In the Challenge of Adversity
Lies Hidden New Opportunity!
This is not the time to wait it out.
There are 5 major risks facing small businesses that cannot be ignored.
But there are also opportunities for new and significant gains.
Tip #1 Legal and Regulatory
Covid-19 is not like the flu from a legal and regulatory point of view. As a business owner, you are at greater legal and regulatory risk because Covid-19 is a recognized workplace safety risk. Like any other safety risk, you need to mitigate it. This comes with its own unique requirements. Although you may be aware of some, most jurisdictions have specific guidelines that they expect you to use as a basis for your own business policies and practices. These include the use of signs, barriers, physical distancing, sending people home to isolate, hygiene, cleaning/disinfecting, PPE and the maintenance of records. There are consequences to not doing these things:
- Unless you adequately protect employees by using these guidelines, you can be fined under Occupational Health and Safety regulations.
- If someone can show reason to believe that they contracted Covid-19 in your business due to a lack of care, you could be taken to court.
- Failing to comply with public health orders or cooperate with health officials can result in a fine or shut down.
There are many new products and services emerging to cost-effectively help businesses stay on the right side of the legal and regulatory risks while operating their business. However, your business first needs a specific Covid-19 policy backed by provable practices that will keep people safe while in your location. Review the changing government guidelines in your area, which typically now include masks, cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces, hand-washing, distancing and barriers. As we move indoors, ensure your ventilation systems and filters are serviced. If someone has any new or worsening Covid-19 symptoms, or if they have been in close contact with someone who tested positive, they should not be in your business for between 10-14 days, depending on jurisdiction and circumstances.
But how will you know? The most effective option is to get support from your staff to screen daily (if possible, screen visitors as well) and keep a log of the results. This can be a big help keeping Covid-19 out of your business and can reduce your legal risks. SiteSafe™ is a simple, fully-automated mobile app to make it easy for any business. It takes minutes to get started. Nothing to download or buy.
Tip #2 Financial Focus
Although Canadian GDP is expected to recover to 96% of pre-Covid levels as we close out 2020, this is not true for some areas of our country and for many small businesses. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) surveys report up to 30% of their members are on the edge of closing their doors permanently, especially in hospitality, travel and event businesses. However, some companies are experiencing surging business with some seeing their best year ever. What are they doing differently?
If 30% of small businesses close their doors while the overall economy moves toward 100% recovery, it stands to reason that this creates a big growth opportunity for the surviving businesses. The first thing to consider is how to be one of the survivors!
Your company should continue to leverage all government financial aid programs and generally try to conserve cashflowfor the next few months. Federal wage subsidies are now available to businesses till June 2021. Rent subsidies have been improved and extended to June 2021 as well. If you need to make a large purchase or pay bills, there are increased government-guaranteed loans with large forgiveable portions (read "you don't have to pay it all back"). These can be a great deal and a great opportunity to conserve your cash.
You can also contact us at Blueneck for specific cash conservation advice.
As much as possible, attempt to drive more opportunities for engagement online with your customers. Consider selling higher volume, higher margin, and smaller, easy-to-ship or pick-up products online. Provide interesting information and good advice on-line so people visit your web-site and read your social media. Reach out more using phone, text, email, social media, video-calls, webinars or anything else you are comfortable using. Stay at the top of your customer's mind and you will get a larger share of their business.
For those businesses who depend on in-person services and sales to drive the bulk of revenues, make visible changes to demonstrate to customer that they can be confident, comfortable and feel safe being in your business! One way to do that is to show to your customers that everyone entering your business is checked for Covid19 symptoms. You can now easily do that with an automatic app from SiteSafe™ with nothing to buy, install or download. As per tip #1 above, it also can help protect your business from covid19-related legal actions.
Tip #3 Staff Coverage
You should not risk your business by allowing someone to work or visit who has cold and flu-like symptoms. Why? Because if it turns out to be Covid-19, it will send home everyone else who works with them or even shut down your business. Unfortunately, Covid-19 symptoms can be virtually identical to colds and flus. Some of the other symptoms can be a surprise. If they get tested and are found negative, they can return to work once symptoms go away. But, if someone catches Covid-19, they must self isolate for at least 10 days. But, there is an EVEN BIGGER RISK. If your employees work or meet together, when one employee tests positive for Covid-19, any close contact means ALL employees need to self-isolate. If they were within 2 meters of each other for as little as 15 minutes, they have had "close contact". You could lose whole groups of staff for up to 14 days. Some jurisdictions allow employees to return to work if they test negative, but not all. Losing your staff for weeks at a time could be crippling to your operations. How do you avoid this?
This is an opportunity to engage your staff to create a healthier workforce and re-organize how work is done to be more flexible and team focussed. The same recommendations in Tip #1 above will also help keep employees safer from catching Covid-19 and also from colds and flus. But there is more:
Encourage your staff to get a flu shot! You don't want to be dealing with seasonal flu on top of a pandemic!
Plan your staffing for increased absences by building a coverage plan and cross-training employees. This is true even for remote workers since working remote does not mean they cannot become exposed to Covid-19.
Minimize close contact between employees in a location by having them communicate at least 6 feet away from each other or use chat/phones rather than in person discussions. Visiting each other’s workspace in person should be discouraged, masks should be used, and limit time to under 15 minutes.
Stay behind the barriers and do not unnecessarily walk around them to speak to a co-worker. Remind them the barriers are for everyone, not just customers.
Create safe, contact-free social opportunities to replace other forms of socializing. If that is not possible, establish small permanent work teams to limit the loss of staff, should an infection break out.
Actively screen for Covid-19 symptoms. In every business I work with, employees are more likely to report symptoms if they are asked! Walking past a sign is too easy to do. SiteSafe™ automatic screening of Covid-19 makes this easy and simple with nothing to buy, install or download. For a free trial account:
Tip #4 Coming Next Week!
Tip #4 Getting Clients Back
Not all businesses can move to remote work, or shift to on-line. Maybe this is your business. These businesses rely on clients and customers to visit their location to purchase their products or use their services. Even if you are allowed to remain open during the pandemic, attracting customers back into your business can be challenging. This is often because many people are avoiding non-essential trips to locations that could expose them to the virus. It can make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Even if your business implements safety measures, people can be worried that these measures could make their experience less enjoyable. You need to find a balance to attract people back to your business. What ideas seem to be working?
This is an opportunity to demonstrate that your business cares about their safety and that you have implemented smart safety measures. Brag a little, but don’t focus exclusively on the safety features if you are in the customer service business. Show them that you are still a place they will enjoy visiting. For example, some restaurants are using clear masks for serving staff so that smiles and faces can still be seen. Others have implemented decorative barriers and taken advantage of the extra distancing to enhance client comfort. Some are using technology not just to go contactless, but to enhance the experience with fun digital additions. With a little imagination, Covid-19 guidelines need not feel restrictive. Instead of feeling isolating, use these changes to make your business become more inviting!
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Tip #5 Avoiding Shutdown
As mentioned, Covid-19 is surging to levels 2 to 3 times higher than when our governments shut down the economy last spring. Are we at risk of a repeat? Yes, but the key metric is not infections, it is hospitalizations. We have learned a lot more about the virus and this has translated into an overall lower death-rate. We have also learned that shutting down our economy is very damaging. The spring shutdown reduced national GDP by 38% in the first half of the year and plunged our governments deep into debt with assistance for employees and businesses. Although a general shutdown will be highly resisted, regionalized and sector-specific shutdowns are a real possibility if our hospitals and healthcare system becomes overwhelmed. Currently about 2-5% of cases require hospitalization. We all need to help manage this pandemic to ensure that this does not happen. How do we do that?
This is an opportunity to do our part to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and to speak up against those who refuse to do theirs. Become leaders in our business communities. Shutdowns hurt us all. This is also the time to create as much positive cash flow as you can to weather another potential shut down. That means keeping your own business safe from the risks of Covid-19 and doing things smart to attract customers back into your businesses.