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Explainer: how to keep your business running during a pandemic

Thursday May 7 2020

Here are some tips that businesses could employ during this pandemic to make life easier.

Here are some tips that businesses could employ during this pandemic to make life easier. PHOTO | FILE | AFP 

SARAH NANJALA
By SARAH NANJALA
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More than 50 days after the first case of coronavirus was announced in the country, businesses are struggling to find continuity and at the same time adhere to new regulations from the Ministry of Health.

Businesses that require a personal touch and human presence such as restaurants, night clubs, salons and barbershops have been affected the most.

However, with the government now allowing restaurants to open for business, it is important for entrepreneurs to have a strategy in place both for their employees and customers.

Here are some tips that businesses could employ during this pandemic to make life easier.

UTILISE THE POWER OF THE INTERNET

Now more than ever, businesses should embrace the use of internet and technology for their operations. Restaurants should set up online delivery channels for their products if they don't already have this.

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Other service-oriented businesses could set up a booking system for their customers.

Several supermarkets have partnered with various delivery mobile applications that allow customers to shop from the comfort of their homes.

This is also the perfect time for businesses to make their online portfolios by marking their presence on the internet, especially on various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Not only is this necessary during the pandemic, but it will also continue to yield dividends for your business in future.

COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS

Businesses should take this time to consistently remain in touch with their clients to foster trust as well as offer reassurance of the quality, safety and continuity of their services.

As most people are working home, the internet, including social media, has become a vital source of information for many.

Businesses can set up their profiles on platforms such as Google My Business which allows customers to know if the business is still operational, including if customers can access in-store shopping or delivery services.

Businesses can list their hours of business as well as pass along important information like what safety precautions the business is taking, updates on what products and services are available, and whether customers can expect delays.

COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR SUPPLIERS

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the economy in a significant way and as a result, many businesses including suppliers have been adversely affected. With that in mind, it is important that business entities have robust and frequent communication with their suppliers.

This will allow companies to plan stock inflow and outflow depending on customer needs as well as be on the same page with suppliers on how much they can supply and if there will be any financial challenges along the way.

REVIEW OPERATIONAL RISKS

With the pandemic, risk factors for businesses have completely changed and this calls for a change in tack.

Even if a business entity had an existing risk assessment, it may no longer be suitable in the current situation. As a result, it is important that businesses which are currently operational to assess all their operational aspects and create a checklist to ensure that both employees and customers are safe.

Businesses can do this by providing handwashing facilities, enforcing social distancing measures at their premises, conducting temperature checks for employees and customers and limiting the number of people.

In addition, business entities will need to be more flexible and willing to change the way they operate, including being open to offer delivery services as well as change their hours of operation. Businesses also need to re-assess their financial risks and find possible solutions for them.

If need be, speak with your bank or other financial institutions regarding the extension of your loan repayment period. It could also be important to discuss new loan arrangements.

CONCERN FOR EMPLOYEES

The pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, this includes business owners and their employees. As a result, businesses need to show concern for their staff.
Although revenues for most businesses have plunged, it is important that business owners be considerate of the plight of their employees.

If the business has temporarily closed down, employers should consider making decisions that will not completely hurt the employee. For example, business owners, in the meantime, may choose to send their employees on leave or slash their salaries by a percentage instead of completely laying them off.

For entities that are still operational, employers should guarantee their employees' safety at work, including providing handwashing facilities, sanitiser and personal protective equipment such as facemasks and gloves.