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Business steps to keep people safe and doors open Posted on January 20, 2022
When restrictions eased in October 2021, hopes were as high as the vaccination rates. We were ready to ‘learn to live with COVID’. Then Omicron ripped through families, communities and businesses, challenging safety, staff and supply. How can a small business owner compete with Omicron in order to protect staff and consumers, and continue to operate, let alone grow? The number one skill business owners need to have in 2022…juggling.
This is, and always will be, the most important thing.
If COVID hasn’t affected us directly, it is easy to forget the dangers. Under WHS law, businesses must assess and manage the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. This includes reporting any staff case of COVID and to comply with mandatory health orders. A safety plan template is available per industry via the NSW Government website.
If members of your team are required to isolate, they must be supported by their workplace to do so. This may mean having to close doors temporarily. Where you can, be ready to turn your e-commerce offering on and/or up. Continue to consider the need for remote business through 2022.
Some businesses are having the opposite problem, where they can’t attract skilled staff in the first place. It is important here to work closely with your accountant to structure your staffing in a sustainable way. Your people are your biggest business investment. A careful balance of upskilling staff and being able to afford to keep them on the books if the doors temporarily close is essential.
Staff are scared of getting sick and/or having insecure work. Good employers will create a culture of safety and belonging to something worthwhile, as well as security in an increasingly insecure world. Flexible working is the new normal and will save your business money on real estate and increased productivity. The key to its success though is to empower your team to make quick and agile decisions that are aligned with the strategic business direction.
The impact of staffing shortages on supply are alarming. Wherever possible, diversify your supply chain so you can spread out your risk. If one supplier goes down, do you have another you can rely on? This goes against many lean supply models, and it can be more expensive, but it is critical in a volatile environment.
Consumers, and humans in general, don’t love being told they can’t have something they want. If you can’t supply what they want, there is something you can do. Communicate! Soften the blow of bad news with something like: ‘I can’t supply you with that today, but I can do x, y or z until that is available’. Keep your consumers informed of your supply status. Remind them that they are valued and you are doing everything you can to meet their needs and that you wish it was simpler. Because you do wish that, right?
Consumer service seems to be a dying art. So many businesses shrug their shoulders and use COVID as an excuse not to deliver, and that is one sure way to lose consumers for life. Many consumers are being unreasonable in their demands, but they’re stressed too. Take it easy and default to overcommunication and absolute kindness. Your consumers will thank you, as will your bottom line.