The global pandemic is all anyone can talk about at home, work, and the grocery store. But whether it’s the coronavirus, an earthquake, or a hurricane, a national crisis can occur at any time and negatively impact businesses and supply chains across the world.
In particular, some industries may be more affected than others. For example, the events industry has been significantly more impacted by the coronavirus compared to e-commerce companies because of social distancing and other restrictions on in-person interactions.
Still, your business could feel the direct or indirect effects of a national crisis, whether it’s the current pandemic or a future disaster. To give you the best chance at surviving—or maybe even thriving—during a national crisis, check out the resources below.
How to Stay Open
As a business owner, your first thought during a crisis is likely whether you’re going to have to close your doors. Not only does closing shop prevent you from making money and providing your products and services to your customers, but it also forces you to either furlough or lay off your employees.
Of course, you and your workforce don’t want to see the business close, so below are a few steps you can take to keep your business open during a crisis.
Step 1: Remain Calm
Your first instinct is likely to panic—don’t. Keep a level head so you can think, plan, and act reasonably. Also, employees will be looking to you and leaders within your business for direction; if you panic, they will too.
Information about the disaster and your business’ response to it is key to keeping everyone level-headed. Sharing your thoughts and directions through an email or meeting can help prevent your workforce from overreacting.
Step 2: Coordinate Your Disaster Response
You’ll need to become your own emergency response coordinator. Figure out how the disaster may impact your business, then determine contingencies to minimize any financial and physical damage. Be sure to stay up to date about the disaster so you can reassess and respond accordingly.
Regarding the coronavirus, for example, consider these questions:
- How will you keep employees updated on developments as they unfold?
- When will you postpone events and social gatherings?
- How can you minimize contact to make your customers feel safer?
- How can you visibly show customers that you care about their health?
Step 3: Develop an Emergency Preparedness Plan
Organize what you learned in the previous step into an emergency preparedness plan, which will keep everyone on the same page and help your business keep its doors open—or recover quickly if you need to pause operations.
Here are a few aspects to address as part of your plan:
- Know the risks that threaten your business
- Assemble a small team to take action during emergencies
- Document the plan in writing and share it with your employees
- Have important contact numbers available
- Make sure procedures are clearly outlined and followed
These three steps are just the beginning. An emergency preparedness plan should be considered a living document that will continue to grow.
How to Protect Your Employees and Customers
It’s not enough to just stay open during a crisis; you must take measures to ensure the people connected to your business—your employees and customers—are protected as much as possible.
The pandemic, for example, has shaken many people’s feelings of safety, especially when out in public. They’re having to practice social distancing, wear masks and gloves, frequently wash their hands, and more. These are constant reminders of an invisible menace that threatens their health.
When crises like the current pandemic occur, employees and customers are looking for reassurances they’ll be safe. The following are a few ways you can accomplish this, while also looking out for their physical, mental, and financial health.
- Encourage workstation cleanliness. A healthy operating environment starts with employees’ individual workstations. Create a clear set of cleaning protocols and provide them with proper cleaning tools.
- Discuss job stability. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Employees will be worried about their jobs, so reassure them about their position status and value to the company.
- Allow remote work. While not every job can be performed from home, many can. Working from home can help with both physical and mental wellbeing.
- Offer account holds. Customers have jobs that may be at risk. For customers unfortunate enough to lose those jobs, they may not be able to afford to pay for your service. Give them leeway with account freezes or don’t penalize them for non-payment during the crisis.
- Be flexible about your refund policy. Disasters may prevent or discourage customers from returning goods within your normal return window. Extend the time accordingly and provide refunds or credits as soon as possible.
- Revamp events. With in-person interactions limited, any events you had scheduled aren’t likely to happen anytime soon. Instead, shift the event online, if possible.
These are just a few of the ways you can help keep your employees and customers safe and sane.
How to Pivot Toward Success
One of the most important keys to success in business is adaptability. Markets experience disruption for a variety of reasons—new technologies, mergers, natural disasters, and so on. These disruptions are inevitable, so your only alternative is to adapt accordingly.
How you adapt will vary based on your line of business and industry, but here are a few approaches that may work for you:
- Reimagine your business plan. Cash flow is a huge challenge for small businesses. Reassess your business plan for different ways you can operate to counteract the crisis. Also, look carefully for ways to save money.
- Revamp your website. With people going online in lieu of in-person interactions, you need to ensure your website can be found and will impress potential customers.
- Focus on online sales. If you aren’t already using an online store, look into adding one—or expand upon it if it’s already present. In addition, ensure your e-commerce funnels are up to snuff.
- Create digital products. Physical products aren’t the only things you can sell. Take your knowledge and insights and turn them into digital products—video series, ebooks, podcasts, online courses, etc.
- Turn to social media. You can use social media to stay engaged with your customers. Let them know you’re still here for them and how they can take advantage of your products and services.
A national crisis doesn’t have to be the end of your business. Use the above resources and advice to give your business the best chance at success.