He may be a technologist by trade, but Hari Ravichandran is a community leader who takes his responsibility to heart. The CEO and Founder of Jump Ventures made Forbes’ list of the most powerful CEOs 40 and Under two years in a row, has donated more than $250,000 to Artists for Peace and Justice, launched his own foundation in 2018, and has a lot to say about how business tactics and social responsibility blend during times of economic crisis. Check out his ways to keep your company afloat during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Inform Your Customers on How Your Company Is Ensuring Their Safety
Tell customers what you’re doing to protect your entire community from COVID-19. If your business isn’t essential, send a simple email stating you’re closed until further notice. However, if you’re still doing business, follow all guidelines related to washing and sanitizing hands, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing. Limit how many people work at a time and how many customers are in the store at once. Provide an email update if your policy changes, and post signs with clear expectations throughout the store.
2. Use Your Business to Help People in Need During Shelter-in-Place Orders
Do you run a restaurant, grocery store, or any other type of business that deals with food products? See if you can make meals for members of your community who might not have access to regular meals. Perhaps you can provide lunch or dinner for staff members at a local hospital. Maybe you know a lot about the needed technology for working from home. Consider offering a free crash course for people in the community who might not be as tech-savvy. Get creative. Libraries have virtual storytimes, bars are hosting online karaoke events, and local laundromats are providing free laundry services in some areas. Showing your community you care means you’ll be at the front of their mind when the time does come for businesses to re-open.
3. Determine if You Qualify for Government Resources
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering loans of up to $10 million for those who qualify and will offer forgiveness to businesses that maintain their payroll at normal salaries for at least eight weeks and use any other loan proceeds only for qualifying expenses. In addition, businesses with fewer than 500 employees and sole proprietors are now eligible to apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and may be able to defer payments for up to four years. Some companies may qualify for a $10,000 emergency grant if they did not qualify for the loan. Remember, filing dates for taxes were extended to July 15, 2020, and payments of $10 million or less are not due until then, either. Don’t forget to check state resources as well, as many have options for small businesses.
4. Get Creative With Your Products and Services
Just because you can’t do business as you normally would, doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all. You just need to get a little creative. Naturally, if you offer products and services that you can ship, the easiest way to keep selling is to create an online store and allow people to place orders (or, if you don’t want to risk feeling overwhelmed, let them email you their order directly). Do you typically offer a service, such as therapy, personal training, or dog training? Offer online sessions via video chat, complete with some sort of discount to entice your customers. Even the food service industry is getting creative. Some have worked in conjunction with food trucks to get their menu out to the community. Others are offering all the ingredients and a recipe for some of their favorite meals, available for pickup so you can make it at home. Even if you don’t have a way to sell your actual products or services right now, consider offering gift cards. Customers can buy them now and use them later.
5. Stay in Touch With Your Community
Don’t let your community forget that your business exists. Even the smallest of companies can amp up their reputation by actively keeping in touch with the community while everyone shelters in place. Use social media accounts not only to keep the public informed about business happenings but to give a little insight into your own life as you shelter in place. Maybe you have a dog who is your work-at-home coworker, or perhaps you and your kids put on a puppet show. Showing your human side to people during a crisis helps them to remember you and your business in a positive light. Answer comments and questions on your posts or in your direct messages as soon as possible to foster conversation and keep people engaged. Finally, join local Facebook groups that provide community aid or other resources during this time and watch out for ways that you can help.
It’s still too early to tell when COVID-19 will give the world a break but don’t give up on your business. Finding government aid and showing your community that you truly care for their needs will keep your company’s name memorable long after people are done sheltering in place and businesses have opened their doors.