Napoleon Hill, author of multiple books, including Think and Grow Rich and The Master Key to Riches, once said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” Though it can be hard for some of us to consider a benefit or opportunity right now, in the midst of the heartache being wrought by this pandemic, we should still be hopeful that one will emerge at some point.

In the basic approach to a disaster framework there are four basic phases of a disaster event with actions to take within each. Those four phases fall within this order: Prevent, Prepare, Respond and Recover. As a country, we have passed the prevention phase and have essentially transitioned from the preparedness phase to more of the response phase. Some of the actions to take during the preparedness phase are no longer feasible at this point. Now a business (and individual) must be moving into a response mode.

The current COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges for every business and every individual, creating a new reality for all of us. In the meantime, though, it also provides an opportunity for creative solutions to maximize customer and employee service and value and ways in which each of us can individually be of service to others. In this time of uncertainty and loss for many, how can business owners and consumers best move forward in this new reality? Here are a few thoughts…

For a business, this can be a time to build your relationship with your customers and employees on a deeper level. What actions can you take now to communicate the care and concern you have for your customers and employees? How can you exceed your customers’ and employees’ expectations during this time of loss and uncertainty? Concern for your customers and employees should be a priority and could be demonstrated as simply as through the actions you are taking to clean and sanitize the environment where the customer will be transacting business and where the employee is working. Some additional thoughts…

• Ensure you have adequate cleaning supplies, including the appropriate approved hand sanitizer, available to all customers and employees.
• Place a notice on your front door that communicates the steps you are taking to provide for customer and employee safety as well as on your website and social media platforms.
• Make the decision to forego normal business operations, even to the detriment of sales, in order to protect both your customers and your employees from exposure to COVID-19.
• Provide alternate access to products and services, as able, to satisfy the customer needs. This may include shopping, purchase and delivery options not available previously through online platforms.
• Develop creative ways to communicate with your customers and employees, possibly through online platforms, video or phone. Challenge yourself to innovate.
• Communicate consistently with your customers and employees any updates available to your operations. Give them a heads up, as possible, on changes coming.
• Think through how you, the business owner, can plan for the concern your employees have over their jobs and the potential loss/decrease of their paychecks?
• Be as transparent as possible and provide for their needs to the best of your ability.
• On the financial side, businesses need to be planning for shortfalls in cash flow in the coming weeks. Talk with your banker and/or credit union now, before the cash shortfall happens as to what cash availability can you access to get you through this period?
• Talk with your suppliers to explore flexible payment terms for orders.
• Seek additional suppliers for products/services in case a vendor is unable to satisfy their commitment of delivery of products or services.

As a consumer and member of the community, consider how you can best support the businesses in your town. The small business owners feel the loss of revenue very acutely right now. These business owners are our neighbors and friends. How can we best support them by accessing the products and services they provide in this era of COVID-19? What are your thoughts?

All the best to you and be safe as possible in the coming days…

Mark Lupo, MBCP, SMP