During the COVID-19 crisis and shutdown of businesses in many cities and states, owners scramble to pay employees, keep their doors open, and continue selling products or services to generate revenue, if they’re permitted to do so. No matter your situation, we’ve compiled some things you can do during the pandemic or any other business shutdown you might incur. And hopefully, you’ll be in a better position when the economy starts churning again.
Layout your finances
Experts agree, the first thing you should do during an economic slowdown, is tackle your finances. Review your accounts and see if you’ll have any cash flow or liquidity issues during this slow time.
Many financial experts are recommending you create a 13-week cash flow forecast. Once you’ve set your fixed and variable expenses, you’ll want to review how much cash you’ll need going forward. Make sure to stress-test it against the worst possible situation.
At the same time, make sure you are saving money wherever you can. You may need to make your cash stretch during the upcoming weeks.
To create some extra cash flow, try things like offering discounts to customers who pay you with cash. Offer gift cards and certificates to customers so they can buy now and use them when everything is open again. And work with your large vendors and your landlord to see if you can delay payments to help save cash.
Also, it’s very important you keep accurate records during this period in case you need to apply for assistance. Any losses or costs related to the virus should be well documented and kept separately from your normal accounting. Keep all your receipts.
The $2.2 trillion rescue package approved on Friday – the largest in U.S. history – does provide some assistance for small businesses and employees alike. The government is hoping this will help small businesses and workers get by during the quarantine.
What the stimulus bill means for businesses
- Payroll tax relief – Businesses are eligible for a new payroll-tax credit during the pandemic as long as they keep their workers employed. This includes businesses that were ordered to close. Choosing this option allows businesses to delay payroll taxes until 2021. If you applied for an SMB loan, however, you won’t receive the credit.
- Interruption loans – For businesses that employ fewer than 500 workers and keep them on the payroll, the government will offer loans in an effort to prevent layoffs. For now, this would cover six weeks of payroll. It would be capped at $1,540 per week, per employee.
- Self-employed or independent contractors – For self-employed individuals, the stimulus expands unemployment insurance. It adds a 13-week extension to unemployment benefits. It also includes an extra $600 a week for up to four months over state unemployment benefits. Check with your state unemployment website to apply.
Keep employees safe & connected
First and foremost, be completely honest with your employees and where everything stands. Don’t keep them in the dark.
If you’re not allowed to keep operating your facilities, if possible, set up your workers to telecommute. Online conferencing is an easy way to keep your team connected. Check out the 9 Best Conference Call Services to get started. Then schedule daily or weekly meetings as necessary to keep everyone up to date.
For quick daily contact, try an instant messaging service for simple conversations or questions. It’s also a great way for teams to communicate easily by setting up workflow channels for specific teams or projects.
For businesses that are considered essential, like restaurants and grocery stores, make sure your employees are being kept six feet apart. Set up extra workstations if you can to keep workers distanced as much as possible. Also, provide things like hand sanitizer or gloves for employees as necessary. And obviously, make sure hands are being washed and workers that don’t feel well are sent home.
If you aren’t considered essential, you can apply for a waiver with your state if you feel your employees are safe and your company is taking the proper precautions.
Try a new business strategy
Keeping customers updated and engaged during this uncertain time is important. Many small businesses are getting creative by adding new services or new ways of doing business.
Restaurants are now offering to-go items and delivery even if they didn’t provide it before.
An upscale California chain with restaurants, Hendrix in Laguna Niguel and Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck in Laguna Beach, is offering pop-up shops of fresh meat, produce and even batched cocktails for customers who can’t or don’t want to venture into grocery stores. Small groups are allowed in to pick up a few essentials and specialty food items. However, some county leaders say you must be licensed as a grocery store to sell groceries, so restaurants should make sure to check the laws in your county.
With tourist destinations shut down, small businesses in those areas must depend on their locals to keep them afloat.
Wild Fig Kitchen in the small historic town of Coarsegold, Ca., just outside of Yosemite National Park, is providing customers with not only to-go items but fresh prepared gourmet-to-go meals that customers can heat up at home. The idea has been so popular, the restaurant plans to continue it once things return to normal.
In the mountain community, where people live miles apart, food delivery isn’t an option for the restaurant, however, Wild Fig is making special deliveries to a nearby retirement community to help out seniors as much as possible.
Become a virtual business
Gyms, fitness studios, salons, music teachers, and craft stores are shut down in many states due to social distancing. Taking these types of companies virtual can keep customers loyal by offering online classes or tutorials. This is a great way to keep everyone active and engaged while indoors, especially the kids. Painting classes, music lessons, and exercise classes are all easy to teach online. And it might be something you find is valuable to many clients even after the crisis is over.
Some hair salons and nail salons, forced to keep less than 5 people in a shop at a time, are also offering things like at-home services for clients. Others are even offering video consultations and color kits for those who want to do their own hair at home.
The SpeedCubeShop, an e-commerce business that sells specialty Rubik’s® Cubes, is offering a variety of informative, live teleconferences on related subjects to keep their customers engaged, and hopefully buying online, while they’re stuck at home.
Real estate agents are canceling open houses and moving their businesses to online 3D virtual tours. Agents are no longer driving their clients around and are instead setting up one-on-one appointments at the properties.
Generate revenue for now, & later
Unless you own a grocery store, delivery company, or a hand sanitizer business, you are likely watching your sales track down. To try to pump up income as much as possible, consider a few quick, easy ideas.
Hold an online sale geotargeting local customers in your area since people are limiting their movements. If you don’t already, try offering free shipping. Also, include a future promotion or offer in any current shipments so that your customers will be ready to buy when business.
Were you thinking about updating your brand and hadn’t had the time to do it in the past? Now is the perfect time to revamp your brand.
Freelance graphic designers like Cali Gay Designs in Missouri are offering small businesses discounted fees for updating logos, graphics, business cards and marketing materials. Most will be happy to negotiate to help keep everyone working.
If you own a small business like a graphic designer, barter your skills using social media.
If selling your products or services is out of the question right now, then work on getting your company organized for when we come out of this. Complete tasks you’ve been putting off. Take inventory of your products. Organize your storeroom.
Businesses helping others
As always in the U.S., when things get tough, Americans pull together. Many businesses that are struggling to stay afloat, are also working on helping the community members around them, instead of focusing strictly on their profit line.
Distilleries around the nation that have been forced to close, are changing their facilities to create hand sanitizer for local entities that are in need of it to keep operating.
Blinking Owl Distillery in Santa Ana, Ca., is manufacturing hand sanitizer to donate to first responders, medical workers and others in the greatest need like restaurant owners that need sanitizer to keep their doors open. Avery WePrint is proud to partner with Blinking Owl by donating some of the product labels for their new Dirty Bird Hand Sanitizer. If you would like to donate, visit Blinking Owl Distillery.
Larger businesses have stepped up to the plate by not only donating products and services but some are actually retraining current employees to do new jobs or hiring laid-off spouses of their employees to help keep families afloat.
What is your business doing to stay afloat during this difficult time? Share your ideas with our readers in the comment section to possibly help others in the same situation.
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