COVID-19 coronavirus survival tips for small businesses

By Michelle van Schouwen

At this writing, we don’t know how widespread or how severe COVID-19 coronavirus will become as a health threat in the United States. But we’ve seen deaths and severe illness, tumult in financial markets, travel restrictions, and early consumer panic (just TRY to buy a face mask or, in some areas, hand sanitizer).

Following are a few commonsense measures you can take to protect your employees and business now and going forward.

For your and your employees’ health:

-Remind employees: Post and share information on good health practices in your office or facility to remind employees (CDC resources here). Practice social distancing, staying three feet from others and modeling consistent, smart health practices – just as you should during flu season.

Think digital. Conduct more internet meetings and fewer in-person ones – and stop shaking hands!

Be flexible. Let employees telecommute where possible. But if you must be in the same workplace, take the necessary precautions to minimize the risks of transmission such as social distancing, frequent sanitizing, and split working schedules to check the numbers present at the workplace at every given moment. It is also wise to ensure your staff undergo COVID 19 tests to guarantee the safety of everybody. Just like your customers and suppliers, nobody wants to get sick.

Sit tight. Avoid business travel as much as possible for now. (Your partners and customers may not mind this a bit! No one wants to get sick.)

Take a stand. Insist that employees not come to work when they or household members are ill. Consider paying employees for sick time during this potential epidemic, if you don’t already. It will be a smart investment in your business.

Clean up your act. Provide hand sanitizer throughout your facility, both for employees and customers. If you can’t buy a large container of it at an office supply or big-box store, make it from isopropyl alcohol and aloe vera gel. Provide tissues and no-touch wastebaskets for all.

For your business’ health:

Be creative. For example, if you have a restaurant or bar, and business is down, spread your tables out a bit more. Promote food delivery services. (More about coronavirus and the restaurant business here, at National Restaurant Association.)

Communicate. Two cases of COVID-19 have been “presumptively diagnosed” in our area, greater Tampa Bay, FL. I just received a “well said!” email from Sarasota’s Fogartyville Community Media & Arts Center/WSLR, a local event venue/community radio station, encouraging people to stay home when they or household members may be sick, but also announcing and promoting upcoming events, Further, the station encouraged people to tune in for updates on COVID-19 in our community. Keep in touch with your customers, and understand their concerns and needs. This knowledge will position you to address these concerns and needs.

-Leverage opportunities. Smart business owners know what few others admit: Even serious problems such as COVID-19 can be opportunities for some companies. Temp services providing substitute workers, delivery services allowing people to avoid being out and about, communication consultants, financial planners, webinar support services, and many others can help fellow businesses and consumers make do during the potential epidemic.

Negotiate and keep customers engaged. For example, you may experience supply chain disruptions. Work directly with your vendors to negotiate the best possible terms to get what you need when or before you need it. Plan ahead for potential future disruptions, looking at pre-ordering or alternate sources. Communicate any production or delivery slowdowns to your customers ahead of time. Better to under-promise and over-deliver. (See Harvard Business Review for more coronavirus-inspired supply chain advice.)

Economize. Twenty-seven percent of small businesses believe coronavirus will impact 2020 revenues. If your business is likely to take an economic hit from the COVID-19 outbreak, curb optional spending early and save cash for necessities. (Please see my earlier article on managing cash flow and creating profit.)

Learn. Get up-to-date information from reliable sources and try to separate truth from hype. Scientists and doctors without political agendas, and most state and community health services are good resources, but remember not to go with any one opinion on a topic without hearing other viewpoints. The COVID-19 situation is probably neither earth-stopping nor as simple as sniffles or ordinary flu. But, bottom line, it should be taken seriously. Check out the CDC website, Cleveland Clinic, World Health Organization, and accredited state and local health departments.

Think globally; act locally. Community spread of COVID-19 is starting to emerge. Your community may be immediately susceptible, or not so much. Immediate local susceptibility depends on other cases in the area and community members’ travel to and from affected areas. None of this is completely predictable, but you can use some common sense in making judgments. Check out Johns Hopkins Coronavirus dashboard for up-to-date case statistics, both for the U.S. and abroad.

Remember too, and always, that this situation, like other business challenges, will pass. Smart operations and planning will help assure your company is still operating – and hopefully doing well – on the other side.


Michelle van Schouwen enjoys an “Act 2” career as principal of Q5 Analytics, providing advocacy and communications for climate change mitigation and adaptation. See For 32 years, Michelle was president of van Schouwen Associates, LLC (vSA), a B2B marketing company. In 2017, van Schouwen Associates was acquired by Six-Point Creative Works, Inc. of Springfield, MA. Michelle is available for speaking engagements on topics including her new work on climate crisis mitigation and Florida coastal water issues. She speaks to business and student groups about marketing launches and entrepreneurship and works with start-ups to support their development.


  1. Amazing tips on how our Small business will survive in the midst of coronavirus pandemic. Keep on posting useful articles.

  2. Hey Michelle!! It is tough for small businesses to survive this pandemic. I hope this ends soon and we get back to our daily lives. These tips are very useful, thanks for sharing.

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