The COVID-19 outbreak has led to a challenging time for small businesses. The current climate of economic uncertainty may leave small business owners unsure of where to go for support. Above all, an individual’s health should be prioritized: we should continue to practice social distancing, disinfect surfaces, wash hands and continually follow government guidance. The NYS Health Department has guidelines on what precautions to take to protect one’s health. For business-related guidance, Empire State Development and LISC are great sites for an overview of how the outbreak may impact a small business and what steps can be taken to alleviate the impact. These sites are also home to a rich source of resources for small businesses, some of which are summarized below. View reopening information here: https://forward.ny.gov/ as well as the Reopening Safety Plan template https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYS_BusinessReopeningSafetyPlanTemplate.pdf
Changing Business Methods
Small businesses are encouraged to change the way they conduct business to encourage social distancing and minimize any negative influence the virus may have. To increase revenue, businesses can enhance or create an e-commerce platform. Additionally, employees can engage in virtual store walkthroughs by video calling with customers. When possible, businesses can start offering pickup or delivery services. There’s also an opportunity to increase revenue by offering gift cards (Get Timely offers e-gift certificates for no fee). Businesses can seek to reduce costs by decreasing inventory. If supply costs have been increased as a result of the outbreak, businesses can look for alternative suppliers. Whizbang Training has a very informative guide on what various disruptions may occur and how to deal with them.
The total financial impact that COVID-19 will have on businesses is still uncertain. The Impact Calculator gives firms an opportunity to estimate how the virus may affect a business. In addition, the site generates a set customized resources based on the individual needs of the business. No matter what impact, large or small, it has on a business it is important to understand what resources are available to alleviate any financial hardships. Business interruption insurance could possibly cover losses, but it depends on the specific policy. For those seeking unemployment information, for themselves or their employees, refer to the Labor Department Website. Businesses should reach out to their banks or other lending institutions to see if they have loan opportunities or refinancing options on past loans. There are also opportunities to get loans through the Small Business Administration.
The Western New York community has several forums for businesses to update the public on their operating status. Dining at a Distance and Give Buffalo allow restaurants to post their address, hours, and what services they are offering to the public. The Community Update Board by Step Out Buffalo is a place for businesses to post about their current deals, service updates and general news.
As in all difficult times, community connection is critical. Businesses should ensure customers are informed of what services are still being offered, if any. Business owners should actively communicate with their employees and update them on any changes. For businesses that are a part of a commercial community, they should keep active online and reach out to other business owners for support. Also, it is important to check in with local officials to make sure concerns are being heard.
Additional Helpful Organizations and Resources