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The pandemic blindsided many, but that doesn’t mean small businesses need to continue to fly blind in order to get through it. Many businesses have already received relief money and loans, and it’s important to take full advantage of them. From keeping your employees protected to making sure you’re prepared for the next change in your business, here are a few ways you can make sure the relief money you received works its hardest for you:
Not only does keeping your employees on payroll make them feel more secure, it keeps your business viable. Crosstrain staff in slow or currently unnecessary roles to tackle other business needs, or even pay them to leave themselves available–they’ll be valuable when things return to normal. After all, it’s less expensive to keep an employee who’s already trained (especially across different responsibilities) than to hire someone green in the future.
Make sure your employees feel safe and protected. If they can fulfill their duties from home, encourage them to do so. Offer to revise the duties of vulnerable employees to minimize exposure to others, i.e. have them consider stocking shelves instead of working as a cashier. If employees are currently working in close quarters, spread them out as far as possible or put up barriers to separate them. Perform routine cleaning and make sure to have soap and hand sanitizer available for all.
Remember that a pandemic and exposure to COVID-19 is what got us into these troubled times in the first place. Be generous and understanding with paid sick time. If you do not currently offer this benefit to some or all of your employees, consider implementing an emergency sick leave policy. Actively encourage sick employees to stay home–be flexible and emphasize that it’s important to protect themselves, their coworkers, and your customers by taking time off and staying home. Don’t make employees scared to call in or say something if they’re feeling unwell, and don’t demand proof of a COVID-19 test result or doctor’s note for the employee to qualify for that time off. This relaxed policy should also expand to employees who need paid time off to take care of sick family members or for healthy children when other childcare is unavailable. If you have cross-trained employees, they should be able to cover any temporary absentees.
In these uncertain times, no one knows what to expect–so over-communicating with your customers is more important than ever. Communicate early and often to make sure they’re confident in giving you their business. Be open and transparent about the status of your operations, what you’re doing to protect your employees and customers, and how you can solve your customers’ immediate needs. Also consider promotions to get reluctant customers to patronize your business. Organic messaging on your website, signage at your store, or an email blast to your marketing list are all good ways to get the word out, but now’s the time to go the extra step and put a little money behind your messaging to expand your reach. Even a few dollars on social media can send your message out to thousands more people–whether they’re old clients or looking to give you their business for the first time.
Supply chain optimization has always been about minimizing costs and reducing inventories, but the pandemic has exposed major vulnerabilities to these practices worldwide. You should continue to anticipate market fluctuations, including sudden drops or surges in demand, for your goods or services. The same goes for your suppliers or distributors: in the event that your usual vendors cannot fulfill your order request, you should have a list of backup partners on hand or procure a buffered inventory now to maintain critical operations for months to come. Create contingency plans that range from optimistic (“my suppliers could return to normal in six weeks”) to conservative (“my suppliers could have these items out of stock through the end of the year”) and prepare accordingly. Don’t forget to make sure you have plenty of PPE (personal protective equipment) available!
Small businesses in every industry across the nation are figuring out how to move forward, and by using their relief money effectively, they can maximize the chances of getting themselves, their employees, and their customers through this pandemic. If you’re still looking for loan opportunities, see how SBG Funding can help you with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).