A study conducted in 2017 by Forbes concluded that Seventy-five percent of small business owners don’t have a plan in place for what they’ll do if a disaster strikes. This is exactly what happened when we had the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are already living in a world that has made a fundamental shift in how we work and conduct our business. Just as we are getting back to normal The CDC recently announced that the second wave of coronavirus is likely to crash over the economy towards the end of 2020. For start-ups and small businesses, this could spell disaster, especially if they don’t have a functional business continuity plan in place.
“Are you ready for the second wave of COVID-19?”
The actions you take right now to help your small business survive the next, potentially a larger wave of the pandemic. I am not writing this article to debate if COVID-19 comes back or frequent smaller outbreaks occur. The focus here is to prepare small businesses and help them to ensure that they can fight and are ready for an uncertain future.
This is a comprehensive list that will help your business to survive.
Shift All Data and Records to the Cloud
Data is the most important asset of any business. We have constantly seen that due to natural or man-made disasters local business data is lost. There are no backups or copies. It’s not just about data and backup – it’s how you operate your business. We are living in the post COVID world where rules like social distancing and frequent lockdowns are making it very difficult for people to work in offices. Cloud-based environments give you access to your data no matter where you are or your employees are.
- perfect for disaster recovery, ensure that you have a cloud-based backup and recovery system working at all times.
- A cloud-based hosting provider will give you seamless access to ongoing collaboration with no interruptions in your workflow. Make sure yours is primed for remote work.
- Take a minute to move critical paperwork to a safe place and make digital copies.
Let me share the experience of a client and how the cloud-based environment saved his business. This client runs an English school in Spain and he has been preparing himself for a few years to ensure that he can implement new technologies like the learning management system within his school. Due to lockdowns in Spain, his school was least affected because all his courses are online already in the cloud and his teachers were used to using technology. This enabled him to move online teaching overnight without breaking his business. Unlike his competitors, he had the leading advantage because his school was already in the cloud and his teachers started taking online classes from home. This enabled him to ensure his school was not even closed for a single day and he also got students from other schools who were forced to shut down due to lockdown.
This shows that being in the cloud, your team will be able to work from home, and the shift will be extremely easy. If COVID-19 resurges, you’ll shorten your adjustment time which will save you money and most importantly business.
Lock-In an Extended List of Suppliers
One of the main issues to crop up during the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns was the sudden absence of supply. The supply chain is the lifeline for any business big or small with a broken supply chain, we have seen several small businesses shut the shops. The issue was on both sides of the supply chain from procurement to deliveries.
- Experts recommend diverse sourcing and digitization to secure stronger, smarter supply chains that can stand an economic downturn.
- Investigate your suppliers and how they work. Understand who is vulnerable to breaks in the chain with third-party supplier networks and outsourced wholesalers.
- Actively increase and expand your list of suppliers to compensate for shortages.
- Make sure that your supply chain is flexible, and you can start or stop deliveries quickly and with minimum effort.
- It’s always worth making sure your supplier has sufficiently strong cash flow to deliver what you want, when you need it. A credit check will help reassure you that they won’t go out of business when you need them most.
What you should be doing now is to take a look at all your existing suppliers and see the terms and conditions and also start negotiating with new suppliers who will be a backup in case your current supply chain breaks.
Your Human Resource Protocols
With the onset of COVID work from home is becoming a norm. Your human resource protocol should be updated in a manner that people are responsible for their work and can produce the desired results. We have been having strong work from home policies since 2015 onwards, within our policies & HR framework, we have ensured everything is performance & task-based. This policy and HR Framework has enabled us to ensure that we have zero effect of COVID-19 on our enterprise. Apart from just HR Framework some of the Other policies which we had within our company were having online courses for internal training this also ensured that we do not have a problem in recruitment and training of new employees when they join the COVID-19. Yes, we were net recruiters during this period.
Some of the policies that you can implement in your business are
- Provide online cross-training to employees who perform important tasks.
- Review and update your policies on remote work, sick leave, and unpaid leave.
- Create a worst-case scenario protocol with employee furloughs or retrenchments based on a hierarchy of operational importance.
- Develop ‘always remote’ policies that guarantee relevant staff have laptops, connectivity, and access to their work wherever they are, at any time.
- Host regular meetings with your teams as you would do it in office – but now via video conference
- Have an IT expert who can resolve technical issues that may arise for people working from home.
- set clear expectations for work hours of all the employees that take into account time zones and hold all remote employees accountable for their goals and deadlines.
If you spot weaknesses in your HR continuity policies, this is the time to make them stronger.
Your Business and Communications process
Business communication is not just an internal communication with the employees but it also about how your business communicates with your suppliers and your clients. The post COVID era offline meetings of clients have become very sparse, new clients and new deals are being done online with the help of video conferencing and other technologies. This means your customers are no longer finding you through various trade shows and conferences or offline meetings they are finding you online. Now is the time to refine the processes that you’ve put in place and to do additional research to fine-tune your communication tools for the future.
Most of the small businesses have a website because they need a website they are not invested in their website or have explored the full potential of the website. One of the first things which small businesses need to do is update their sales processes. The new digital sales process will depend a lot on the website itself. Also, email lists need to be updated along with expanding the same to send out marketing updates and product offers and launches to their clients. Small businesses will need to start harnessing social media and responding to the clients on social media including giving them support via various social platforms.
Strengthen Your E-Commerce Business
In the previous section, I just spoke about why a website is important for the new era. During the COVID crisis, most of the transactions have gone from offline to online; the adaptation of e-commerce has been huge. All the small businesses that were eCommerce ready have benefited from this and have seen their business expand.
We have been working with a lot of small businesses to get them online and make them E-Commerce ready. We closely work with clients helping them to find a way to get the production services online. There are a lot of platforms like woocommerce that are already available that can get most of the business’s online immediately. Once your business is online you need to make sure that you are getting organic traffic with SEO and inorganic traffic with ads. You can always open a ticket with the small business team who will help you and will consult you for free – helping you to get your business online they will be more than happy to review a business model and will give you suggestions for the same.
Are you ready for the COVID-19 second wave?
Today’s COVID-19 tomorrow can be anything else just by being ready for everything that will make your business more agile and will ensure continuity to your business. Just to reiterate what I have mentioned above – get your data on the cloud; be connected with their employees; reach your customers with a proper website and e-commerce service. Most importantly spend time in fine-tuning your business model and ensure it is as agile.