While we cannot control everything during a global pandemic, there are important areas where we can take action. One is preparing our business to survive and recover from the coronavirus outbreak.
Follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, especially if your business remains open or staffed. Keep up to date as the guidelines may change as we learn more about the coronavirus COVID-19. Current recommendations include:
Maintain hygiene. Wipe down surfaces. Wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Avoid touching your face, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
- Social distancing. Evidence suggests that the virus spreads mostly from contact with another person or droplets from a sneeze or cough. That is the thinking behind closing commercial and other spaces where people congregate and keeping a “social distance” at least 6 feet away from other people.
- Work at home tools. If you and your employees can do so, plan to work from home. Slack is a communication technology tool for exchanging messages and files. Zoom combines video conferencing, online meetings, and chat. Google’s Remote Work Hub offers training, tools and other resources to support remote connections and productivity. West Virginia-based Alpha Technologies created an initiative to help the state’s small businesses set up secure remote work connections.
- Best practices. If you don’t already have established policies for working at home, involve your partner and employees in developing one. Working from has been on an upward trend for years and certain best practices have been established. Make sure your employees have internet connections, computer equipment and software, and phones with the necessary features and capabilities. Ensure the expectations for communication frequency, schedules and work performance are clear.
Dollars and sense
You do not know how long the coronavirus pandemic will last. You do need to know in advance what impact a restricted or nonexistent income will have on your business. How long can you pay your suppliers, employees, debts, and other expenses? If you know this information, you can begin to plan.
Reduce overhead. Determine what is essential. Cut the rest. Look for rents, licenses or services whose value is now less than their costs. Tighten the use of supplies. Identify programs or services your business can suspend. Can you cut hours or pay instead of cutting workers? Some cuts will be painful,but may make the difference between permanent closure or surviving to thrive another day.
- Protect your cash flow. Get in touch with your customers to confirm their businesses are in shape to pay your business. You can then adjust your projections if needed,or stop a big inventory order that will no longer be needed. Look for additional ways what you sell can meet your customers’ needs. Inventory your stock or equipment to see whether anything you can sell, perhaps at a discount, to raise cash. If you don’t already sell online, find out if getting online would contribute to your bottom line.
- Make arrangements. Before it comes to missing payments, talk to your lenders. Now as with other natural disasters, many institutions respond with programs to help affected borrowers. With others, you may be able to negotiate for reduced interest rates, waived late fees or extensions. Confirm any agreements in writing.
- Protect your resources.
- Get a line of credit from your bank now so that resources will be ready when and if you need it.
- Research more options. West Virginia Department of Commerce developed a Business Resource Directory that summarizes available state and federal resources for affected businesses. The directory contains information such as Small Business Administration Economic Injury loans, Department of Labor standards, unemployment benefits and tax deadlines and CARES Act. To check out the directory, visit www.westvirginia.gov/covid19.
- Check your weak links. If your business is being stressed by the pandemic, so might your suppliers. Some small business owners may be surprised by how dependent their products are on materials from afflicted areas here at home or around the world. You can take action by connecting with your suppliers for updates on their status. You can also expand your list of suppliers who can provide the resources you need.
Check your insurance. Does it include business interruption coverage? Most business interruption policies cover natural disasters such as fire and wind. Most standard policies do not cover interruptions caused by bacteria or viruses such as the coronavirus. Most standard interruption policies added the viral exclusion after the 2003 SARS outbreak. Some small businesses have only recently discovered that their insurance will not cover coronavirus-related losses. Before you count on the payout, confirm what your insurance will and will not cover.
If you have questions or want a knowledgeable guide through these disconcerting times, the West Virginia Small Business Center (WV SBDC) can help. Keep up-to-date with new developments and resource information on our website wvsbdc.com, or social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. Get in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 888-WVA-SBDC. You can also connect with our statewide network of professional business coaches and arrange a virtual one-on-one, confidential meeting. WV SBDC business coaches provide guidance in areas such as finance, economic development, management, innovation, marketing, technology and cybersecurity.