Ideas for Businesses and Business Owners Unexpectedly Working From Home Part II

As we noted in Part I of this two-part post, here we are in Week 2 of social distancing for Iowa and Minnesota. This two-part post is meant to help you with ideas to help your business emerge from this crisis in fighting shape. Part I focused on ideas for businesses that have newly moved online and on general ideas for projects to work on while you have down-time. This post will focus on suggestions for businesses facing changes to their industry, for people contemplating starting a new business, and for helping you to help your business. We also recently posted a list of resources for small businesses, including links to a variety of governmental agencies which you may find helpful. We will be adding new links and those linked pages will all be updated regularly, so we encourage you to check back regularly. Please also feel free to reach out to us to suggest updates to that list.

For Businesses Facing Changes

We are, of course, all facing changes right now. It has been a very intense time for everyone. Here are some ideas to get you started on thinking about how your business should approach them.

  • Address the immediate changes. If you have had to move to having your employees work in shifts at the office, or if you have had to move to having your employees work from home, that may have affected how you perform some of your agreements with your customers. You may be able to address these changes simply and straightforwardly, or you may need to negotiate amendments to your customer agreements.
  • Spend some time on listening to others and to yourself. There is only one thing that is clear at the moment: no one really knows what our country or our economy will look like at the end of this strange moment in time. But within industries, there are clues available about what will be coming. Take some time away from the whirlwind of the moment to pay special attention to your customers’ pain points (aside from cash flow) right now. Then consider how you can be best positioned to address those pain points.
  • Give yourself some flexibility. While few businesses will be eager to go on a hiring spree in the near future, your business should be positioned to staff up quickly should the opportunity arise. Consider vendors who can provide outsourced work or engaging freelancers to support your business in the event you suddenly become busy. Get the agreements you’ll need for these possibilities lined up now so you’ll be best positioned to move forward quickly when you’re ready.
  • Prepare for next time. The federal government provides disaster preparedness information on its website. Now may not be the time to think about this, but keep it in your back pocket for a time when your business is back on its footing.

If you need assistance with contracts or legal planning matters, please feel free to contact us for a telephone or video chat appointment.

For People Contemplating A New Business

If you have identified a new opportunity that has cropped up because of the disruptions associated with social distancing and lockdowns (aside from price gouging, which is illegal), excellent! Strike while the iron is hot. Here are some things to keep in mind as you get your new business started:

  • Create an entity. Having a business entity such as a limited liability company or a corporation helps put a layer of protection between your business and personal assets if you properly maintain your business entity. This means that under most circumstances, someone who sues your business cannot reach your personal assets. It also helps with other activities such as getting financing from loans or investors.
  • Follow any applicable regulations. Make sure that you know whether the industry you plan to enter is regulated, and if so, by what federal, state, or local authorities. You don’t want your newly-formed business to be shut down before it really gets going.
  • Keep an eye on the law. Many things are in flux right now, and some authorities are delaying or setting aside enforcement for the moment. Don’t rely on the current state of things to last, though; make sure you’re prepared to follow those laws and regulations once things settle down again.
  • Get expert help. Keep in mind that there are many resources available to those starting new businesses, even in unsettled times like this. Minnesota’s and Iowa’s Small Business Administration branch offices are great places to start, as are the Minnesota Department of Economic and Employment Development and the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Your Personal Life: Helping You Helps Your Business

I saved the most important for last: take care of yourself and your family. Crises have a way of showing you what is most important. Take advantage of this one as much as you can.

  • Maintain as normal a routine as you are able. Don’t throw yourself into your work 24/7, tempting as it might be as you’re home with your work materials all of the time and panicking over the health of your business. We’re right there with you worrying about things, but rest and recovery are important, too.
  • Get your personal planning documents in order. No one likes to think about their mortality, but now is the time to do it. Make sure that your will, power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and living will all reflect your wishes—or if you don’t have these documents, get them. Make sure your business succession planning is also in order.
  • Get exercise. Even in the places that have implemented lockdowns, you can go outside to exercise so long as you maintain a safe distance of 6 feet from others. If you have children at home with you, they need to get out, too; take a family walk or bike ride, play a game of kickball in the back yard, take a nature walk. There are also several companies offering their working routines online for free; take advantage.
  • Eat well. The grocery stores are pretty picked over for shelf-stable or easily freezable foods, but this is the perfect chance to learn how to prepare some new-to-you fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also use this opportunity to shop local: your local Asian and Latino grocers are probably not as hard hit.
  • Keep up with friends and family. It is not as simple as popping into your usual coffee shop and running into people now. Make sure to take the time for phone calls and video chats with your friends and family on a regular basis. There are a number of services making this easier than ever, from Skype to Google Hangouts to Zoom. Don’t let social distancing mean social isolation.

We are open and able to help with legal issues businesses are facing in the face of this public health crisis. We offer telephone and video chat consultations, including free initial 30-minute consultations. We are also able to work with businesses facing financial hardships at this time. Feel free to contact us to discuss your business’s options.

Kelcey is a business attorney practicing internet law for clients in Iowa and Minnesota. If you have any questions about this post, please feel free to reach out to her via the Contact section of the site.