Ten Tips for Small Business Owners During COVID-19

As a small business owner and founder of Chirp Research, Shannon Marrs has given a lot of thought to the impact that COVID-19 may have on her employees, her clients, and of course her family. Below is a list of 10 things she recommends that you can do (or not do) to help protect your business and your reputation while weathering this incredible, and ever-changing, storm.

1.     Immediately take a pay cut. Set an example for your team and step up as a leader to let them know that you are all in this together.

2.     Ask your accounts receivable team to be graciously aggressive. We recently had a client with past due bills from the second quarter of 2019. We were persistent, yet understanding, in our efforts to connect with the right people to receive our payment. Work with these clients and customers to formulate a plan, if necessary, to secure payment for completed projects.

3.     Stop hawking your business. We have all seen ads and websites with people saying, “Now more than ever you need X,Y, and Z.” The truth is that none of us knows how this is going to change every facet of our business. These self-serving statements are more likely to hurt your business and reputation in the long run.

4.     Be considerate and transparent with your team. Communicating and showing empathy for your employees will help maintain cohesiveness as a team even in the worst of times. Don’t make any promises that you cannot keep. For instance, telling your team that everything is going to return to normal and will ultimately be the “same” as it was before is both unrealistic and disingenuous. The truth is: no one knows what our “new normal” will be when this crisis eases.

5.     Show compassion to your clients. Now – of all times – view them as human beings and not businesses (or businesspeople). Know that they will need to postpone or delay everyday business issues, payments, projects, etc., and that they, like you, are doing their very best given the situation.

6.     Pay your team’s expense reports. These expenses were incurred out of pocket by your team to complete projects and tasks on behalf of your company. Pay these expenses first.

7.     Stop sending auto-generated emails to your customers and clients. For example, if your team typically works remotely, do you really need to send an email announcing that your team is still working remotely during COVID-19? Be wise and careful about the communication that you are putting out and know that any message can and will impact your brand long term.

8.     Research ways to obtain small business assistance. There are numerous local and online resources, including the SBA, that explain methods for small businesses to obtain relief during this time. Does your business qualify for a small business disaster loan? Talk with your accountant about penalty-free tax filing delays, lease payment deferral, and other ways to ease some of the financial burdens many small businesses are currently experiencing.

9.     Stay connected to your team. Use digital channels that allow coworkers to share positive, inspirational, or even challenging stories. Host a virtual happy hour. Organize an internal cyber-bingo game. Create a dedicated Slack channel for team members to share upbeat stories/moments they have experienced during the week.

10.  If necessary, ask for voluntary pay cuts to stave off layoffs. I am not saying this will be an easy conversation, but it might be a necessary one. If so, engage in frank and honest conversations with each employee to determine whether they are willing (or able) to take a cut in pay. Have this conversation with the understanding that these voluntary pay cuts will be reimbursed in the future. This collective effort may reduce or even eliminate the need for layoffs in your company.

Shannon Marrs

Chief Client Advocate at Chirp Research

Shannon Marrs founded Chirp Research out of a desire to align personal and professional values in an industry she and her team are passionate about – consumer research and insights. While “Seeking Human Truth For Good,” the organization is built on a unique culture of valuing people over profit, while creating custom solutions for each engagement.