How Entrepreneurs can Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Within the past couple of weeks, communities across the U.S. have taken swift and drastic action to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Schools have been closed, events canceled, and businesses have changed their day-to-day operations.
In times like these—where the stakes are high and everything is rapidly changing, it’s hard to know exactly what to do. That’s especially true for entrepreneurs, who have to manage their business and care for their employees as well as themselves, their families, and their communities.
With that in mind, here are four ways small business owners can stay informed, prepared, and ready to respond.
New stories are breaking every few hours and official recommendations are constantly developing. With so much information out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed … which can either lead to hours spent scrolling through the news, or tuning it out simply because it seems impossible to filter through everything.
Since it’s important to stay up to date, try putting together a roster of reliable resources you can use to stay on top of the latest news for yourself, your family, and your business—without necessarily spending a lot of time chasing down information.
Here are a handful of sites that might make worthwhile additions to your list.
Health organizations: The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have a suite of medical resources, regular updates on the coronavirus, and guidance for how businesses, schools, and other organizations can protect the health of their communities.
National business organizations: The US Chamber of Commerce is regularly sharing updates and resources focused on businesses and the economic impact of the coronavirus, while the Small Business Administration has resources including employer guidelines, information on their disaster loan program, and a directory of local business organizations.
State and county governments: Local health and business departments are working to take swift action and keep their communities informed as they respond to the coronavirus. Checking in with them can be a great way to understand what’s going on in your community and what services they are offering in response. You can typically find their websites through a quick search.
Look for resources that can help
The sweeping changes we’re seeing in response to the coronavirus are, inevitably, having massive social and economic impacts. With schools closed, events canceled, restaurants vacant, and many other businesses dealing with closures or reduced demand, many people are dealing with reduced income or economic uncertainty.
At this point, nearly everyone is significantly impacted in some way. As a result, we’re seeing government and community organizations come together and try to find new ways to support each other.
If you, or someone you know, is facing challenges as a result of the coronavirus, look for resources that might help. And if you’re not sure where to look, start by checking with your local newspaper or news outlet, or contacting your state or county government for advice.
Here’s a general overview of programs that are already available or in progress:
-Although most schools are closed, many of them are still offering meals to children who rely on school lunches.
-Food pantries are doing their best to adapt to the changing needs of communities.
-The federal government is working to pass response packages that offer economic support to families, communities, and businesses.
-The Small Business Administration is offering resources, including disaster loans, for small businesses.
-Many state and local governments are offering financial relief for small businesses, including tax deferments, grants, legal assistance, and loans.
It’s likely that more and more resources will become available as time goes by. These programs all exist to help businesses, families, and communities get through challenges and bounce back from them, so don’t hesitate to use them.
Find ways to adapt
There are a lot of businesses that are especially hard-hit by the coronavirus. Travel, restaurants, entertainment, events … the list goes on.
And although it would be ridiculous to suggest that all these businesses can mitigate their losses by smart planning and marketing, some are finding ways to cushion the damage a bit. For example, some restaurants are closing their tables but offering delivery or pickup instead. Retail shops are focusing on ecommerce efforts.
If you’re seeing a substantial drop in business, take some time to brainstorm. Talk to other entrepreneurs in your community (perhaps via a virtual meetup). Look for new needs and opportunities, and see if there’s a way your business can pivot or stretch to fill them.
Challenges and obstacles can lead to innovation and new opportunities, if you’re prepared to meet them.
Support your community
It’s a tough time right now. Although many groups are hit harder than others, practically everyone is feeling the strain one way or another.
That’s why, if you can, it’s more important than ever to volunteer, donate, and find other ways to support your local businesses and communities. Here are just a handful of ideas:
-If local restaurants sell gift cards, consider buying one (or a handful) to show your support. You can also look for small independent retailers who offer delivery or online sales instead of turning to bigger businesses.
-If you can, give blood. There’s currently a severe blood shortage, and the Red Cross has put together guidelines on donating blood during the coronavirus pandemic.
-Help neighbors who are especially vulnerable to the virus due to age or pre-existing health conditions.
-Find and support local nonprofits whose services are likely to be strained by the virus. The impact is potentially wider-reaching than you might think, but nonprofits that focus on food, healthcare, and housing are a great place to start.
It can be especially challenging to donate or volunteer when you’re feeling anxious or economically strained, but every little bit counts. One thing we do know about the pandemic is that working together, as a community, is critical—so keep looking for ways we can all support each other through this.
Chelsea Hoffer is a writer at Azlo, an online banking solution for entrepreneurs, where she gathers and shares knowledge about building successful businesses.