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Column: What local businesses need to do

ESCANABA — With the impacts of COVID-19 on our local business community already in effect, in addition to good hand hygiene and common-sense precautions with your employees and patrons, the Delta County Chamber of Commerce and the American Association of Chamber Executives encourage all local businesses to consider the following:

1. For your business: Prepare for potential negative economic impacts.

Capital: Create, confirm, or expand your line of credit. If you haven’t already done so, call your banker now, no matter what!

Staffing: Develop staffing plans for varying levels of customers and revenue, as an example, what does an 80% scenario plan look like? Upper Peninsula Michigan Works offices are committed to providing the most updated information about resources available to businesses and their employees as they consider various business plan scenarios and rapidly changing unemployment insurance laws.

Insurance: Just like your banker, check with your insurance provider now to understand your coverage and options.

2. For your customers: If you are on the list of businesses that are considered “essential,” make your place of business as hygienic as possible and communicate what you are doing to customers, so they feel comfortable visiting. If you send the information to the Chamber, we will help you communicate with your customers.

3. For your employees: Check, modify, and communicate HR policies regarding remote working, sick-leave, and compensation during a health crisis. Try to ensure your policies are as flexible and non-punitive as possible. Sick employees should be encouraged to stay home. Once again, Michigan Works has the most current information available to help guide you during this time of uncertainty.

4. For your workflow: Cross-train employees for key functions so that daily schedules can continue relatively uninterrupted by potential employee absences. Where relevant, consider staggering start and end times to reduce large numbers of people coming together at the same time. This might be the perfect time to test remote employee collaboration systems with something like the Zoom app. The Commerce Center team holds “water cooler” teleconference meetings. While I’m taking social distancing very seriously, I realize that I am not cut out for this practice. I have tested positive for missing people! I miss seeing our friends and members who frequently stop by the Commerce Center just to say, “hi” and I really miss the camaraderie and regular interaction with our team members.

5. For your cashflow: Communicate with your landlord and lenders about expectations and request flexibility. It is better to have that conversation now.

6. For yourself: Eat well, sleep, and exercise. Taking care of yourself in this time of stress will improve your resistance to infection and resilience in managing difficult business situations. And of course, wash your hands all the dang time and don’t touch your face!

7. For the Chamber: For us to best serve you, we need to know and share what our members are doing to manage risks. To that end, please tell us what’s working for you and what you need from us!

Our Chamber office has been closed to the public since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. However, flyers and informational brochures are available in the entryway during regular business hours and we will continue to serve our members and visitors virtually by phone, email and social media sites. 

We pledge to continue to be a resource to help promote and support our beautiful waterfront community. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for updates on events, Chamber news, and resources to help your business weather this trying time. As our many promotional social media posts suggest, we are all #dedicatedtodelta and together, we’ll get through this because we are #YooperStrong.

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Vickie Micheau is the executive director of the Delta County Chamber of Commerce

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