Rising COVID-19 case counts. Travel restrictions. Quarantine. Reports on repeat that keep Vermont’s small business owners awake at night. And with the long winter months ahead, the increasing uncertainty about the future may seem daunting. But let’s pause here…and take a breath. The fact is that there are many things that are within our control, and VtSBDC’s advisors are here to help small business owners prepare and take actionable steps to help them navigate the upcoming season and beyond.
So, what can you do for yourself and for your business to stay strong, bolster resilience, and plan for recovery? Here are 10 tips for winter survival from VtSBDC’s Disaster Recovery Specialist and Area Advisor, Debra Boudrieau.
It’s more important than ever to pay attention to Governor Scott’s press conferences and frequent updates, visit Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s (ACCD) website for COVID guidelines, subscribe to the ACCD newsletter to hear and read the news that impacts your business. On the global level, be aware of what’s happening outside of our state as well. Be in the know so you can prepare and react!
Use verified, relevant information to develop your messaging for staff, customers, and vendors. Have a system to get in touch with your “constituents” at any time day or night. That includes updating your database for easy connection to your clients and customers. Keep the lines of communication open among your staff and customers: Are you feeling supported? Is our safety signage clear? For vendors: Where are your products coming from? Will there be delays or shortages? Keep the conversation going so you can be reactive and proactive. And having a virtual, centralized place for updates is key – think about every “in person” touch you’ve had in the past and determine how you can translate that into virtual communication. Does your website need an overhaul? Are your social media channels up to date and reaching your audiences? Let’s get creative!
Assessment and Response is the NEW business plan! From your financials, to neighboring businesses, to your business environment, it is critical that you are continuously assessing your situation. Did the Governor or CDC change guidelines? Are your financial reports up to date? Are you taking safety measures to make your staff and customers comfortable at your place of business? VtSBDC offers helpful assessment tools on the Recovery Roadmap, a resource that has helped hundreds of businesses with difficult decisions since last spring.
During your assessment, you may discover that you need to back up and update financial reports, like your P&L for instance. This is especially critical when it comes to applying for state and federal grants. Review your QuickBooks to ensure it is “healthy” and robust, and continue to work on the 13-week Cash Flow tool to protect your business.
It may sound impossible, but it is critical to save cash and build cash to the best of your ability. You will need cash reserves to get your business through these difficult months.
6. REACH OUT
Remember: you are not in this alone! This is the time to reach out to your support system for your business, and for your mental health. Your team might include your VtSBDC advisor, Mastermind groups, mentors, friends and family. Make sure to have your team in place to advise, guide and support!
7. BE SAFE
You’ve worked hard to establish and communicate safety protocols and your procedures may have helped you get through the last surge of COVID. This is no time to become complacent or to fold in reaction to pandemic fatigue. Stay strong to ensure the safety of your staff and customers. It would be devastating to have a COVID case traced to your business. Work with your team or an advisor to revitalize and reinstate your safety procedures and safety messages. As a business owner you can, and should, take a leadership role here.
8. CONNECT WITH YOUR INSURANCE AGENT
He or she should be your new best friend. Why? Because cyber security is now on the forefront of protecting your business. Plus, the pandemic is changing your insurance needs: Are airborne pathogens in your place of business covered by your plan? What about workers’ compensation if you have to shut down? Consider an insurance audit to figure out, “What can I do that I am not already doing?”
No one thinks clearly when in panic mode. Whether you need 15 minutes, a full day, or a few days in a row, stop to think and take care of yourself. Breathe, focus, give yourself a break. You will be surprised at how this simple exercise will reinvigorate you and help you move forward with greater clarity.
10. BE PATIENT
In addition to being patient with yourself, be mindful of the difficulties others are facing and how they may be reacting. That grouchy customer may have just lost his job, or learned that her mother passed away. We must be able to rely on others, and learn to deal with each other with patience, kindness and grace – in and out of the workplace.
Winter is on its way, but VtSBDC will never leave you out in the cold. We were there with you before, we’re here with you now, and we will be with you in the days ahead.
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