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Planning and Responding to the COVID-19

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The coronavirus has called for “social distancing,” meaning people are not leaving their homes unless they have to. Many small businesses, such as restaurants and bars, have been shut down all together. Not only is the pandemic scary from a health perspective, it also has major implications for the success—or potential lack thereof—of small businesses.  

Getting Ahead of it  

Ryan Clo, owner of Dubwerx and Avid Autowerx in Cincinnati, is an example of a shop owner that is taking a proactive approach. His initial plan is to acquire supplies in case they become hard to come buy. 

His list includes: 

  • 3-4 gallons of antibacterial soap in containers that are marked antibacterial or antiviral that customers can clearly read if they use the soap. Would help if the bottles had pump nozzles
  • Lots of additional paper towels
  • A trash can with a biohazard label on it
  • Red trash bags that are the biohazard trash bags
  • A dozen containers of antiviral/bleach counter wipes
  • A dozen containers of antiviral/bleach hand wipes
  • Roughly 200-300 cheap masks ( the type you would find in a hospital) 
  • Additional rubber gloves in various sizes 

Then, if it seems to be affecting business, Clo’s plan is to let customers know that he’s doing what he can to create a safe environment for staff and customers. To do this, he may create some video content to sponsor on Facebook, Google Ads, his website and anywhere else he can. 

“The basic gist being that we are doing everything we can to be safe and create a safe environment for staff and customers,” Clo says. “If it got bad enough, I might ask all the staff to wear gloves and masks, regularly wipe down all surfaces, and offer our supplies to our customers as well.” 

Warranted or not, Clo says that there is real potential for public fear. 

“For a medium to large shop, $1000 worth of supplies to create a better image seems like reasonable insurance to me. And if it doesn't end up a big deal, we can use some of the items and possibly donate the rest,” Clo says.  

Another shop owner that is taking action is Lucas Underwood, owner of L&N Performance Parts and Service in Blowing Rock, N.C. He posted a video on his Facebook page that let customers know that, although he’s not afraid, he is taking precautions for higher risk individuals, like his parents. 

“If mom or dad needed their car fixed, we need to make sure that there’s no contamination,” Underwood says. 

His video explains that he has a solid PTO policy in place, so that any staff that is sick can feel comfortable staying home. He also highlights the sanitation stations that he has within his facility. 

Industry Impact 

Beyond being scared for their own and others’ health, many business owners are finding themselves in a panic about what the outcome of this will mean. The parts supply, especially, is of major concern for automotive repair shop owners. Bernard Swiecki, assistant director for business group, at the Center for Automotive Research, says that he’s heard some companies are tripling the time that they expect something to arrive. And, because of this, many are stocking up extra inventory. 

Underwood is preparing for this by letting customers know upfront that there may be some delays and their vehicles may not be ready as quickly as in the past. Because the effects and impacts of the coronavirus on companies have been widely publicized, unlike other events (like the 2011 tsunami in Japan, Swiecki says), customers are understanding.  

The impact on the economy is also a big concern. Many are worried that it will lead to another recession, but Swiecki points out that the decrease in the amount that people are willing to fly and use public transportation, paired with the fact that there may not be money to buy a new vehicle, may actually turn into an uptick in repairs. 

 

Tips for Preventing Exposure 

For shop owners that are in the dark about what to do, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) coronavirus webpage (bit.ly/OSHAcoronavirusinfo) provides guidance to prevent exposure.

 

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