How to keep your business from falling behind in the midst of a global outbreak
By now, everybody has heard of COVID-19, colloquially known as the “novel coronavirus.” The virus first came to light at the tail-end of 2019, when China reported several unusual cases of pneumonia—and then it snowballed. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Situation Report from March 15, the coronavirus has spread to at least 144 countries across the globe, and the number of cases has risen to 153,517.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has prompted country-wide shutdowns around the world; several states in the U.S. have closed schools and all non-essential businesses, and the same action has been taken in several other countries in which the pandemic has infected substantial numbers of people.
While this outbreak is an unfortunate and frightening ordeal, you need not let it stop you from living your day-to-day life. You can keep yourself and your business on track—and we will tell you how.
How It Affects Business
In events like these, we are told by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the WHO how to keep ourselves healthy and avoid contagion. However, nobody is there to tell us how to keep your company afloat, especially if your county was ordered to shut down for several weeks.
When it comes to accounting and bookkeeping, many people might think, “Well, you don’t need to interact with people to get your books in order, so you can still do that!” While you do only need yourself and your company to complete data entry, the spread of COVID-19 has caused several disruptions in the accounting sector:
- Closure of Business. Most businesses in high-risk areas have been mandated to close for several weeks unless they are deemed essential (like grocery stores, pharmacies, and other such stores). Even public schools and universities are closing! This not only means no customers, but it also means no present employees.
- Reduction in Sales. Whether your business was shut down by government order or your consumers are socially distancing themselves in their homes, a pandemic like the one we are experiencing causes your sales to drop, especially if you are a business that provides services instead of goods.
- Low Employee Availability. Again, health organizations across the map are urging people to practice “social distancing” and urging businesses to close their doors for several weeks—and this is no different for employees. Fewer staff members are available at any given time, since so many people are isolating themselves at home.
- Supply Chain Disruptions. The virus does not only affect one business, but it creates disturbances in your entire supply chain. If one of your suppliers gets shut down, it can halt the whole selling process and, by extension, the financial process as well.
- Delays in Business Procedures. Aside from the actual manufacturing and/or selling process being disrupted, the coronavirus outbreak can also halt other business procedures. If you were in the process of finalizing a contract with a client or an associate, you may not be able to meet with them again for several weeks.
- Worldwide Financial Volatility. Since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, and even sometime before, the U.S. stock market and other global economies have taken a nosedive. While some fear that this may send us into a recession, it seems to be no more than quick correction from an all-time high.
- To combat this, the U.S. government has cut federal interest rates to near zero. This is a great opportunity for corporations and other businesses. Even if you think that your business is too small to be affected by such a thing, keep in mind that the effects always trickle down.
While these issues can spell out trouble for small businesses, you do not have to let them trip you up! There are so many ways that you can still run your business in the event of a pandemic, even if you have to do it from home.
How to Stay Afloat
So in a sea of chaos, how do you keep your ship (re: your company) from capsizing? Well, hopefully you equip your company with all of the right precautions for a disaster (which you can read about here), but if that is not the case, there are actions you can take to maintain the productivity of your day-to-day:
- Let employees work from home. Thanks to modern technology, employees are able to work easily from home! So rather than just stopping the goings-on of your company, let your employees work from the comfort and safety of their homes. You can use Google Drive, Microsoft Office 365, or DropBox (all of which are free) to conduct any collaborative work that needs to get done—so what’s stopping you?
- Keep reserves for disasters. People always say, “Keep at least six months’ worth of salary in your reserves in case of an emergency,” but this also holds true for business. While this is more of a preventative or emergency measure, it is still important to note. You need enough money to keep your business operational or at least out of the red, so make sure that you have enough in the reserves in case of an event like the coronavirus outbreak.
- Host phone or video conferences. Platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts make it exceptionally easy to host video conferences, and if that is not your style, you can also just hold phone call conferences! That way, any important meetings can still take place, and even if you are unable to officially finalize a deal with a client or associate, you can still iron out all the details!
- Use the time to play catch-up. If you are truly unable to operate for consumers after being shut-down, you can still use the time productively! Play catch-up; a lot of people tend to fall behind on their accounting, and now you have all this free time before Doomsday (a.k.a. tax season) to organize the books. You can go ahead and be proud that you filed your taxes on time; it is a stressful task, and you deserve a pat on the back.
- Employ good communication. One of the most important things to keep in mind is communication. Businesses already struggle to effectively communicate in the workplace, so it can become even more difficult when you are all in separate locations. Implement an effective method of communication, whether it be routine phone calls, staff-wide emails, or even group chats for your team.
Make sure to use these tips and remember: just because you experience a trough does not mean you can’t get back to the top! The panic and the shutdowns are all temporary, so the best thing you can do is adapt and conquer.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
Make sure that while you are taking care of your business, you are also taking care of your health. I know you have probably heard these tips a thousand times elsewhere, but it does not hurt to be reminded. There a several steps you can take to limit the spread of the coronavirus and, better yet, prevent the contagion from infecting you:
- Practice social distancing, physically and figuratively. Keep your distance from people who are sick (The CDC recommends a distance of six or more feet), and avoid gatherings and large crowds.
- Wash your hands. You should be washing your hands regularly, but especially do it after you have been out in public and have touched things that many other people have touched. When you wash your hands, make sure you follow the 20-Second Rule: lather the soap on your hands for at least twenty seconds, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies, before rinsing with warm water.
- Keep your quarters clean. No, I do not mean coins. Wherever you are staying or working, make sure that you regularly disinfect all surfaces, especially doorknobs.
Ready.gov lists even more safety tips, addressing both the preparation and the prevention aspects of the pandemic.
Remember: you and your business can make it through the coronavirus outbreak without falling behind. All you need to do is implement the correct practices for yourself and your employees and complete all the necessary tasks to keep your company operational.