With states across the country ending their lockdowns and reopening their economies, here are seven things your small business should be doing right now to prepare.
Review your operations in order to identify where the risks and challenges are. Are your suppliers currently struggling? Are your customers hesitant to continue doing business with you? When challenges like these arise, the first and most important step is always to create a plan. Be prepared to change aspects of your business. For instance, you may need to identify alternative suppliers, change how you communicate and interact with customers, temporarily suspend parts of your operation, or make other changes.
Identify each critical aspect of your operations, such as essential products or services, raw materials, and employees.
Create continuity plans for disruptions in your supply chain, marketing channels, or elsewhere in your operations.
Determine how you will respond to significant shortages in your workforce or client base.
Consider cross-training employees so that you can continue to operate if absenteeism increases.
Consider making temporary or permanent changes to your business model where necessary. You can use one of our free business plans to help you find opportunities for strengthening your business model.
Contact your customers to let them know how you plan on moving forward. Tell them about any changes you are making that will affect them.
For example, normally a barber will not need to do much outreach in order to fill their schedule with appointments. However, now it may be necessary for a barber to email past clients and educate them on any social distancing and health and safety measures being put in place. The barber may need to explain any local or state government requirements, such as taking temperatures and requiring face masks.
It often helps to coordinate your response with others in your industry or community. Share your plans, tips, and best practices. If you plan on conducting more meetings remotely, then strategize with the meeting attendees on how you can do this effectively. If you operate in close proximity to other businesses, consider creating plans for cleaning common areas and managing any customers in those areas.
Establish policies for social distancing and regular cleanings. Even if social distancing is not required by your local or state government, implementing precautionary measures will help instill confidence in your customers. Be sure to review your state's rules on reopening your business as well as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) resources.
Avoid attending or holding gatherings of more than 10 people, including traveling by plane or using public transit.
Require face masks anytime employees and customers need to interact in person.
Maintain at least six feet of distance between people at all times—yes, even with face masks on.
Regularly clean and disinfect all areas where employees or customers travel.
Consider using contactless thermometers to take the temperature of anyone entering your location to determine if they have a fever.
Operate remotely when possible.*
*Note that some of these measures may be required by local authorities.
It may be necessary to temporarily downsize your operations. This could limit how much product you can make or the amount of services you can offer to customers. While not ideal, this might be required under the circumstances. For instance, requiring employees to work in staggered shifts or other flexible arrangements would help you reduce the number of employees on-site at any given time.
Also, just because you are restricted in some ways does not mean that you can’t expand in other ways. Now is the time to hustle, even if it means getting a little creative. Consider incentivizing customers with deals, bulk discounts, gift cards, free delivery, or curb-side pickup.
If you are dependent on employees, then it is crucial that you keep them healthy. Educate your employees on what they should be doing to protect themselves and reduce transmission. Here are some fact sheets and posters you can use.
Send your sick employees home immediately. Actively communicate that employees are expected to notify their supervisor and stay home if they are showing any signs of sickness, especially if they are experiencing coughing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, a sore throat, or a loss of taste or smell. Let them know that there will be no punishments if they cannot attend work and that they should not return to work until approved by a healthcare professional.
Employees who have sick family members at home should likewise not attend work, since they are at increased risk of becoming infected. Keep in mind that many people with the coronavirus display very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. That’s why it’s completely acceptable to take extra precautions right now.
Implement or update your sick leave, family leave, paid time off, and other employee policies. Employees should know that there will not be punishments for taking time off. Our employee handbook will help you create and communicate your policies clearly.
All companies need to incorporate certain legal documents into their standard practice. This is more important than ever right now. All LLCs should be protected with an LLC operating agreement, and all corporations should likewise maintain their corporate bylaws. These are required in many states. Even when not required by law, failing to have these foundational documents can easily expose you to unnecessary and dangerous liabilities.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships are typically advised to minimize their personal liability by forming an LLC or corporation. LegalNature helps you officially register your business with the state and can serve as your registered agent. LLCs and corporations can also offer important tax advantages. Not sure which entity is right for you? Learn more here.
Once your business is registered and compliant, make sure that you start putting all your agreements in writing. This includes employment contracts, independent contractor agreements, job offer letters, and much more. We help you complete these agreements in minutes with simple questionnaires with step-by-step instructions.
You’re not the only one struggling right now. People are organizing everywhere to support each other. If you are having trouble finding solutions to your problems, try doing some outreach to others in your community or industry who might be able to provide guidance. Many areas have a chamber of commerce, business associations, and community organizations that can be tremendous resources.
When it comes to protecting yourself legally, LegalNature is here to help you. Our knowledgeable staff can answer your questions and help you secure your business. Call 888-881-1139 or leave us a message here!