The COVID-19 epidemic is disrupting business in ways many of us have never experienced. Many small businesses are struggling. And all are feeling the pressure.

Faced with these unprecedented challenges, we’re seeing some businesses whose tenacity and creativity are helping them stay in operation and connected to their customers. So we wanted to share some approaches they’re using and some tips we’ve gleaned.

You may be able to adopt or adapt these to benefit your business – or even your non-profit.

1. Give customers as many opportunities as possible to support you.

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have made normal business operations impossible for many small businesses. Restaurants can’t welcome diners into their establishments. Yoga studios can’t host classes. Microbreweries have closed their tasting rooms.
Still, customers want to support these businesses. So, many are finding non-traditional ways to connect with customers and create income.

Here are some of the tactics we’ve seen working:

  • Yoga studios are signing people up for online classes and livestream events.
  • Restaurants are enhancing their menus with take-and-bake options.
  • Microbreweries are taking online orders for crowlers and growlers, and offering curbside delivery.

Many of these businesses are also finding additional revenue by placing their ancillary products and services front and center. Perhaps you can too.

  • Actively market T-shirts, cozies and other branded specialty items. You can easily add these to your online order forms and sell them with meals, etc.
  • Sell gift certificates. People are looking to support small businesses, and this gives them an easy way to do so.

Are there ideas here that you can adapt to use for your business? Can you offer online classes or create a twist on your usual offerings to make them more suited for customers who are isolating in their homes? Are there alternate distribution opportunities available for your business? Do you have ancillary inventory you can sell?

2. Protect yourselves, your employees and your customers.

Continuing to do business during a crisis such as this means placing the health and safety of your employees and customers first and foremost.

While restaurant to-go windows are still open, and curbside pickup and delivery are helping, be sure you’re doing what you can to deliver these services as safely as possible.

We’ve seen some of our local restaurants – as well as our customers – setting up online payment as part of their order forms. This eliminates any exchange of cash. It removes the need for employees to handle customer credit and debit cards. And it prevents customers from having to touch a POS screen when making a purchase.

If you’re already taking orders online, this can be an extra step that both adds safety and convenience, helping protect everyone.

3. Learn about upcoming small business loan programs.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act will provide nearly $350 billion to assist eligible small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of this, businesses can apply for federally guaranteed loans of up to 2.5 times the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs through its Paycheck Protection Program. These loans also include payment deferrals and loan forgiveness. Here’s a link to the Small Business Administration’s page on the Paycheck Protection Program and other loan resources.

Many businesses are already getting loans under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. You can learn about that program on the SBA’s website as well.

While you’re researching these, please be aware of phishing scams that may be trying to take advantage of small businesses during this crisis. Get your information from reliable sources, including the Small Business Association and your local bank.

4. Prepare now if you think you may participate in a loan program.

While details are still coming out about the Payment Protection Plan loans, they’ll likely be in high demand. So prepare now if you think you might apply for one.

You’ll want to gather these documents and have them accessible:

  • Your recent tax returns
  • Your quarterly IRs tax reports for 2019
  • Your payroll reports for a 12-month period up to most recent
  • 1099s for any 2019 staff or independent contractors that would’ve been employees
  • Health insurance premiums you’ve paid for yourself and your employees
  • Any retirement contributions you’ve paid for your staff or yourself

Visit your local bank’s website or talk to your local banker to find out more about applying for the payroll protection program.

5. Show your support of other small businesses.

We’re all in this together.

Let’s be sure to share ideas and information, so we can all do our best in the face of these challenges.

Ace E.

Ace E.

Ace is the Marketing Communications Manager for Cognito Forms. When not at the office, you can find him volunteering with the American Advertising Federation (and soon on stage with his band: the Cottontown Soul Society).