As most business owners and employees will now be aware, a Coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, is rapidly spreading around the world. As of March 15, nearly 170,000 cases had been reported, with over 6,500 deaths.
As a New Zealand business owner, the virus has probably triggered one of three reactions in your business: fight, flight, or freeze. These are the natural responses that can serve a purpose in the right moments but can also stop us from doing what’s best for our business.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the decisions you need to make during this trying time.
With several countries in lockdown and people staying at home to keep themselves safe, it’s not uncommon to notice a significant slump in business revenue. But you can fight back by focusing your online marketing budget on short-term activities that drive short-term revenue and cash.
Rather than focus on the long-term goal of profitability, look at ways you can sustain revenue right now, while putting future activities on the backburner until the worst has passed. That might require you to cut costs and budgets, as several companies have already done, on those tasks that were previously aimed at long-term growth.
Price adjustment is yet another ‘fight’ method that can sustain you in the here and now. Keep those sales rolling in, even if it means you have to operate with a slimmer profit margin. The goal is to keep your business ticking over.
In the same breath, competitive packages can be a way to sustain your business through this challenging period. Look at what your competitors are doing and consider following their lead. Your line of business can dictate what those packages could be.
Businesses may also like to factor in the official call for social distancing. With hundreds of thousands of people choosing to stay at home to do their part for minimising the spread of COVID-19, you can look at different options that make it easier for your customers to do business with you.
Offer free shipping on their order, “no contact,” shipping directly to their door, and start offering online services if you don’t already.
Running away from the virus is potentially not going to be the best option for any business. Instead, it’s essential to put a plan in place that will keep customers working with you – even if it’s not in line with your traditional business model.
Some businesses and companies may decide to ride out the storm in what is known as “freeze” mode. This is where you do nothing but try to keep the business ticking along as usual.
While freezing is an option, it’s paramount to understand how COVID-19 can impact your target market, their behaviour, and how they’re thinking. Understand what their needs are at this time, and how you can meet them.
It’s only natural to do nothing because you fear making the wrong business decision. Still, the consequences of doing nothing can be far greater than if you were to do something.
Have You Got an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan?
Businesses with employees may now be putting their infectious disease outbreak response plan into practice. All employees should be aware of this plan, how to implement it, and how to ensure continuity of operations in the face of a genuine disease outbreak risk.
As a rule, businesses should start by:
- Keeping sick employees at home and away from the workplace
- Reiterating hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
- Carrying out routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces
Your infectious disease outbreak response plan should identify health risks to your employees and work-related exposure. Make sure all your HR policies are consistent with those outlined in public health recommendations.
Consider whether you can enact flexible work practices, such as remote working and social distancing, and if you can operate on a skeleton staff to minimise any impact.
Furthermore, a long, hard look at your supply chain can outline what, at the very minimum, you need to keep your business running like a well-oiled machine. Who are the critical links from manufacturing through to suppliers and distributors? Know who you need to contact in the event of a problem, where someone in that chain can no longer deliver due to health and safety concerns.
Last, But Not Least, Keep Yourself Safe
New Zealand has eight confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of March 15. That number is expected to rise. However, we can all do our part by keeping ourselves safe and taking all necessary precautions.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Practice good respiratory hygiene, and be on the lookout for changes in your health – such as difficulty breathing, a fever, and a cough. Stay home if you are not feeling well, and contact your health care provider as soon as possible.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and maintain social distancing of at least three metres between you and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
As a business owner, such a disease can cause endless amounts of stress. However, the more prepared you are, the better the outcome for you and your team.