From a business perspective, coronavirus has rendered the future almost impossible to predict. The plan was that shutdowns in March would be followed by a gradual relaxation of restrictions and the ramp up of businesses.
It hasn’t turned out that way. Government authorities in the United States have failed to curb the spread of the virus and, as of the writing of this article, there are more cases of COVID-19 reported than in the March and April. After beginning to open up their economies, a number of states, including such populous states as California, Texas, and Florida, have begun tightening up restrictions again.
The failure to contain the virus gives rise to significant uncertainty as to what the economic landscape will look like for the rest of 2020. How do businesses operate in such an uncertain landscape? Here is some advice we’d give our virtual assistant clients as they navigate these unpredictable economic waters.
1. Keep Your Virtual Fallback Plans at the Ready
Many businesses have had to innovate by going virtual, from yoga studios running classes on Zoom, to stores doing more business through their websites, to law firms working entirely virtually. Your business needs to be prepared to continue with what may have been contingency plans indefinitely into the future.
In some cases, this may simply mean continuing with what you were doing. In other cases, it may mean committing more resources to operating virtually. For example, if your website has become a more important sales platform than brick-and-mortar stores, you may want to shift resources toward marketing efforts that promote more web traffic. You may also want to explore partnering with E-tailers, rather than more traditional retailers.
2. Scale Up Cautiously
Hopefully, your business has picked up since the first quarter of the year. If you laid off workers, you may need extra help to service the influx of business. Proceeding cautiously is wise, given that further government restrictions may once again dampen growth. Consider utilizing outsourced staffing solutions, like virtual assistants, that allow you to handle the new business, without committing yourself to new employees on your payroll. If things go well, this may turn out to be a stopgap solution. However, if the recovery is rocky, you’ll be able to scale up and scale back as your business demands.
3. Keep Tracking the Government Response
Now more than ever, the government’s actions will have outsized impacts on your business. For example, despite the economic downturn, numerous works have decided to remain on unemployment rather than run the risk of returning to work and exposing themselves to COVID-19. Similarly, government aid programs for business, like the Paycheck Protection Program, have helped stabilize many businesses. In the face of a potential second wave, Congress is considering additional action, though no firm legislation is being considered as of the writing of this article. Nevertheless, keep an eye on programs that may help your business.
4. Communicate with Your Stakeholders
While many have bandied around the term “new normal,” the reality is that there is no normal, just a continuous wave of change. You need to keep the people who are important to your company abreast of that change. That means communicating to employees about how the company is doing, changes that are being made, and challenges that are being faced. It also means keeping clients informed about changes to how you do business or service offerings. It also means collecting data on these groups. Are formerly financially sound clients now struggling? Are key employees struggling with great demands at-home? Don’t let virtual work cut off communication. Continuous information of these players is more important than it ever was.
The COVID-19 epidemic has tested the adaptability of many businesses, both in terms of their revenue models and operations. As 2020 brings more surprises, businesses that demonstrate themselves to be both flexible and plugged in to changes in their environment will have an advantage on those that hunker down and stick to what they know.