Running a business is never a simple, easy or straightforward task. But 2020 has been more challenging than most years. The coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic has wrought havoc with businesses. No matter what products you sell, what services you provide, how successful you may have been pre-pandemic, or how well established you may have been pre-pandemic, you’re bound to be up against all sorts of new difficulties and challenges right now. Government guidelines to slow the spread of the virus may be interfering with your usual business operations or working protocol. On top of this, we’re facing economic difficulties which are seeing people with less disposable income, which means fewer sales on non essential goods. The good news is that there are ways to run your business well, make sales, generate profits and keep things up and running during these difficult times. Here are a few suggestions that could be useful for you!
Running a Business In General
There are a few things that every business owner should do right now. You need to rethink your operations. You need to be flexible. What worked for your business before might not work anymore. Know when to let go and when change is necessary. You should also consider bankruptcy protection for small businesses to cover yourself if the worst does happen and you find it impossible to make sales.
Running a Brick and Mortar Store
If you’re planning on keeping a brick and mortar store above water during this pandemic, you have a challenge on your hands. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but you are going to have to put a fair amount of effort into making sure your store complies with government guidelines and in order to bring in customers who could potentially get the goods you’re selling online instead. Here are a few tips that could help you!
Make Sure Customers Queueing Outside are Comfortable
One of the first challenges you’ll face when it comes to opening up or reopening your brick and mortar store is actually getting people into your store. Government restrictions and guidelines may mandate a set number of customers you can have in store at any one time and you’ll have to ask others to queue outside until space frees up inside the store. The number is likely to be based on how many people you can fit in your store with a two metre distance between them at any one time. This means that, for the majority of stores, capacity is going to be significantly reduced. During the summer, this wasn’t too bad. People were happier to stand waiting outside in the sun and warm weather. But during the winter, people are much less likely to hang about, which can mean significantly reduced sales and profits for you. Nobody wants to wait in the cold, the rain or even more adverse weather conditions. So, plan ahead. Make sure that your customers will be comfortable if they do queue to enter. It’s a good idea to have some branded umbrellas made up that can be handed to queuing customers if it starts to rain while they’re waiting. You might even want to consider heat lamps that can keep waiting customers warm.
Create a One Way System In-Store
Once customers are inside your store, you should create some sort of one way system to prevent people from blocking spaces or aisles when they walk back and forth looking at things. Implementing a one way system will allow people to slowly browse your products without having to squeeze past one another. The one way system can be indicated using floor stickers or other signs. You may also want to let people know about the system when they enter the store to give them a heads up.
Use Social Distancing Stickers
Social distancing stickers are another great addition to any store. They’re stickers that can be placed two metres away from one another indicating how far customers should be standing from one another. These are particularly useful in areas where customers are likely to queue, including till points, toilet entry points and other areas.
Provide Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitiser has become a routine part of everyday life for everyone during this pandemic. People are being advised to wash their hands regularly – and if they don’t have access to a sink or other hand washing station, they need to use hand sanitiser. Generally speaking, it’s best to invest in hand sanitiser in bulk for your store. People are going to get through a lot. Whether that’s you, your staff, customers or anyone else spending time in your commercial premises. When it comes down to it, you can’t buy too much hand sanitiser. So, take a look at offers and make sure you choose a quality sanitiser at a reasonable price. M ake sure you have dispensers at the entrance of your commercial premises, near areas where people may touch door handles or hand rails and anywhere else that people are likely to need to sanitise their hands.
Make Sure Your Staff Are Wearing Masks
Staff should be wearing masks at all times unless they have a medical exemption. This will make customers feel much more comfortable interacting with them from a distance. Staff not wearing masks could discourage customers from coming in and shopping with you. Provide each of your staff with a few reusable and washable masks. Then have disposable masks at hand in case someone’s mask breaks, in case they forget their mask, or in case of any other issues.
Make Sure Customers Wear Masks
You should also make sure that customers are wearing masks when they come in store. This will help to keep your staff safe and will make sure that other customers feel safe in store too. Again, unmasked shoppers in your store can put more vulnerable or safe customers from coming in to shop with you as well.
Implement Barriers Where Necessary
There may be areas where your staff have to be within two metres of your customers in order to process a sale or otherwise serve them. You may want to implement barriers in these areas, such as a clear barrier at till points to block coughs or sneezes either side – from customers or staff.
Running a Remote Business
If your staff can work from home, chances are you’ve got them working from home by now. Remote business is ideal for the pandemic, as staff can operate and complete their work from the comfort of their own homes, without having to come into contact with others. Not taking public transport, not being in touch with others in the office and other factors can reduce the spread of the virus and can also protect your staff and prevent outbreaks amongst your staff base. This means higher levels of productivity and lower levels of sick leave through isolation. Running a remote business means making some changes too though. Here are some to implement.
Focus on Cyber Security
A main threat to your business right now is likely to be cyber criminals and hackers. Hacking attempts are on the rise, as cyber criminals are aware that businesses are more vulnerable than usual while they’re getting used to remote working situations. Cyber criminals will happily take advantage of any vulnerability your business might show. You need to make sure that your staff are fully aware of how to safely work with files and information outside of the workplace. Otherwise, cyber criminals will take advantage and could cause all sorts of data breaches and other issues for your company. A good way to achieve this is to provide all of your staff with a thorough cyber security training. This could range from how to set up firewalls and VPN on any devices they’re using from home (rather than using their own internet connection) to being able to successfully identify phishing emails. You may also want to implement endpoint encryption to all of your files.
Keeping Team Spirit Alive
Working from home can see staff feeling isolated, lost or alone. You want to avoid this at all costs. Sure, creating a sense of team spirit can be difficult when everyone’s working from completely different places. But there are ways to achieve this. First, make sure that all staff can easily and effectively communicate with each other. This means setting up team meetings on video call software like Zoom. It means investing in instant messaging software like that available in Microsoft Teams. You might want to arrange some team building activities over video calls too. Doing all of these things will help your staff to stay connected, happy and productive at all times!
Running a business right now is going to be hard. But now isn’t the time to give up. If your business has hope, it’s worth pushing forward. Hopefully, some of the above advice will help you to keep your business generating profits throughout the pandemic and beyond. Give them a try and see how they go!