How small businesses can survive a second lockdown
Just as things were slowly returning to normal, a surge in coronavirus cases is sweeping the country and threatening to impose restrictions most states had previously lifted. Among the hardest hit are small businesses, especially those in the retail and service industries, who now have to close down again to fight the second wave. What do the new measures mean for your business, and what can you do to stay afloat in a second lockdown?
Know your state and county regulations
Most importantly, keep track of how your state is managing its lockdown. According to the New York Times’ comprehensive guide, while most states are open or reopening, 12 states have paused their reopening and another nine are going back into lockdown. Up-to-date local information is especially important as reimposed restrictions vary from place to place, and change regularly. For example, indoor dining is still allowed in Colorado (with restrictions), while restaurants in California are restricted to outdoor seating. Regulations might even vary within states: bars in some counties in Nevada are being told to close while others nearby can remain open.
Depending on the regulations in your area, you may be able to stay open, but will need to conduct business in a way that’s different from what you’re accustomed to. During the initial lockdown, businesses in the entertainment, hospitality, retail, and foodservice industries found innovative and unique ways to continue offering their services. Thinking creatively about how you could continue serving online or at a distance could secure some revenue during the second lockdown.
If you invested in measures to reopen safely, remember that those improvements weren’t made in vain. States that have reimposed restrictions had to do so because they reopened too quickly, they’re unlikely to make the same mistake again. When this second lockdown lifts it’s likely that businesses are going to be under even closer scrutiny regarding how to operate safely. Any work you do to ensure that safety will pay dividends in the future.
That being said, if there is any lesson to be learned from the second lockdown, it’s that rushing into reopening is much riskier than taking things slow. With the uncertain future of the coronavirus, any business is better served adapting to lockdown life. Even when restrictions are finally lifted, you may find customers more interested in online and distance selling than returning to brick-and-mortar establishments.
Budgeting for the second lockdown
It’s no secret that a second lockdown is financially devastating for many small businesses. For some, reimposed restrictions have meant closing their doors permanently. The good news is that, while there is still much uncertainty surrounding the government’s next stimulus package, it seems likely to feature further financial aid for small businesses.
The bad news is that, until the stimulus details are released , we can’t know how that aid will work. There is some suggestion that the definition of ‘small business’ will be refined to only those with fewer than 300 employees in the hopes that the loans will stretch further, or that businesses with fewer than 100 employees could be eligible for second loans. Considering the uncertainty, it might be wise not to make any major financial decisions until we know more.
Building staff loyalty
The renewed restrictions are particularly tough on laid off workers hoping to get back to work. Despite record unemployment numbers a few months ago, it seemed reopening would be a chance to ramp hiring efforts. However, many small businesses are now finding they need to fire the same staff they took out loans to hire a few weeks ago.
Amidst such uncertainty around when businesses can resume full operations, maintaining regular communication, and building staff loyalty will go far in creating some stability.
The future of your business might not be certain, but that’s no excuse for keeping your staff in the dark. Be open and transparent with them wherever possible and try to keep their best interests at heart. Some might ask to be let go so they can claim unemployment benefits, others might prefer the security of having a position when the lockdown lifts. Paying attention to their needs and helping them out will build trust, making them more likely to return the favor when it comes time to reopen.
About the AuthorMore Content by Tom Quinn