May 6, 2020 By Suzanne Robertson

If your small business has shut down or dramatically reduced operations during the pandemic, you need solid plans to get up and running again. Here’s a checklist you can follow to make sure the transition is smooth for you and your employees.

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Renegotiate terms of contracts and debt before you get back to business

Economic hardships for small business owners are no secret. You may be able to use strategies to reduce your monthly debt load until you’re back in business. Start with your landlord and ask for more time to pay rent or utilities. You can also request that your bank defers interest payments on outstanding debt. Try negotiating contracts with vendors to keep your costs low.

*Note: Be sure to protect your credit score and pay bills you’re unable to negotiate as agreed upon. A lowered credit score can greatly affect your ability to secure low-cost funding in the future.

Avoid coronavirus scams

In the wake of a nationwide economic crisis, there is often an uptick in scammers who want to take advantage of the most vulnerable. When you start back up, you may find yourself in desperate need of capital to stay afloat. That could mean lenders without your best interests in mind. Here are a few red flags to look out for: Keep Your Business Safe: Avoid Coronavirus Scams.

Share this information with your employees, especially those who deal with your business finances.

Pay attention to workplace safety

Although the news has been saturated with stories about how to social distance, it’s not as easy as it sounds in an office, factory, or other space where you run your business.

Protocols to ensure safety include:

  • Before employees enter your work place, assess their health. This could include a short questionnaire or using a thermometer to check for fever before they enter the workplace.
  • Even if desks are the recommended distance apart, you’ll also need to focus on break rooms and bathrooms. If possible, make communal restrooms into one-person bathrooms.
  • Make corridors one-way traffic only to avoid face-to-face encounters. And of course, if your business can be operated remotely, put those policies in place to assure there is zero contact between employees.
  • Washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Make sure there are handwashing stations available to all employees with hot water, anti-bacterial soap, and paper towels.
  • Require employees to wear approved masks, gloves, clothing coverings, or other safety tools that makes sense for your workspace.
  • If your business can be operated remotely, put those policies in place to assure there is zero contact between employees. This SmartBiz Loans blog post outlines tips to keep your team productive and connected: 12 Tips for Managing Remote Employees Successfully.

For in-depth information about workplace safety with recommendations from the CDC, read Small Business Health Programs and the COVID-19 Outbreak.

Digitize anything you can

A 2nd wave of coronavirus cases in the U.S. could lead to shelter-in-place regulations enacted again. Now is a great time to prepare and review your important documents, systems, and processes. According to Softlinx, a cloud faxing and document delivery service company, more than 65 percent of business owners fear failing to digitize their business processes will lead to a loss in their competitive edge and can impact company profits.

Review your cybersecurity policies

Check out potential risks that might compromise the security of your business networks, systems, and data. Knowing, understanding, and analyzing potential threats can help you come up with a plan to handle any gaps in security.

When perfuming risk assessment, check how your business data is stored and who has access to that data. Check who might want to access the data and how they may try to obtain it. Analyze the risk levels, possible events that can happen, and how breaches can impact your business.

For more tips, check out our guide to cybersecurity on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: A Guide to Internet Security for Small Businesses.

Plan out projects you need to launch and run

Before the pandemic, did you have projects in the works? Assess if these projects fit in with current conditions and plan accordingly. Work to prioritize initiatives to help protect your business in the future. You may be eager to get back to work but try to avoid starting multiple projects that can tax financial and staffing resources.

Apply for an SBA loan

Apply for the Small Business Administration loans. The Paycheck Protection Program loans cap has been reached as of . But in addition to the disaster loans, some state governments are offering aid packages. Do a little research to find other ways to shore up your income during this pandemic. For example, Facebook is offering $100 million in grants to small businesses. For more information about low-cost SBA 7(a) loans, visit the SmartBiz Loans website: Get the gold standard in small business lending.

Seek Professional Advice

Do you work with an accountant or another financial professional? They can offer suggestions to get a handle on your return to business. If you don’t have someone on board, look for free resources and guidance through your local Small Business Development Center.