I know 2020 has been a YEAR. Whew. Small business owners in every industry have been tested this year; financially, emotionally, and physically, this has not been a year for the faint of heart. I am so proud of all those business owners out there who, despite all these challenges, are still doing their very best so serve their clients and keep their businesses going. I know it hasn’t been easy.
As this year comes to a close, I think it’s so important to plan for some future “what-ifs”, especially regarding Covid-19. Winter is cold and flu season, we’ve seen a surge of new Covid cases and you need to begin preparing your business with an action plan of how to handle client questions, cancellations, reschedules, and anything else that may come your way in the year ahead. I’m here to help as much as I can which is why I’m breaking down some action steps below for how you can formulate an actionable plan for addressing Covid-19 issues for your business in the New Year.
1. How Do I Keep Up With My State’s COVID-19 Updates?
First off, in order to have a plan you need to keep up to date on what your state's rules and guidelines are for your business’s operations. Which means knowing where to look for this information. One of the best places to find your state’s guidelines is to go to yourstate.com/covid. Additionally your state governor’s website should also contain links to important Covid-19 information for business owners, and your county’s website should have a link right on the home page. It’s important to check BOTH state and county guidelines regarding Covid-19 to ensure you’re well aware of all the gov’t policies that may impact your small business.
Keep an eye on these websites and know when your state and/or county is announcing new guidelines, restrictions, or rules for business owners. State Governors will usually hold a publicly televised press conference for you to follow along in real time, as well as, publish the new updates in a document on their website.
Another good thing to keep in mind is joining some local groups for business owners in your state. Oftentimes other business owners will discuss what the updates are and how they apply to your specific industry which can be super helpful in moving forward to step number two.
2. Make A Plan
Make a plan for your clients. It doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect, in fact it's probably better that it’s not because things are going to come up and you’re going to have to adjust, but HAVE A PLAN.
Think through the most recent Covid-19 updates in your state and start being proactive with communicating with your clients. Think about what your policies will be regarding client cancellations and rescheduling. What safety measures will your business take to protect clients and your staff members? How can your clients get in touch with you to discuss any potential issues or concerns they have?
These are all incredibly important and you should have an answer as to how you will handle each one.
Also, make a plan for YOUR business. How are YOU going to handle losses in income? Do you have savings to hold you through at least three months of business expenses? Do you have alternative sources of income for your business (educational resources, moving to an online platform, etc.)? Have a plan for how your business will continue to thrive with taking a hit from cancellations or rescheduling clients. I know this isn’t the most fun to think about, but it’s important you do so you’re absolutely prepared for anything that may happen.
3. Put in Your Covid-19 Policy Into Your Contract
Once you have a plan for what you are going to do regarding Covid-19, you need to put those policies into action. The first way to do so is to add those policies into your contract. Having those policies in your contract is THE MOST IMPORTANT WAY to communicate those policies to your clients and have clauses that protect your business during the pandemic by setting clear expectations and guidelines for how you are addressing Covid-19 related issues.
If you’re nervous about creating policies and implementing them into your contract, don’t worry! We here at TLP have created some clauses to help you communicate those policies!
Two super helpful clauses are the Covid-19 Postponement & Cancellation Clause and the Acknowledgement of Covid-19 and No Rescheduling Due To Covid-19 Clause. These clauses lay out to your clients your policies regarding Covid-19 cancellations and rescheduling. One allows rescheduling and the other does NOT allow rescheduling moving forward. The big thing here is to CHOOSE ONE policy that your business follows for all clients from here on out. Are you going to allow them to reschedule or cancel with a certain days’ notice prior to the wedding/event due to Covid, or are you not going to allow it whatsoever and your clients must continue their wedding/event as planned while abiding by the local and state guidelines or will forfeit their fees paid (or will pay a hefty rescheduling fee).
4. Communicate Your Plan to Your Clients
Draft an email template to send to your clients regarding any new policies you have for cancellations and rescheduling, how your business is taking safety precautions for clients and staff members, how to set up a call with you to discuss any concerns or issues they may have. Setting out a NEW policy at the beginning of 2021 is a great time to have clients re-sign updated policies and inform them about how your business is moving forward in the pandemic.
Think ahead to any questions you anticipate your clients will have and make sure to include those answers in your email. You may even want to add a FAQ portion based on past questions clients have had and those you know will have now. Try to address as many issues as you can ahead of time so your clients know you’re prepared to handle anything that comes up.
Communication here is KEY.
Not only will you come across as more prepared and professional, your clients will trust you and appreciate you taking the time to discuss what’s going on and how you are handling issues surrounding the pandemic.
I know this year has been rough and so many of you have dealt with difficult situations both in and out of your businesses. Having a plan for how you’re going to move forward in the New Year will help give you some peace of mind that you are prepared and ready to handle any tough business situations that may come up as winter progresses. I promise this is worth taking the time and effort to think through BEFORE something happens.
I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season and I hope you come back to your businesses stronger and more confident than ever.
THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.