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The COVID-19 crisis has created both health and financial challenges for many families and businesses. Unlike past economic downturns, the tumult occurred abruptly, bringing hardship to many industries simultaneously. 

For example, recent reports indicate 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed since the pandemic hit in March, while others have experienced significant cash flow challenges. It will take time to rebound, but with proper planning and support, you have opportunity to emerge with plans which will enable you to navigate challenges during these extraordinary times. 

Whatever your situation, the good news has been the realization that we are all in this together. Here are tips designed to help small business weather these current uncertain conditions:

Designate a procedure to work from alternate locations

If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that business continuity relies on having technology that workers can access anywhere. Even schools are finding ways to implement online solutions. Many companies that already had flexible or virtual work options in place were able to pick up seamlessly to perform critical work functions. 

If you found your team struggling to work remotely, now is the time to determine what support would make it smoother next time. 

Leverage technology and effectively integrate as part of your overall business operational plans while creating a process to protect against cyber security risks. 

Assess your current workforce numbers 

As a small business owner, you are either a solopreneur, or have selected your team members with care, and view each one as “essential.” Unfortunately, though, sometimes you have to make tough choices when business is down and your staffing needs diminish. 

If you decide you need a leaner team, there are a number of possibilities: you might cut hours or pay across the board, furlough staff, or in the worst case, lay off some staff completely. 

Each option comes with pros and cons for both the business and your employees. For example, a furlough is a temporary work stoppage that could allow employees to retain benefits. On the other hand, laying them off would open the door to collecting unemployment. 

Add goods or services that customers can still access 

Brick-and-mortar retailers and restaurants have taken the lead in making quick pivots to online marketplaces that allow them to continue selling goods. 

For example, if you primarily provide face-to-face consulting, arrange video sessions or create a library of tutorials that customers can access for a small fee. If you run a fitness studio, move your classes online in order to keep your brand top of mind and still deliver value to customers who are paying a monthly fee. 

Stay on top of tools and resources

Many organizations like the Michigan Small Business Development Center and others are offering webinars on programs and resources available to small businesses. 

Currently, the Small Business Administration is offering loans to many small businesses so they can continue their fundamental services and keep their workers employed. In many crises, small businesses need fast access to cash, so it’s never too early to talk to your banker about capital you may be able to tap in a crisis. 

And The LEE Group, which hosts an annual small business workshop during Small Business Week in May has shifted its programming online to June, with its first virtual session on June 17, followed by sessions June 24, July 15, 22 and 29. This year’s workshop is titled “Navigating the Headwinds of Crisis.” 

As we all navigate these uncertain times, employees, customers and the community are depending on small businesses more than ever. 

And remember, we’re all in this together. 

Mark S. Lee is president & CEO of The LEE Group. You can hear "In the Conference Room with Mark S. Lee" Sundays at 11 a.m. on 910AM. David Girodat is regional president of Fifth Third Bank, Eastern Michigan.

Views expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Fifth Third Bank.This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. 

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