of what is available.
For small businesses, the coming weeks and months are going to be a fight for survival. The steps you take now will determine whether or not your business is going to make it.