Life for Small businesses in Post Covid-19
By Dr. Njideka Kelley
The Coronavirus has caused significant strain for small businesses despite the fact that USA government has attempted to relieve small businesses through the pandemic relief funding administered by the SBA and known as the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP).
This relief effort failed to minimize the hardship faced by small businesses as many did not receive this relief fund. This was largely due to unclear guidelines about who qualifies or not. As it occurred, big businesses went ahead to apply and were funded in no time at all while the small businesses who really need it were left out in the cold. Luckily, the government replenished the fund and the SBA will hopefully attend to small businesses in this round.
But, to my dismay, lack of information on guidelines, criteria and qualification remains unclear. Several small business owners are yet to apply as they do not know where to go for help and their banks are not making it easy.
There is disparity in the way information is disseminated which shows that more intervention especially education is needed for small business owners. Ultimately, these small businesses need more than aid, they need education intervention too.
Should Small Businesses stay alive in post Covid-19, there are several other challenges that they will face. Can they really mitigate these challenges in a way that enables them to continue thriving? One of the challenges that they will face is how to relate and connect to their workers and customers effectively. This would cause an Emotional response and I refer to this the Emotional side of post -Covid 19.
During this Emotional stage, Small Business owners will have to act as mentors and counselors for their employees as well their customers.
What do I mean?
The Emotional side of Post COVID-19 will play out where Employers literally will have to hold their employees hands. The truth is that many of the people I talked to who are employees of several companies are afraid to return to work. So, with cities across America slowly easing the lockdown rules, Small Businesses though eager to reopen, are not quite ready.
What is the first thing employers have to do to encourage employees to return?
Employers must first have what I call a “Virtual reassurance” meeting with their Employees. In this meeting, they have to reassure the Employees that the office is clean and clear of any dangers associated with Covid-19.
They must be transparent with Employees on how they will disinfect the work areas. If the business is a corner store, or take-out food store, for example, they will have to install a screen barrier to separate workers from clients.
They will communicate clearly on whether Employees will be provided with reusable face masks and hand sanitizers?
They will inform the Employer about free testing offers?
If an Employee ends up contracting the virus , will the Employees’ health insurance coverage be responsible for all Medicals?
If Employee has no personal transportation and afraid to use public transportation, will they cover the cost of an Uber?
For the customer
The small business owner must also assure customers that the business is safe for them to return but how will he do that ?.
Employer must engage in advertising even the cheapest form in order to assure customers that they are compliant in utilizing vigorous cleaning techniques.
They must go as far as stating how many times they will wipe down the tables, floor, door handles etc.
Additionally, they must post signs informing clients they must wear masks and maintain social distancing of six (6) feet apart.
They should also post an Employee at the door to apply hand sanitizers to clients before they can come in.
Changing entrance doors to function electronically will be a wise option but one that might be exorbitant.
The bathroom doors may also be changed to swing in and out.
These are all safety measures that is bound to give customers comfort to patronize the small business and also give the Employee confidence to return to work.
This pandemic has been unkind to countries worldwide. In the USA, it seems like the government was unprepared for the consequences. For the small business community to survive post -Covid, the government will have to do more to boost the confidence and trust of the small business community and help them to come back stronger. Unfortunately, Small Businesses may not be able to meet these measures without government relief. The PPP could have mitigated these conditions.
Dr. Njideka Kelley
New Generation consulting resources and solutions LLC.
Email: [email protected]