With COVID-19 having broad impacts on the global economy, you might be wondering if there are preventative measures for small businesses to take to protect themselves and their customers during these uncertain times.
Indeed there are. Below you’ll find actionable steps that businesses operating in a wide array of industries can take to secure services, put customers at ease, and stay nimble as new information becomes available.
One of the most important preventative measures small businesses can take during these earlier stages of the COVID-19 disruption is to bolster their inventory.
It’s time to examine your current purchasing practices. Pay special attention to your overseas suppliers that may be impacted by export delays. You’ll likely want to increase orders from a typical 30-day supply to a 60- or 90-day supply, especially for your most popular inventory. If you find suppliers challenged to meet your increased quantities, don’t be shy about exploring alternative suppliers. At the very least, you’ll establish new supplier relationships and lay the groundwork for securing operations during current and future market disruptions.
You’ll also want to take steps to bolster your internal inventory for things like office and cleaning supplies. Consider increasing your orders for your daily consumables. Purchases like copier/printer paper, shipping supplies, and in-office consumables like paper towels and toilet paper can all be stored. Whether supply chains get disrupted for these items or not, you’ll use them regardless.
Establish In-Office Protocols
Major consumer-facing businesses have made a proactive practice out of sharing their preventative measures with the public. Whether it’s an airline sharing aircraft disinfectant procedures or your local fitness club letting customers in on their cleaning methods, your customers and employees will appreciate your procedural transparency.
Let the people you rely on most to keep your business running know that you’re taking their health and safety seriously. Here are some tips for safety measures small businesses like yours can take to reassure your team and customers:
- Office/store cleaning: Consider an email or in-store signage letting customers know your daily and overnight disinfectant procedures. Offer hand sanitizer pumps or wipes if you have shopping baskets or carts. Add additional wipes at checkout/customer service areas. Place paper towels instead of reusable fabric hand towels in all public restrooms.
- Examine return policies: Explore whether you need to make adjustments to return timelines to accommodate a customer’s desire to limit public exposure. Also, examine how you’ll process returned items and sanitation procedures for returns if necessary.
- Employee measures: If you haven’t already, now’s a perfect time for an all-hands meeting to discuss COVID-19, its impacts, and safety measures your company is taking. Ensure employees have a plentiful supply of disinfectant products like wipes, soap, and hand sanitizer. Establish a firm sick policy and consider a permanent adjustment to your paid sick leave time.
- Leverage technology: Consider limiting employee travel (even out and about in town) to avoid unnecessary exposure. Implement digital meeting tools like videoconferencing to continue collaboration during times of limited mobility.
Using the tips above, you can both reassure customers and employees as well as continue business operations responsibly.
New information comes out each day about the impacts of COVID-19. One of the most important preventative measures for small businesses is an ongoing commitment to awareness.
Establish a point person or team within your company to stay up-to-date on the latest news. This includes information about new cases, travel recommendations, safety suggestions, and more. The following sites can provide reliable, authoritative information on COVID-19:
- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 website
- The CDC “latest updates” page
- The World Health Organization (WHO) rolling updates page
- The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health COVID-19 information page (includes guidance documents for specific businesses in several industries)
Depending on how COVID-19 affects your region, you might consider closing your business for some time to prevent disease transmission. While not an easy decision, it could be a necessary one for safety. Always consider whether a temporary closure of your physical location(s) could benefit public health and make contingency plans for key employees to work remotely during times of potential closure.
With so much news coming out each day about COVID-19, it’s natural to feel a bit flummoxed. However, a bit of planning, a generous amount of communication, and some common-sense safety measures can make your team and customers feel more secure during unsettling times.