2020 was a whirlwind of chaos and challenges, as businesses across the country rushed to adjust to the “new normal” of the COVID-19 era. But it turns out there is no “new normal” — just an ever-evolving climate that requires continual attention and adjustment.
With a new administration, new vaccine distribution plans, and new business policies in play, smart business plans will require continued flexibility as the pandemic enters its second year.
Here are some ways to be sure you keep your community safe as you strive to remain on the cutting edge
Evaluate changes you’ve made
Evaluate the workplace adjustments you’ve made for the pandemic and see whether you want to continue them long-term. Can you save money on rent and utilities by downsizing your workplace and keeping some of your staff working from home?
Have you begun offering new services in response to pandemic demands? See how they’ve been performing. Decide which ones were built as short-term solutions and which are worth incorporating for the long run.
Delivery services and online shopping are some options you might want to take a look at. Online retail orders have grown by 146% during the pandemic, a trend that was already there (look at Amazon) and accelerated when COVID hit.
Will your customers like the convenience of delivery enough for you to keep it in place, or will they want to get back out again to do their own shopping themselves? That’s the kind of question you’ll want to ask as you look at the numbers.
Look for government help
Individuals have gotten two stimulus checks so far, with a third one potentially in the offing, but there’s plenty of help out there for businesses, too:
- The Paycheck Protection Program provides businesses with assistance keeping their staff employed during the pandemic.
- COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer relief from businesses suffering a loss of revenue due to the virus. (Agricultural ventures with 500 or fewer workers also qualify.) Advance funds of up to $10,000 are available to hard-hit businesses in low-income communities.
- The Express Bridge Loan program offers quick access of up to $25,000 for companies that have a relationship with Small Business Administration (SBA) Express Lender.
- If you’re already an SBA borrower, you may be eligible for debt relief during the pandemic.
Build your credit
Some businesses have used up a lot of credit just surviving, while others will be starting from scratch in the new economy. Either way, it pays to establish a strong credit rating and keep tabs on its specifics.
You might be planning to invest in a rebuild now, or save for the future and be ready for other crises that might arise. If you need to build your credit from scratch and you have some cash to work with, consider using it as collateral to open a secured credit account.
Be ready for anything
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that a crisis can hit when you least expect it — and it’s tough to predict how bad it’s going to get. Few people could have even imagined a viral outbreak on this scale, let alone forecast that it would have lasted this long.
Emergency preparedness is crucial to handling any new curves COVID might throw at us, as well as being ready for other unforeseen crises that might emerge. Make sure you have your insurance updated and all your important documents in one place, so you have them when you need them.
Keep the power on
Even when the pandemic ends, you’ll still be vulnerable to those other disasters and emergencies that hit every year: ice storms, brush fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, wind storms… you name it. Any of these things can cause a power outage that leaves your business unable to operate for days or even weeks if you don’t have a backup.
Even a few hours without power due to arcing power lines can blow an important deadline or shut down your store, costing you valuable sales. A long-term outage at a restaurant or grocery store can be catastrophic, leaving your doors closed and your refrigerated food subject to spoilage. A backup generator or genset can pay for itself the first time a power outage hits.
As vaccines roll out, it’s important to maintain protocols such as 6-foot social distancing, washing hands and using hand sanitizers regularly, sanitizing surfaces, having plexiglass barriers in place, and, of course, wearing masks. As it turns out, doubling up on your masks — with a surgical mask under a cloth mask — is even more effective.
Too much protection is always better than not enough, so keep health safety measures in place until the CDC advises otherwise. Besides, masks and social distancing also help reduce the spread of other viruses, such as the flu.
As 2021 progresses, you’ll be deciding what new policies to roll out for your business as you rebuild from the pandemic. Staying informed about the health and economic environment you’re facing is the first order of business.
Once you know where you stand, act cautiously regarding your staff and customers’ health, but boldly regarding innovations that can help position you to succeed in this rapidly changing environment.
About the Author
Jessica Larson is a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. She creates online courses for students, and has run small businesses. Her goals are to support her family, spend time with them, and act as an entrepreneurial role model for my two daughters.