The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges for every business and every individual, creating a new reality.
It also provides an opportunity for creative solutions to maximize customer and employee service and value and ways in which each business can individually be of service to others, said Mark Lupo, a consultant with the Small Business Development Center at the University of Georgia.
“For small businesses, this can be a time to build relationships with customers and employees on a deeper level, by communicating that you care about them and are concerned for their safety,” Lupo said.
Business owners can demonstrate concern for employees and customers by:
- Having adequate cleaning supplies, including the appropriate approved hand sanitizer, available for all customers and employees.
- Putting up signs letting customers know the steps you are taking to provide for their safety and that of employees.
- Reconsidering normal business hours and operations, even to the detriment of sales, in order to protect customers and employees from exposure to the virus.
- Providing alternative access to products and services by offering delivery or letting customers purchase products online that they can easily pick up from the store.
- Setting special store hours just for customers most vulnerable to the virus.
- Limiting the number of people inside the business at any one time.
- Using email and social media to communicate regularly with customers and employees so that they know of any change in operations.
Business owners can minimize the effects of the outbreak by:
- Considering how to avoid layoffs or salary cuts during the downturn in revenue.
- Being transparent with employees, understanding their anxiety.
- Talking with banks or credit unions about potential cash flow shortfalls and what they can offer to help get through this period.
- Asking suppliers about flexible payment terms for orders.
- Seeking additional suppliers for products and services in case a vendor can no longer meet its commitment.
Consumers can support local businesses by:
- Continuing to buy local, even online.
- Cleaning their hands before entering businesses.
- Maintaining a 6-foot distance between themselves and other people.
- Minimizing time inside a business.
- Staying home when they are sick.
The Small Business Development Center provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed. Designated as one of Georgia’s top providers of small business assistance, the SBDC has 17 offices located throughout the state to serve the needs of Georgia’s business community. The SBDC, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
For more information or to locate an SBDC consultant in your area, go to www.georgiasbdc.org.