Businesses large and small have been hit hard by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Unless you’re a grocery store, warehouse club, or Amazon, sales have fallen off a cliff, your cash flow is dwindling, and the light at the end of the tunnel is still out of sight. With such hard times upon us, many smaller companies are at risk of going under. As a business owner, you need to stay calm and not panic…not only for the sake of your employees, but for your own personal health. Keeping a clear head will help you think through the difficult decisions to come. Instead, be proactive right now and take steps that will improve your chances of seeing things through and coming out the other side with your company still afloat.
The first step your business should take in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is to ensure your remote employees have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Whether it’s virtual private networks (VPN) for secure network access, communication solutions such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or Unified Communication, collaboration platforms for projects and tasks, or document management software to implement paperless processes, there is no shortage of solutions available today that make it possible to work as if your entire staff were all in the same location. In addition, many software providers are offering free access to their products on a short-term basis. If you don’t have one already, create and implement a remote work policy that outlines what you expect of your staff while they’re working from home regarding schedule, availability, communication methods, and deliverables.
Businesses with cash flow problems should reach out for assistance to help make ends meet. Federal, state, and local governments have programs that can serve as a life preserver for small businesses. In particular, The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act has funded the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer disaster assistance loans to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. These low-interest (3.75 percent), long-term repayment (up to a maximum of 30 years) loans are designed to keep payments affordable and can be applied for on the SBA website. Many banks, credit card companies, and utility companies have implemented relief programs as well. Reach out to your creditors and vendors to see if they’re allowing customers to postpone payments without penalty or other options. Your company may also be covered for business interruption by your insurance policy. Go over your policy to see if you can be reimbursed for virus-related claims.
In addition to financial aid, there are a number of organizations providing other types of free assistance for small businesses. Agencies such as SCORE, Hello Alice, and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are offering additional resources for small businesses in the form of consultation, training, and mentoring. This kind of expertise can help you solve problems resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Even with an infusion of cash, your business will likely need to lower overhead and cut expenses. In addition to reducing or postponing lease and other payments, identify other areas in which you can control your spending during these lean weeks and months. Determine which expenditures are absolutely necessary and which you can live without temporarily. If you need to cut payroll, be sure to keep your most productive and essential employees so critical tasks are still completed and responsibilities are met.
These are uncomfortable and unprecedented times for all of us. Business owners must be careful to set their company up to remain afloat until we’re on the other side of this pandemic. Do what you need to keep your employees productive, take advantage of the resources being provided during the crisis, and make smart financial decisions.