Has the Coronavirus driven your small business to your home? If you’re able to set up your business from home instead of your offsite location, you’re in luck. Some businesses have no choice but to close. If you can continue serving your community, your small company will survive the COVID-19 crisis and even come out ahead.
To do that, you’ll need to maintain business continuity and high levels of productivity while practicing social distancing. That’s a tall order, but these tips will help.
How to Work From Home on Your Small Business: Our Top Tips
Know What Products or Services You Can Offer
Across the country, fears of the Coronavirus have led to the closing of many businesses. The federal government has issued guidelines on what’s considered essential, and many states are making their own rules. If your business can fit into one of these categories, you should be fine.
In general, the following types of business can continue operating:
- Restaurants and bars that offer delivery, drive-through and takeout services.
- Grocery stores including convenience stores, gas stations, pet supply stores and farmer’s markets.
- Pharmacies and legal or medical cannabis retailers.
- Transportation-related stores: Auto repair shops, mechanics and auto supply stores.
- Mail, shipping and delivery services of all kinds.
- Hospitals, clinics and veterinary clinics.
- Hardware stores.
- Internet, television and phone providers.
- Liquor stores.
- Charities including church-related nonprofits, shelters and food banks.
If you’re in a related business or you’re finding there’s still a demand for your product or service, you should be able to continue operating. To be on the safe side, check with your state government.
Maintain Social Distancing
You must decide how you’re going to deliver your product or service while keeping a safe distance. Many businesses are using curbside and delivery services to maintain business continuity and continue serving their customers.
If you sell products or food, will you send them by mail or local delivery service? Can you set up a curbside pickup service that lets customers pick them up at your store? You could still operate your business from home but do the delivery and pickup from your retail store.
Will you need employees to help you package, deliver and distribute products? If you’ve established good team cohesion with them, they’ll be happy to help.
If your business involves counseling, will you use Skype or email in place of face-to-face contact? If you specialize in plumbing or home repairs, will you take special steps to avoid possible infection when you interact with customers?
Your customers will appreciate your efforts to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Think Creatively About How to Serve Your Community
Take a look at how other small companies in your area are staying in business.
Certain veterinarian offices are adapting current procedure, customers can bring their pets to the parking lot and call for a technician to pick the pet up for treatment. Some vape stores, whose customers don’t want to wait for delivery, are letting customers pay online for their products and then pick them up at designated times. Restaurants that don’t normally deliver are now offering free delivery of food, wine and cocktails.
Those are ways to maintain social distancing while continuing to provide customers with the services they need and want.
How will you keep yourself and your customers safe? You need to be precise. Your customers will be grateful to know they can still count on you. In the midst of a crisis, people take comfort in what’s familiar. Use that to your advantage.
Make Payment Arrangements
Determine what type of payment arrangements you want with your customers. Will you accept online payments only, credit card only, cash only or some mix of them? You should try to stay with the payment forms your customers are accustomed to using.
If you’ve never taken online or credit card payments, it’s easy to set up a processing system through companies like PayPal, Square, Dharma and Shopify. These processors all specialize in making payment processing fast and easy for small businesses.
Make Sure Your Customers Can Find You
If you’ve moved your operations to your home, make sure your customers can find you. Many businesses are closing, so it’s important to let them know you’re still around and available.
Start with a physical sign on your building’s door. Make sure it’s big enough to see from the street. You want to catch your customers’ attention. If they see a little sign on the door that’s too small to read, they’ll just assume you’re closed and walk away.
Follow up by posting announcements on all your social media sites. Write a Facebook post. Send out a Twitter. Use your customer email list. When you send an email, make sure the subject header spells out that you’re operating. It should say something along the lines of “Here’s How We’re Serving You During the COVID-19 Crisis.” In the email, give the full details of what you’re offering, your operating hours and how your customers can reach you.
Set Up Your Home Office
If you’re going to stay productive, you need a home office that’s separate from the rest of your house. Set aside one area that can serve as your workspace. It could be a table, a desk or a kitchen counter, but make sure you use it consistently.
Your basic home setup should include:
- A spot where you can write, use your computer and answer your phone.
- A file cabinet or file box to stash papers when you’re not working.
- Some type of calendar or day planner.
Those are just the basics. Depending on the type of business you have, you may also need:
- Remote access capability
- Storage space for your inventory.
- A space for packaging and shipping.
- Dedicated space for customer pickups.
- Car and driver available for deliveries.
- Cash register or other payment area.
- Shopping and delivery bags.
- Working room for one or more of your employees.
Stay Out of Each Other’s Way
During the pandemic, it’s likely you may have your kids at home and a spouse or housemate who’s also staying home. How do you stay out of each other’s way?
It might be tricky, but these tips should help:
- Make it clear which area you’re using for your business.
- Don’t talk about or criticize your different approaches to working from home.
- Close off the area or cover it when your work day is done.
- Have a set schedule of work hours and break times.
- Don’t let your business take over the whole house.
Hire a Good Team
Don’t rely on yourself to do everything. Spend your time and energy focused on the parts of your business you’re best at and enjoy. Let other people manage the things you hate doing.
You can’t handle it all, and you shouldn’t have to. You can hire people by the day or the project. Let someone else do your taxes, write your customer emails, design your brochures or build your website.
It’s possible to hire virtual help for every aspect of your business, and this is a great time to do it. You’re going to be home anyway, things may be slow and you want to be in the best position possible when the pandemic crisis ends.
Maintain Your Vision
Your focus on staying open and your anxiety about the future may have left you too stressed out to even think about the future of your small business.
Don’t let worry knock you off your stride. When you can, gather your thoughts and spend time thinking about your overall goals and future plans. Think about how you’d like to expand and what you need to grow your business. Don’t lose touch with the vision that first inspired you to go into business for yourself.
Organize Your Documents
Organization will be more important than ever when your move your business home. If you’re used to having your paperwork, inventory and important information at your store or your office, you may get frustrated when you don’t know where anything is.
Make a list of the items you need to continue operating while you work from home:
- Customer files.
- Supplier contact information.
- Licenses and certificates.
- Passwords to online accounts.
- Bank, accounting and tax documents.
- Inventory of products.
- Contact information for any employees who are still working with you.
If it’s too much to fit into your house, just leave it at your store or office and drive back and forth. You could also consider renting a nearby storage space.
Try to Stay Positive
With the right setup and mindset, you can maintain business continuity and productivity. If you can get your business through this crisis, you’ll be in great shape when things get back to normal. Your customers will remember that you were there for them. These are tough times, but you and your community can get through them together.
IntoClicks is still here for your small business – we’ll get you prepared to hit the ground running once this is all over. Contact us today to learn how we can help!