Clients are cancelling, team members are sending you worried emails, you’ve got one eye on social media and the other on your phone in case your kid’s school calls, and you can’t seem to find a pack of toilet paper anywhere.
Looking around at the world right now, it is easy to feel like we are at the beginning of some kind of apocalypse drama or dystopian novel.
COVID-19 is now a global pandemic that spreads easily between people and across communities. State and local governments are sending out public health notices and declaring states of emergency, and you are getting email newsletters from every business you’ve ever bought anything from.
It’s likely you are already asking yourself, “What should my business be doing about COVID-19?”
The answer comes in two parts; First fill yourself with information, then become a leader in your space by supporting the people who care about your brand.
Tell People What They Need to Know.
Before the pandemic, your clients were looking for ways to level up their businesses, pamper their pets, or make more money. Now, they are looking for ways to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
People are feeling a lot of fear. This is a time to step up and share the true information that will keep your people safe and healthy (even if that means setting your pre-loaded content plan aside for a few days.)
Not sure what to say? Here are credible answers to the questions your team members and clients may be asking.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a viral strain of coronavirus that spreads easily from person to person. It is characterized by the CDC as a “mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.”
Is it really that big of a deal?
For elderly people and those with compromised immune systems, yes.
While most of us would likely experience very mild symptoms if infected, we all have a responsibility to stay healthy in order to protect our families, friends, and neighbors who may be at a higher risk.
How can I stay safe?
The general population should avoid crowds and close contact with others and wash their hands well and often.
High-risk populations are being advised to stay home from work and school and stock up on a few weeks’ worth of food, medication, and household supplies in case of an outbreak in their area.
Can my pets get COVID-19?
There is no evidence of any pets being affected by this disease.
That said, pets could spread germs between people, so make sure you wash your hands before and after interacting with your pets. And if you’re sick, avoid close contact with your furry friends.
Protect Your Business with a Clear Plan.
The CDC has advised people to stay home whenever possible. In response, large corporations, governmental organizations, and school districts are switching to remote work and online learning.
This will likely affect your business.
A strategic response will generally consist of a three part plan: a plan to meet your clients’ needs, a plan to meet your teams’ needs, and a plan to protect your business in the long term.
Adjust your business model to meet the needs of your clients.
If you are a service-based business, begin catering to people virtually or through home visits.
Pet care businesses, for instance, may consider shifting away from in-home pet sitting, and start emphasizing dog walking as a service that will allow clients to exercise their pets without having to leave their homes.
Businesses that cater to non-essential needs, such as belonging or self-improvement, will need to respond to peoples’ shifted interest of personal safety and security in order to continue engaging their audience.
Begin by taking a look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s theoretical framework states that people will only be interested in meeting higher level needs once their lower level needs are met.
How can you help your clients meet their safety and security needs, so that they can get back to doing business with you?
Keep your team members safe and supported.
When business slows due to the COVID-19 outbreak, your team will likely begin to worry about their physiological and safety needs.
Will they have enough work to support their families and maintain their property? Are they at risk of getting sick if they go to work? What happens to their jobs if they do get sick?
Many of these factors are outside of our direct control as business owners, but there are many things we can do to calm our team members’ anxieties, and it all starts with information.
Once you have a plan in place to serve your clients, share it with your team members. Empower them with the information they will need to keep themselves safe from the spread of disease.
Take the time to refresh them on your sick time policy and encourage them to stay home if they are feeling ill.
Some business owners may even choose to use this time as an opportunity to build camaraderie and work on their business objectives as a team.
Host a virtual team meeting to strategize responses.
Make a list of jobs that you were going to hire out, such as social media posting, blog writing, and admin work and offer these opportunities to your team members instead.
Get creative. There is a lot you can do as a leader to calm your team’s fears and keep them feeling supported and secure in your business.
Fortify your business with community supports.
There is no doubt that small businesses in affected communities will experience a temporary loss in revenue due to this outbreak. There is virtually no industry that will remain unaffected.
The first logical plan of action is to create a support network.
Since everyone is going through this, there is certainly a community of small business owners who will be willing to support each other and share ideas.
Now is the time for cooperation, not competition. Be kind, be leaders, and share what you know.
Businesses that experience a severe loss in revenue due to COVID-19 can apply for temporary disaster-relief loans offered by the Small Business Administration.
These loans are reserved for natural disasters and diseases, and they are currently being offered in response to the coronavirus.
There are a lot of unknowns surrounding this pandemic, and uncertainty can cause widespread fear.
Luckily, there are community supports and information sources available to help small business owners emerge as thought-leaders in their communities.
Share credible information that answers your clients’ questions.
Temporarily shift your business model to meet your clients’ safety and physiological needs.
Empower your team members with information about your company’s plan to make it through COVID-19.
Strengthen your business with community supports and outside assistance.
Most importantly, don’t panic.
Your calm, concerted effort to inform yourself, support your clients, protect your team, and grow your business will pay off in an even stronger brand presence as soon as COVID-19 is a thing of the past.
It will pass.
We’ll make it through this together.
Article Contributed by LI Writer, Emily Giroux