If your business survived the COVID-19 pandemic intact — congratulations! You've already demonstrated remarkable resilience.
As you move ahead, however, it's important to apply what you've learned during this difficult time to become a stronger, reimagined and renewed business. During our “Evolving Beyond COVID: Moving Your Business Forward in 2021" Virtual Business Fundamentals Bootcamp, hosted by Supporting Strategies | North Central New Jersey, panelists shared strategies for success.
Since the pandemic affected businesses in many different ways, the bootcamp featured a team of experts to address these specific areas for re-examination:
Here are some of the key takeaways.
COVID Changed the Legal Landscape
Vaccines have allowed Americans to resume many activities that COVID forced them to pause, from going to school to attending sporting events to eating in restaurants. And, of greatest interest to business owners, many employees are now able to return to work. So the big question from a legal standpoint is: Can employers mandate vaccinations for their employees?
"Yes, you can mandate them," Weinstein said, "but no, you probably shouldn't."
That's because any employer mandate would have to allow for exemptions based on religious beliefs or certain medical conditions. Policing those would put any employer on shaky ground when it comes to privacy issues.
Instead, Weinstein recommended employers put any COVID-related return-to-work policy in writing, taking care to develop a rationale for which employees come back when, in a way "that doesn't even appear to be discriminatory or favorable to any particular group." You also need to allow people time off to get vaccinated and recover from the vaccine's side effects. And you cannot take any retaliatory action against an employee who raises COVID-related safety concerns.
If you have a hybrid model, in which some employees are at the workplace and some remain at home, it's important to keep remote employees informed of what's happening at the workplace. That helps to avoid alienating the remote workers and creating an "us against them" dynamic.
Most important of all, employers must recognize that this is an anxious time for many employees. "Anxious employees are unhappy employees," Weinstein said, "and unhappy employees are a legal liability."
How do you address that anxiety? "Communicate, communicate and communicate some more," Weinstein said.
The Health Plan You Pick Matters — a Lot
Carino said that belt-tightening brought on by COVID led many business owners to look more closely at their health insurance plans. Some were surprised by the savings they found, particularly by switching to reference-based pricing. In fact, one of Carino's clients was able to avoid COVID-related layoffs because he realized such significant savings by switching plans in 2020.
Now, as the job market strengthens and business owners face tougher competition when hiring and retaining good employees, health- and other benefit-plan options can serve as a powerful incentive. "Start by looking at telemedicine options in your employee plan," Carino said. Many employees prefer telemedicine because it's more convenient and offers greater privacy for things like mental health consultations.
Finally, Carino said, "Rounding out your medical plan with ancillary programs such as a dental plan, a vision plan, group life, critical illness or accident plans and even a 401(k) plan goes a long way toward ensuring that you have the best offer out there to keep current employees and attract new ones."
Don't Cut Back on Marketing — Double Down Instead
A common mistake in difficult times, Relf said, is for businesses to cut costs by reducing marketing and communications budgets. Business leaders should instead see tough times as an opportunity. "When your competitors cut their budgets," Relf said, "they leave a space that you can fill."
Noting a Forbes article that reported internet search activity had increased up to 70% during the pandemic, Relf stressed it was particularly important for businesses to be sure their websites were up to date with the latest tools and plug-ins to optimize the user experience.
And don't be shy about spreading the word about those updates, either. Aggressive use of social media marketing, email blasts and content marketing such as blog posts not only creates awareness of your product or service, but also enables you to gather valuable SEO data.
"Communications, both internally and externally, are critical during challenging times to reassure clients and customers and illustrate how your business has pivoted for their benefit," Relf said.
Get the Complete Picture
For more advice on how your business can come out of COVID stronger than ever, watch the complete webinar.
At Supporting Strategies, our experienced, U.S.-based professionals use secure, best-of-breed technology and a proven process to provide a full suite of bookkeeping and controller services. Are you ready to learn how you can move your business forward? Contact Supporting Strategies today.
Managing Director Nicolette Chin, Supporting Strategies | North Central New Jersey, provides bookkeeping and controller services to growing businesses.
This website is created by Supporting Strategies to provide general bookkeeping and accounting information only. Supporting Strategies does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and the information contained herein is not intended to do so. As such, the information provided should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, legal, and accounting advisors, and you should consult with a tax, legal and accounting professional before engaging in any transaction.
Supporting Strategies is not a CPA firm.