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Driving Through The Fog Of COVID-19: Ten Tips for Maintaining Your Business Through Economic Adversity And The Unknown

From managing your employees and engaging your customers, to keeping business partners informed, here’s how your brand can stay on track amid COVID-19 disruptions.

Meredith Cunningham Published: March 18, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely disrupted your day-to-day operations in one manner or another.  Factors both known and unknown can leave you looking for which direction to turn.  These simple tips will help your business stay on track and focused during the uncertainty.

The swift emergence of the coronavirus has left business leaders feeling as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Adapting business models to lead quarantined workforces, maintaining confidence with consumers, and preparing for the unknown, is a juggling act no one would ask for.  

With so many competing priorities, where is the right place to start? Below are some simple tips to help you stay laserfocused during this difficult time.  

1. Create an actionable short-term plan  

Developing a plan to adapt to the implications of the coronavirus seems like an insurmountable task. Focus on what’s important now. Start small and evaluate your most pressing actionitems. Empower your staff to contribute to your shared success by delegating. Map out the next week and stay on top of the latest updates.  

2. Understand the long term 

Once the short term is relatively under control, focus on the long term. While it’s hard to predict what any business will face in the months ahead, we do know re-forecasting financials and inventory, renegotiating partnerships and evaluating staffing plans, can help give your business solid footing for the future.  

3. Focus on the health and safety of your employees 

Whether you operate a business of 5 employees or 500, prioritizing the health and the well-being of your staff is critical. If your employees are still coming into your place of work, make sure you maintain a strong hygiene plan. Ensure you are providing and can get access to enough cleaning products and tools. Share best practices to prevent germs from spreading in your workspace and consider including mental health relievers throughout the day to minimize staff anxiety. These may include sharing breathing exercises, walks around the block and a few uplifting videos.  

4. Establish and maximize a remote work option (if applicable) 

If your employees are able to work remotely, create a clear plan outlining your expectations and establish team norms. Encourage employees to adopt healthy working-from-home habits including maintaining appropriate dress, working in an office or professional area of their home and minimizing distractions. And ensure your staff knows you have their back when distractions are hard to eliminate.  

5. Empower your employees with information 

Fear and panic grow can grow from a lack of information. Share clear updates with your staff on a regular basis. Inform them of decisions with honest and confident communication. Consider opening new communication avenues to address concerns, such as a morning check-in of what’s ahead or a nightly recap of the day’s progress.  

6. Develop a public-facing communication plan  

Communicate with clarity and purpose. Ensure your consumers can easily find basic updates from you: amended storefront hours, closings, new online features and so forth. You likely don’t know how long your business will be impacted, but letting consumers know how your business is changing and how it affects them will show consumers you’re focused on them and doing all you can to meet their needs for information. 

7. Audit your existing messages 

What messages do you currently have out in the marketplace? Are you still promoting events or sales that no longer apply? Review all your marketing – whether it’s store signage, your website, your social platforms – and make sure the messages you are sending are current, up to date and relevant. Be sensitive to those impacted by the situation at hand 

8. Plan for future messages  

Think about your future messaging through a social-good lens. Look at your brand values and explore how you can create and share messages that provide your audiences with positivity during a time of strain, accurate information in a time of confusion and so forth. When St. Patrick’s Day parades were canceled across the country, Guinness re-focused their efforts on “Don’t Worry. We’ll March Again,” a motivational and uplifting campaign. How can your brand spread an uplifting message to consumers? 

9. Identify how you can support your community 

Can your business lead a community movement? Your current and potential consumers will remember if you are able to go above and beyond for them in their time of need. What can you do to contribute to the greater good of your community? If not today, then in the future? Consider how you can make a difference after the coronavirus risk is minimized when people may need help with bill paying, finding new work, etc.  

10. Analyze the changing behavior of your consumer.

Are you able to “show up” for your consumers in a new way during their quarantine? How can your business reach those who are staying inside their homes for a much larger portion of their day? Consider that people are spending more time-consuming media, inside with their family and ordering services that are available for delivery. 

Last and most important: Take care of yourself. As a business leader, you have many stakeholders looking up to you – from employees to customers to business partners and more. Maintain your physical, emotional and mental strength through good self-care. 

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