crisis managementSmall Business

First steps in crisis management for small business owners

For many business owners, dealing with a widespread community shutdown like this is brand and previously imagined new territory. I notice that many of the business challenges we face now are similar to what we faced after superstorm Sandy seven years ago. I dug into our past experience plus pulled from advice from our business partners to compile a few suggestions for immediate action.

1) Plan for a disrupted schedule: Many business owners report that ordinary tasks take longer now and that this unexpected impact is causing them stress. Even checking your email or catching up on the news is more time-consuming now. It seems that every company we’ve every crossed paths with is sending update emails. Sometimes important information is buried in the middle of these emails. I’ve noticed my own productivity has dropped significantly this past week even though I’ve always worked from a home office and have a standard and usually unremarkable daily work routine. For now, it makes sense to expect to accomplish less each day. This makes it more important than usual to prioritize and focus on critical tasks.
2) Connect with your mastermind team and business advisers: You have some significant decisions to make now. New information is unfolding daily. Employees want to know you’re taking their safety into account. Investors and partners want to know that you have a contingency plan in place. Identify people on your team to research each problem and build a proposal for moving forward.
3) Before sending employees home, make a plan: This should include an agreed-upon communication platform and documented remote work expectations. Make sure employees have all the tools they need to be successful and have resources at their disposal for IT-related troubles. I suggest any of the number of great YouTube training videos on common features of Zoom used in business meetings.
4) Focus on your financials: Keep investors or shareholders in the loop on future plans that may impact revenue. Investigate your business’s cash flow sources and create plans for alternative providers. An accountant may be able to help by completing a risk assessment on your books. A risk assessment performed by your accountant will help you better prepare for what’s ahead. We can’t emphasize enough how financial preparedness now will affect your business’ eventual outcome later. A big part of my work is helping businesses who are not financially prepared to endure this crisis. Small businesses in my home state of New Jersey may be eligible for SBA disaster loans to prevent closures and I know some businesses are already working on an application for crisis funding.1
5) Stop selling and start deepening personal connections: If much of your ordinary business communication focuses on selling then deliberately change your script. Ask how they are doing. Ask how you can help. Make notes. Expand your network. Don’t be afraid to discuss your concerns about your own business and what you are asking stakeholders to do next.

If any of this raises questions or you would just like to bounce your experience off another adviser, I am pleased to schedule time to talk through your crisis management concerns.


1 The Small Business Administration (SBA) has designated New Jersey as a Disaster State in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country. This designation allows businesses to apply for SBA Disaster Loans to help avoid closure of many of these businesses. For more details and a look at the application process, visit the SBA website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ or schedule a phone call with me to discuss your eligibility and strategy.

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