How To Ensure Your Business Opens and Stays Open Take these steps to maintain continuity during this crisis and future emergencies.

By Chris Porteous

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Mixmike | Getty Images

The continued spread of COVID-19 has frustrated many business owners and investors by preventing them from selling to customers as they normally would. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly clear that social distancing measures aren't likely to abate anytime soon, particularly since a lackluster government response has exacerbated the virus-related issues. Business owners everywhere are therefore being compelled to ensure the continuity of their commercial enterprise during the lockdown, but this is easier said than done.

Ensuring your business remains open is going to be difficult, but not impossible. From focusing on the health and hygiene of your operation to pivoting to digital mediums, here's how to ensure business continuity during the coronavirus lockdown.

Are you essential?

If you're an essential business that society desperately needs to remain open, there's a good chance you'll be able to ensure the continuity of your business during this lockdown, even if it's created serious challenges to how you would normally operate. Even non-essential businesses can survive this difficult period if they play their cards right, though that will involve special challenges that essential businesses and their owners need not worry about. The first thing you should be focusing on is the health and hygiene of your workplace, as customers and workers alike will shun your business until they're confident it's taking this crisis seriously.

Related: COVID-19: How to ensure Business Continuity and Manage Risks?

How do business owners ensure the health and sanitary nature of their operations, anyway? For the most part, they've been personally investing themselves into reconfiguring their workspaces; if you deal with customers on a face-to-face basis, you'll likely need to install glass or plastic sheets to block the transmission of the virus from person to person. If you're feeling totally out of your depth when it comes to ensuring the hygiene of your workforce, rest assured that official guidance has been provided to help entrepreneurs through this difficult period.

Take some time to review the OSHA guidance on remaining safe and sanitary in the era of COVID-19, and your company will be able to ensure its resiliency to a much greater extent than it otherwise would. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, which means that providing high-quality masks to your workforce is of the utmost importance. Other protective equipment like gloves or work smocks can also be tremendously helpful. Providing ample soap and hand sanitizer to both workers and visiting customers will also help ensure your sanitary conditions while also convincing them that you're taking this crisis seriously.

Getting the message out

Ensuring the resiliency of your business during these trying times will entail more than investing in hand soap and hand sanitizer. You also need to be getting the message out, as there's no use dealing with COVID-19 if your workers and consumers aren't aware of your efforts. Brief workers on the OSHA standards for the personal protective equipment that you'll be issuing them, and ensure that your marketing materials also reflect the fact that your business is seriously responding to the coronavirus. Businesses that don't advertise their anti-COVID efforts will likely suffer from the fact that customers are too scared to purchase their products or services.

Be sure not to come off as patronizing in your advertisements; reminding people that these are difficult times is important, but don't oversell your message. Rely on your own common sense to determine whether or not your messaging is going too far, and know that hiring a marketing specialist can help drum up business during a down period.

Related: 5 Keys to Business Continuity

Advertising is tough in the best of times, and these days it's uniquely difficult. Many businesses that find themselves in financially perilous situations are eliminating their advertising budgets altogether. Truthfully, this is a serious mistake that could spell out the end of your company. Ensuring business continuity during lockdown entails familiarizing yourself with 6 tips for advertising that can be counted on during a public health emergency. The marketplace has seriously changed, but that's no reason to stop spreading the word about the superiority of your brand.

Besides getting the message out, you'll also need to make some changes to your workforce. Ensuring hygiene standards are maintained and that your advertising budget doesn't disappear are both important, but you can only truly ensure the continuity of your business with the help of excellent managers and dedicated workers who take some of the burden off your shoulders as the business owner.

Supercharging your workforce

The continuity of your business can't be maintained by your own efforts alone. You'll also need to count upon the tireless work of your managers and employees, many of whom may be facing serious personal issues during this era. Ensure that you're empathetic and caring about the people who make up the rank and file of your company, as no business owner should ensure the continuity of their brand at the expense of their workforce or overall product quality. Taking workplace hygiene seriously will yield immense results, as workers will be convinced that you actually care about their personal well being. Ignore investing in protective equipment and hygiene standards at your moral and legal peril; not to mention your bottom line.

Related: Advice to Start-ups on the Essence of Business Continuity

You should be hosting regular meetings with your managers and other senior officials to determine how they're coping with this crisis. They, in turn, should be regularly soliciting feedback from rank and file workers to ensure that no member of the company is being left behind during this pandemic. It may be difficult to think about project management during a time like this, but the truth of the matter is that sound leadership and clear directions from those at the top will be of the utmost importance in ensuring the continuity of your company.

Invest heavily in the mental health of your workers; wellness checks should be regularly conducted to ensure workers aren't suffering from burnout. Paid leave should be offered to the greatest extent that your company can afford it, as human wellbeing has to come first. Take steps to ensure that your remote workers aren't suffering from depression or other mental conditions that can take hold when normally social people are forced into social isolation. As the business owner, you should be tirelessly striving to let all of your workers know that you're here for them and that they're not alone. Fail to do this, and you won't have much of a company left over to salvage when this pandemic finally subsides.

Making the digital pivot

Finally, virtually all companies will have to make the pivot toward digital mediums if they want to escape this crisis with their profitability intact. Pivoting to delivery or in-store pickup is one thing, but most businesses will fail to do this successfully unless they have great websites or stellar social media pages that users are already familiar with. For countless companies, this means seriously investing in their digital operations for what is perhaps the first time ever.

Facebook is the world's leading social media platform, so it has become hugely influential in the marketplace for obvious reasons. Many entrepreneurs, nevertheless, ignore Facebook and other social media platforms because they're personally unfamiliar with them or averse to technology and social media. This is a terrible mistake, as most consumers spend huge sums of their time on these platforms. Additionally, companies like Facebook have offered immensely helpful digital guidance on the creation or expansion of your commercial web presence during this pandemic.

Follow that advice carefully, and your business continuity will be maintained by tapping into the robust commercial power of the modern internet.

Wavy Line
Chris Porteous

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

High Performance Growth Marketer

Chris Porteous is CEO of SearchEye, which offers unbundled digital marketing projects for clients and agencies across the globe.

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