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Steps small businesses can take to help navigate COVID-19

SCORE has provided some things small business owners should consider. These are smart preparations to undertake at any time and particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Look at financials and cash flow. How long can you “make it through” in cases such as quarantine, lost wages, employee absenteeism (when you are paying for sick leave and not bringing in revenue). What do you need to bridge the gap? Plan on a 6-8 month drop in revenues. Map out cash flow and get a credit line approved. You don’t have to use it, but you’ll have it when you need it. Aggressively pursue accounts receivables.
  2. Slash overhead. If you’re worried about losing customers or employees due to sickness, school closures or possible quarantines, cut the things you don’t have to spend your money on.
  3. Communicate. Keep staff and customers informed and up to date on your operations. It’s important for businesses to keep in touch with customers to help maintain them through this incident. Let them know what steps you are taking to ensure a safe and clean establishment; what your open hours are and how to communicate with you; use email auto-reply with answers to frequently asked questions to help your customers get information quickly; offer alternative methods of goods deliveries (curbside service, at home delivery, drive through, etc.). Inform customers of your operating status and how to purchase products or services.
  4. Understand your insurance policy. What does your insurance cover? What doesn’t it cover? Business interruption insurance is insurance coverage that replaces business income lost in a disaster. Business interruption insurance is not sold as a separate policy but is either added to a property/casualty policy or included in a comprehensive package policy as an add-on or rider. If you don’t have business interruption insurance, it may be too late to help you in this emergency, but you should know what it is, how it works and how much it costs.
  5. Look at supply chains. Are they diversified or are you relying on one source for your products? Supply chain management is essential in any global pandemic. Travel, workforce absenteeism and financials will impact supply chains across the world. It’s important you have multiple providers of a resource that is the core of your business. Consider partnering with other businesses to share a vendor contract. That will make your order larger and a higher priority to the provider and may help to reduce costs.
  6. Develop an incident response plan. What do you have in place in case of a quarantine? Can your employees work from home? Can you sell online or deliver instead of staffing brick and mortar? What kind of technology can be implemented to reach your customers? What communication is currently in place to your contact your customers and employees? Identify essential functions and cross-train employees. Consider what programs or services could temporarily be shut down. Think about potential disruptions in supplies, services and transportation in the likelihood those organizations experience employee absenteeism. Identify alternative vendors, suppliers, etc. and how to reach them. Store information on your employees, vendors and clients in an online account (cloud) so it’s accessible from any device.
  7. Prepare for a disaster loan. Complete and assemble 2019 and prior year financial statements. Document and forecast the impacts of the situation. In the past, SBA disaster loans have required many forms, can be confusing and could take 3-6 weeks before receiving the money.
  8. Practice social distancing. Social distancing is a term applied to certain actions to stop or slow down the spread of a highly contagious disease. Here’s some action items you can implement quickly in your business:

– Encourage staying more than six feet apart.

– Do not high five, shake hands or have close physical contact.

– Wash your hands more frequently and use hand sanitizer..

– Clean and disinfect your work and customer areas more frequently.

  1. Check on health and welfare of employees regularly. They are your most valuable asset to move your product, interface with your customers and keep your business running. Make sure they have the proper supplies and equipment to perform their duties and to protect and maintain their health.
  2. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance and advice. Use the federal, state and local resources available to you, your family and employees. This may be advice on lending institutions, actual financial assistance, personal assistance or assistance with business processes or planning. Some of the resources are SBA.gov, SBTDC.org, SCORE.org, NC Department of Commerce Employment Security at 888-737-0259, Dare County Health and Human Services at www.darenc.com/departments/health-human-services/coronavirus.

SCORE provides a wide range of services to established and new business owners including mentoring, where entrepreneurs can access free, confidential business counseling locally or at more than 250 chapters or remotely via email, phone and video. For information and assistance from Outer Banks SCORE, call 252-256-9717 or 252-489-9202 or email marty.hamed@scorevolunteer.org.

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