In today’s changing environment and the uncertainty that surrounds us in regards to COVID-19, it’s important not only to keep you and your family safe but your business as well.
As eCommerce entrepreneurs, we work hard day in and day out to grow our business, take care of our customers, and meet the needs and expectations of our employees.
Never before have we seen the unprecedented actions that are being taken by businesses of all sizes. Restaurants around the country are quickly switching their model to one of takeout and delivery – many of which never offered either of those options before. Bricks and mortar retail locations are either closing completely or forced to limit operating hours.
Time and time again, eCommerce has proven to be resilient and with each passing year, online sales continue to grow at record numbers. From the dot-com bust through one of the toughest economic times in recent memory, eCommerce has survived despite the numerous challenges.
What lies ahead for eCommerce merchants is still uncertain. However, like any other type of business, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place in the event circumstances surrounding COVID-19 lead to supply chain and logistical interruptions, mandated reductions in operating hours, or a complete shutdown.
While none of us have seen anything in our lives like we are seeing today, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan in place in the event of a major disruption in business.
First and foremost, communication is key. Keeping your customers, vendors, and employees updated with what’s going on with your business today, as well as any possible changes in the future, will help alleviate some of the uncertainty.
- Appoint a point person, or persons, who will be responsible for all company communications.
- Make all communications clear, concise, and thorough.
- Make a list of all key employees and what their roles and responsibilities are in the event of a company emergency.
- Have all employees update their contact information.
- Host an all-hands meeting with your staff to address current and potential issues and allow them the opportunity to ask questions.
- Communicate regularly with your employees, customers, and vendors.
Create a Plan
Having a plan in place before an emergency arises will make things easier should it need to be put into place. When acting on it, act swiftly yet methodically.
- Identify all systems that can be impacted by an interruption. If substitute and backup systems are available, make sure they are operational and ready to be used.
- Identify all processes that can be impacted by an interruption. Adjust processes so they can be fulfilled outside of your normal place of business.
- Identify all systems and processes that can be used outside of your normal place of business and those that cannot. For those that cannot, identify whether or not there is an alternative.
- Identify where your business will operate in the event your normal place of business is inaccessible.
- Identify employees and roles that can work from home or another remote location.
In the event that your business is forced to shut down on a temporary basis, be prepared to:
- Identify inventory that is perishable and create a plan for early disposition or disposal.
- Secure inventory, facilities, and computer systems.
- Appoint a person, or persons, to visit your place of business (if allowed by authorities) to conduct a security check.
- Identify all who will need to be notified of your shut down, in addition to customers, employees, and vendors.
- Create an ordered list of things that need to be done to facilitate a shutdown and who is responsible for each. (Example: cancel all pending purchase orders, arrange for orders that can be fulfilled to be fulfilled and those that can’t make sure they’re canceled and refunded.)
- If operating from a secondary location, identify that location and make sure all who need to know are aware.
- Identify how individual roles will change during a shutdown and communicate that clearly with your employees – including whether or not they will continue to receive pay and benefits.
- Provide resources and support for those employees whose roles will be negatively impacted by a shutdown including help with finding temporary financial support and/or employment.
These points are just a few of many things to consider when putting a contingency plan together for your business. With each business being unique and having its own individual set of circumstances, these are the basics that should be considered at a minimum.
All of us at Your Store Wizards are here to support you in whatever way we can during these difficult times. As a company, our team members work remotely from locations in California, Wisconsin, Florida, and the Caribbean and we are not anticipating any interruption in our operation.
Best wishes and stay healthy!
General Manager, YSW