Originally published in Worcester Telegram 5/10/2020
As we enter the eighth week of the COVID 19 lockdown here in Massachusetts, chambers of commerce are learning new ways to stay connected with their members, getting them critical information that is coming out daily from local, state, and federal legislatures and the health care system.
The information ranges from SBA loan programs, safe ways of social distancing, and coming up this past week, with ways to safely reopen and what steps businesses will need to take to keep staff and customers safe.
The Auburn Chamber of Commerce is working diligently to adapt to this challenging new normal. Board of director meetings are now being held virtually and the primary focus of conversation is about how to support local businesses and members in the most effective and compassionate manner.
The chamber is actively reaching out to all our members to collect feedback about their needs and address any concerns they may have regarding the impacts of COVID-19.
Another important component of this outreach process is to discuss membership options with members that are due to expire.
We want to support all our members during this time and understand that membership dues can put unnecessary stress on a small business. As a chamber we have come up with strategies to address these membership concerns and are willing to adjust the process during this time to accommodate members so we can all come out of this on the other end stronger than before.
Many businesses are in need of financial and community support to navigate through this difficult time.
As a chamber of commerce we are routinely posting about available federal and state aid, such as emergency loans and grant opportunities. Additionally, we have implemented an “Open for Business” page on our chamber website that advertises what local businesses are offering during the mandatory shutdown and reporting on the changes local businesses have made to stay open during this time.
Distributing information about the systems in place to help businesses is essential. Directing a business owner to a free webinar about how to apply for a Small Business Emergency Loan or helping them apply for an emergency grant can have a significant impact.
Making sure all small businesses have access to available resources and advocating on their behalf will help create a stronger business community moving forward. As we navigate through the next few weeks, the old adage, “The only constant in life is change,” holds true now more than ever.
Every business, whether directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 is adopting change to some degree.
Consumers are changing where they shop, how they shop, how they spend. The internet now more than ever, is the “go to” for everything.
Businesses need the internet as the tool to get their message to their consumer.
Whether social media posting of specials or changing processes to website updates of amended hours, businesses should be updating as often as there are changes made.
Consumers are mindful and accepting of the changes that we have experienced over the last few weeks but soon they will be expecting some kind of normalcy, “new” normalcy.
The new normal is going to include change and adjustments to processes, hours and operations – communicating those to the consumer is paramount.
Of course you are going to get the consumers that you can never please no matter how much you try to inform them, but if you can be transparent with your changes then you will find that consumers are more trusting of you and feel safe that you are running your business in a manner that they are comfortable with.
Here in Massachusetts, chambers are asking their members what their plan is to reopen so that they can share their input with the state’s Reopening Advisory Board, which will look at new protocols to open businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Please share your ideas by forwarding to info@auburnchamber. org or firstname.lastname@example.org.