As the world tries to grapple with COVID-19, many different changes across the globe are taking place. Government leaders are setting up various security and precautionary measures for their communities as they deem fit. Travel restricted; quarantines imposed. Social gatherings discouraged; physical distancing emphasized. The world as we know it is being turned upside down. These disruptions will undoubtedly be hard on many businesses – catastrophic even, for small to medium enterprises that usually operate on tight margins and do not have much leeway when it comes to staffing. About 77% of small business owners admit to feeling “very worried” and are bracing themselves for the worst.
Here are five points that can help SMEs weather this global pandemic:
- Coordinate and communicate.
These ambivalent times make everyone – employees and customers alike – anxious and scared. More than anything else, people just want to feel safe and be reassured. Therefore, the most important response companies can make is to prioritize health and well-being. Businesses should be able to communicate and coordinate consistently, promptly, and in a supportive way.
Create a solid communication plan inclusive of:
- a summary of relevant company policies (healthcare coverage, what to do when feeling unwell, employee assistance programs, etc.)
- verified, up-to-date public health recommendations from reliable authorities
- possible implementation of continuity plans such as work-from-home strategies
- and other pertinent information
Without proper guidance and transparency, an organization can be susceptible to hysteria and panic. Communicating externally (with clients or customers) should also be done with care – because the tactics utilized and the voice used by the company will be a defining factor on their identity, even after the pandemic has been resolved.
- Triage financial obligations.
The next big concern business owners have is the uncertainty of being able to keep up with expenses. To address this, they should monitor cash flow more closely and create a list of priorities about which costs must be paid and which ones can be reduced. Consider deferring large investments and temporarily halting expenses that are non-essential or not directly impacting revenue. Similarly, if some clients are having difficulties fulfilling payments, consider negotiating better terms or providing less expensive services for the time-being – even if it hurts profitability in the short term, clients will always remember who helped them ride out the storm.
- Leverage remote work.
In a situation where remote work is no longer merely a matter of convenience, but may actually be instrumental in keeping people safe – many companies have been forced to adapt alternative ways just to keep the business operational. Businesses that are affected by local restrictions (that may hinder staff from coming to work) can turn to a global workforce and may also consider incorporating this into their long-term business continuity plan. If there is a sudden surge in work volume, outsourcing can be a quick and effective way to augment some functions or assist overworked in-house staff. This is the time when organizations should be nimble and creative in making adjustments to fit the current climate.
- Strengthen digital marketing.
People all over the world are being encouraged to avoid crowds and, as much as possible, stay home. Many big events have been postponed and places where people usually spend their money (restaurants, malls, theaters, etc.) are closed. Because of the behavioral shift this entails and the fact that more people are spending more time online, building a stronger digital presence can be a brand’s biggest defense against the virus. Reinforce social media presence by being a trusted source of thoughtful, sensitive content and useful, updated information. Also, be innovative in thinking of new ways to deliver your message and how to reach the target audience better.
- Reflect and recover.
Many companies make the mistake of dwelling too much on readiness and responding to crises that they often forget about the recovery stage. In its simplest form, recovery is the transition of being back to “normal” or business as usual when the emergency starts to slow down or cease to exist. The best practice is for companies to be aware of and record points of friction, confusion, or failure, so that when they look back, they can accurately assess how well they performed (response evaluation) and if they were ever adequately prepared (readiness evaluation) in the first place. The insight gained in these times is invaluable for ensuring organizations don’t make the same mistakes again and for them to make improved contingency plans.
It’s no question that this isn’t just a public health emergency, but an economic crisis as well. Many hard decisions will have to be made. It’s uncharted territory for many – but one thing SMEs can hold on to as an advantage is the ability to be more agile. In being small, they can adapt and diversify more quickly than larger companies. Preparedness, flexibility, and innovation are essential in wading through these unprecedented times.
Let FGC+ be your partner in getting through the worst of this pandemic. Talk to us about our flexible solutions that can help you maintain continued operations.