Running your small business during the pandemic

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus causing Covid-19 has gone up to 116 in South Africa.

On Sunday 15 March, President Ramaphosa announced a number of strict measures in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Social distancing and self-isolating are key aspects of the attempts to flatten the curve; however, these measures are having increasingly negative impacts on businesses both locally and globally.

The National Small Business Chamber has provided a number of strategies for brick-and-mortar businesses to stay relevant during this time:

  • Communicate openly with your customers and they will likely empathise during this time. Inform them of the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk within your business and the community at large
  • Offer alternatives to in-store visitations, such as online delivery or teleconferencing
  • If you do greet your customers in person, smile and wave, fist-bump, foot-tap or elbow-knock rather than shaking hands
  • When communicating about the Covid-19 virus make sure you get your facts from a reliable source. Don’t spread false news and add to the panic. Spreading fake news about the virus is now punishable by law in South Africa
  • Let customers know what you’re doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Send an email outlining the steps you have taken, or post signage in your stores. Offer your clients and staff hand sanitiser or disinfectant soap so that they can clean their hands as often as possible
  • Increase your social media presence. Customers are checking in much more frequently to get the latest updates on the virus, so it may be helpful to increase your posting frequency to ensure you are showing up in their newsfeeds. Make sure you are not forgotten
  • Offer online deals to remind customers that they can still shop for their favourite items on your website. It might even help to offer a coupon or discount to encourage online shopping, as most people are now staying at home
  • Service-based businesses like restaurants or salons may want to consider offering online sales of gift certificates. This will help maintain sales, while giving your customers something to look forward to
  • Minimise spending on items which are not critical for the operation of your business. It is time to cut down on the nice-to-haves and rather focus on the bare essentials. This will help to make your business run as efficiently as possible
  • Assist your customers through digital channels. Increase your customer service capabilities and ensure your customers can reach you, no matter where they are
  • Strategise with your team and create a contingency plan. Look critically at your business and make a business continuity plan. Use this time to think of innovative ways to get your product or service into the hands of your clients
  • Institute remote working, if possible, or some degree of flexi-time
  • Advise those who are showing the symptoms to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days
  • Consider how you will handle absenteeism and think about how you will communicate if people get sick. Try to be as understanding as possible and have a contingency plan in case you suddenly become short-staffed
  • Don’t panic!

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