Reno-Sparks business leaders offer advice on how to face COVID-19 challenges
RENO, Nev. — A cloud of uncertainty hangs over Northern Nevada’s business landscape amid the spread of COVID-19.
With that in mind, leaders in the business community on March 23 held a virtual forum and Q-and-A session for business owners that focused on the effects — big and small — of the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Nevada.
The forum, presented in partnership between Western Industrial Nevada (WIN) and HRC (The Human Resource Connection), was called “Forces from the Front Line: A Conversation about COVID-19.”
“These are unprecedented times that we have going on in our community. My message I want to share … (is) you are not alone with what you are going through,” Karyn Jensen, founder and president of Reno-based HRC, said to kick off the forum, which nearly 90 people attended. “It’s OK to not have all the answers. As business leaders, we think we have to have all the answers. But, because these are uncharted territories, it’s OK if you don’t know the answer.”
One of the questions Northern Nevada’s nonessential businesses are faced with is what to do from a marketing standpoint while their business has either closed completely or, in the case of restaurants, drastically reduced their services.
Megan Noin, president of Reno-based marketing and PR firm MN|G Partners, said one thing to keep in mind is “these are defining moments” for companies, and how they respond and react to the crisis “will be remembered.”
“It’s very rare that we have all companies going through a crisis together,” she said. “Make sure you are treating people well, including your employees, because this time will be remembered as we come out on the other side.
“You cannot over-communicate in a crisis, so it’s important to do that now.”
To that end, Noin recommends business owners put together a refocused marketing plan that’s scalable for “when things change.”
Further, she suggests rolling out the plan after specific events, such as “when the quarantine is lifted” and “when schools are back in session.” She noted that a lot of industries are going to face a “pent-up demand,” making it all the more important to have a focused marketing strategy.
“To ignore it and just fly by the seat of your pants when things change is a much more expensive way to do it,” she said. “Any marketing effort is less expensive than a non-marketing effort.”
HRC’s Jensen also recommended that businesses, if they haven’t already, embrace and use social media to communicate to and engage with their audiences — especially restaurants that are still offering curbside pickup and delivery services.
“If you’re not a social media person, now’s the time to become that,” she added. “People are on their social media more than ever.”
Dora Lane, a Reno partner at law firm Holland & Hart, addressed a question related to the emergency relief law the includes paid sick leave benefits for American employees at small to midsize companies that have to take time off because of the spreading virus.
Lane said the law applies when employees don’t have a job they can complete from home.
Moreover, she said employers in Nevada do have the legal ability to change an employee’s duties, hours and compensation. Regarding the latter, she said there’s a Nevada statute that says employers need to give employees a “7 days notice” before they start performing work at a reduced rate.
“As an employer, you have a lot of flexibility in Nevada,” Lane said.
Mike Bosma, principal of the Reno branch of CliftonLarsonAllen, spoke to the fact that the U.S. government has extended the tax-filing deadline to July 15, a move meant to give individuals and businesses extra time to deal with their taxes amid the coronavirus outbreak.
However, he said, “I believe it’s smart for business owners, if you know you owe for 2019, you want to know how much that is. The last person you want to owe money to at the end of the day is Uncle Sam.”
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.