Naturally, everyone’s first concern when it comes to coronavirus is health and safety. But the unprecedented closures and cancellations prompted by COVID-19 have hit small businesses hard – particularly those who formerly provided services in person. If that describes your small business, your head is likely filled with questions. What to do? What not to do? Here are a handful of helpful dos and don’ts as we weather this global crisis together. Let’s start with a few things you can (and should) consider:
- Do be proactive It may be tempting to hide your head in the sand. Maybe you’re holding out hope that events scheduled in May or June will still make. Or you’re hoping to avoid even talking with your clients, fearing that they might cancel, or ask for money back. Don’t fall into this self-defeating trap. Instead, communicate early and often with your clients, while you have the benefit of time to react. In fact, it’s a good idea to contact them, instead of receiving a client call when you’re least ready for it. Be open and honest, acknowledging what you don’t know, or what’s unknowable. Another good idea? Seek to reframe the discussion – emphasize rescheduling, for example, not cancellation. Attempt to rebook clients now, while you have availability on your calendar.
- Do shift aspects of your business online Replace in-person interactions with video conferences, using online resources such as Zoom. (Zoom offers a free version – learn more here.) For added interaction and productivity during your Zoom conferences, get the Notability app ($8.99 in the App Store), which allows you to sketch and get client feedback in real time, using your iPad and Apple Pencil. Are you a photographer? Consider N-Vu, an online tool for photography professionals. When you pair N-Vu and Zoom, you can complete IPS sessions online. (There’s also a 14-day free trial.)
- Do make the most of 17hats This is a good time to focus on the way you do business. How can you adapt to this new reality? No surprise – 17hats can help. For instance: You may have little ones home from school during this time, which means you’re busier than ever. Save time by activating Online Scheduling if you haven’t. (Your clients choose a date and time for appointments, and you confirm later, at your convenience.) Or, how about this? You need to get paid (of course), but going to the bank is off the table for the time being. It’s time to set up Online Payments, using Square or Stripe as payment processors.
Next, let’s talk about missteps, and how to avoid them. Remember, everyone is stressed out and frustrated. People are looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Don’t let that person be you. With that in mind, here are a few don’ts:
- Don’t take advantage of the situation Let’s say that, contractually, your client is obligated to pay you a full 50 percent of your fee, because she has called you a day after a deadline has passed. What do you do? It may be far wiser, with future business and referrals in mind, to negotiate a lower cancellation fee that feels fair to both of you. Remember: Survive in the short term. Thrive in the long term.
- Don’t lash out It’s perfectly understandable: It may be your third difficult call of the day, and your client may be insisting on cancelling and/or getting a refund. Remember to breathe. It’s crucial to remain professional. Keep a focus on the long term. How can you turn this client into a raving fan and not a malcontent ex-client, who’s scorching you on social media?
- Don’t come off the wrong way COVID-19 is a serious matter, and it requires a candid, professional, and earnest response. Don’t blast out a “Coronavirus Sale” email, assuming your clients will find it funny or ironic. And don’t tell clients how to feel – a crisis like this can produce a range of emotions, and clients are entitled to all of them. You may have the best of intentions if you tell a client to “calm down,” but they may react badly at the suggestion.
One final don’t worth considering? Don’t panic. Somehow, someday, this too will pass. Americans are nothing if not resilient. And, when things get back to normal, millions of people will release their pent-up desire to spend. So do what you can to serve your clients well today, and you’ll be ready to benefit tenfold when that new day dawns!