As a small business owner, you're probably wondering what you can do to make sure your business survives through this pandemic. There are a lot of downsides here, and for most businesses, it's going to be hardest period of time they will have to endure. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to increase the chances of making it out of this with little damage to your business.
1. Modify your cancellation policy
Depending on your profession, your clients may want to cancel any events that they have booked with you. For example, if you're a photographer and you had a wedding shoot planned for May, your clients are probably going to cancel and will ask for a refund on any downpayment they gave you. Even if your cancellation policy doesn't allow for refunds on the downpayment, it's in your best interest to offer that refund.
This might be a controversial point and it may differ from business to business, but working with your client and caring for their safety will create a strong, lasting relationship with that client. Standing your ground and not honoring a refund will surely ruin any relationship you had with that client or worse, a bad review on Yelp, Google, Thumbtack, or others. If it won't financially ruin you, offer the refund.
2. Take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP)
There is currently a lot of confusion around PPP, but with a little bit of research, you'll be able to get a loan to get through these tough time and pay your employees, if you have any. The .gov site (linked above) is informative, but you essentially just want to go to your bank's website and read about their process with accepting PPP applications.
For most banks, you just need to fill out a form and email it to them. Take a look at Banner Bank's PPP page as an example.
3. Make money online
Some small businesses are already 100% online and they may not be affect much by COVID-19. Others, though, will be struggling through these times. If you are an event planner, for example, COVID-19 is going to affect you must worse than it would a graphic designer. Because of this, you may want to consider finding a way to make money online.
4. Offer discounts
Depending your business, you may still be able to operation but at a lower capacity. If this is you, you may want to consider offering discounts for your product. This will lower the purchasing threshold for potential customers. You should also consider that certain people want what you're offering, but they're either out of a job or aren't making as much money as they used to. So, lowering your regular price will put those customers over the edge and they will decide to buy.
5. If you must do layoffs, do it once, and do it big
There is a great article that I recently read on doing layoffs. It explains a very important point: If you must do a layoff, don't do the minimum, but rather a bit more than you think you need. If you don't let enough people go and a few weeks or months from now you're running out of money, doing another layoff is going to be terrible on employee morale. In short: plan your layoff, over-estimate your spendings, be sincere and sympathetic at your 1-on-1 conversations, and notify the rest of the team when all layoffs are done.
Doing layoffs is perhaps the hardest thing a business owner will have to do. Sometimes, though, it's necessary, otherwise the business will go bankrupt. If you must do a layoff, don't take it lightly: read up on it, study it, and make sure you do everything you can to make it as painless as possible for your employees. If you do it wrong, you're potentially looking at destroying employee morale, bad press, or even legal issues.