11 practical steps to you can take to protect your small business from the Coronavirus pandemic

Worried about how your business will survive Coronavirus? Michelle Purse-Sweeney from My Marketing Team shares 11 things you can do to protect it.

I will admit that I am feeling uncharacteristically anxious about the implications of being a small business experiencing a global pandemic for the first time in my life. Even the words sound serious and scary, don’t they?

I am reassured by the fact that many of my clients built their businesses during the last recession so I know that we are a hardy bunch. I feel very certain we can weather this Coranavirus storm. 

Whenever I feel worried, my go-to method of reassurance is to be practical and take steps to mitigate the uncertain circumstances that are giving me the wobbles.

I have listed here 11 steps that I believe you could and should start putting into place to help protect your income and small business from the effects of this very unusual situation.

1) Reassure customers

Write to your customers, post on social media in a non-scaremongering way to reassure your customers about the small size of your classes and events and also your (extra vigilant) hygiene and sanitising protocols.

I am going to a business workshop this weekend (still going ahead but we are taking precautions). The owner of the property we are renting sent us a very reassuring message about the property having been thoroughly deep cleaned, which made us feel quite calm about not cancelling.

Acknowledging that people have concerns and providing this reassurance goes a very long way.

2) Postpone – do not cancel

Be mindful that many people might want to cancel attending anything in crowds (yes, even small crowds) and whilst you should be understanding, you need to put some protection in place for your business. Create a policy of postponement for now. If you cannot allocate new dates yet, then just say so and wait.

Be honest about this. People are actually quite concerned with how small businesses will ride out this wave and I think you will be (hopefully) surprised by how willing people are to cooperate if you are transparent.

3) Leverage online services and voucher sales

What can you do online that involves minimum contact? If your business is already predominantly online then you already have an advantage, but if you don’t how can you either create an online product or service? Can you manage your customers using online only communications?

If you give in-person coaching or consultation then switch instantly to online. Zoom or skype are fabulous tools for this.

Do you sell gift vouchers? If not, you should create some! Gift vouchers are a great way to keep income coming in when people feel anxious about booking events, classes or coming into shops to purchase. 

4) Talk to your team

Your team members might be feeling anxious because of financial concerns as well as health concerns. Some might need to work from home because of the current isolation protocols and there is government support for this (see below).

Please talk to them about your financial concerns too – no one wants to let people go but there might be some team members who are genuinely happy to cut down their hours temporarily and you can help each other out, even in the short term.

The ‘team approach’ to long-term survival is something many large Japanese companies have used over the years to weather rocky patches. Pulling together keeps the boat moving forward.

5) Take advantage of Government support

The UK government appears to be putting in measures to support small businesses (read here). Please inform yourself how you can benefit from this. It includes advice on staff requiring sick pay to self-isolate.

If you are situated in a business district then there may be other measures in place that you can take advantage of.  

Don’t wait for information and help to trickle down to you. Go and find out how you can get it. Also, by asking for help you are letting institutions know it is needed, which pressures them to act.

6) Negotiate rent breaks and supplier terms

Now is the time to start talking to your landlord about a temporary rent reduction. Landlords would rather have reduced or postponed rent for a short time than no rent, so please talk to them about this now.

Talk to suppliers about better terms and or being able to order in smaller quantities. This pandemic will have a knock on effect on numerous businesses so by adopting the ‘all in it together’ approach and we can help each other out by saving today to save tomorrow.

7) Minimise unnecessary expenses

Reduce any expenses that are not directly related to creating income for your business such as subscriptions and luxury services. Or talk to the suppliers about a temporary pause.

Be careful not to cut things that will bring in income or require a long time to start up again. For example, I will probably reduce the ad spend on Google and Facebook for clients that offer workshops and classes for a couple of weeks. But these are easily turned back on again when people start to buy again, so will not have massive consequences.

8) Create a community – support each other

Can you band together with other small business owners to create a slack group, small facebook group or whatsapp group to provide support and ideas for each other? My partner Eve and I set up a pop-up support group which I encourage you to join here.

Perhaps you can also help each other by using your places of work as alternative venues for smaller gatherings and events to keep income through the door? Could you ask a local cafe or restaurant to prepare take-away lunches to deliver to help you both out?

Let’s keep putting our money into each other’s small businesses where we can, so we can continue to operate.

9) Remember, small is our strength

We’re going to be ok. Being small is our advantage. Small businesses can react, adapt and quickly adjust to scenarios far quicker than large corporations. 

It’s the start of a challenging time, but if we plan, put measures in place and adapt to the changing situation then we can survive and even thrive. Remember that when you feel uncertain.

10) Stay informed – but just enough

It is important to keep yourself informed, but remember that 24 hour news feeds do love to over dramatise everything and this might make you more anxious, which probably isn’t helpful.

On the same note, be mindful of what you share on social media and amongst your team. It is not responsible to share unscientific miracle tonics or unsubstantiated rumours. We all need to keep our heads. 

This too shall pass.

11) Share these tips – share your ideas

Please do pass on this article and the ideas to another small business owner that might be worried. 

You may have some ideas of your own to help protect and prepare small businesses? I would love it if you would share them so we grow our collective bank of resources and ideas.

If you are worried, please get in touch. Don’t feel alone, because you are not. We’re in this together.

My Marketing Team provides no-nonsense marketing for small businesses. If you’re worried about the financial effects of Coronavirus on your business you can join their free pop-up support group for small business owners and freelancers here.

Photo by Mike Erskine