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4 Business Costs to Cut During COVID-19

Also, three areas you should maintain investment in.

Even though traditional promotional products categories are slowly returning to prominence, the industry is still in the midst of its greatest challenge.

Evans Manufacturing

COVID-19 has disrupted everything: the workplace, travel, recreation, communication, you name it. As companies try to adapt to the new normal, changes need to be made to survive. Counselor has reached out to business leaders and experts on which costs to cut and which areas to maintain investment in as the pandemic continues.

Cut: Travel
With events and trade shows going virtual, there’s no need to fly anyone across the country. As for face-to-face meetings, although they’re still important, maybe you should limit them to once or twice per year. “We’ve all learned there’s so much business we can conduct remotely that we don’t need to incur as many hotel and travel expenses,” says Alan G. Lefkowitz, managing director at CFO Strategies, LLC.

Cut: Office Space
One of the best ways you can save money right now is to continue working from home. “Financially, you are going to be better off not using that space to work in, as it requires a lot of maintenance and support for the people working there,” says Ethan Taub, CEO of online marketplace Loanry. “With everyone working from home now, you don’t need to worry like you did pre-COVID.”

Keep: Outsourcing
If you’ve implemented a hiring freeze, you can outsource tasks to freelancers. You’re not expected to provide them with employee benefits, and they pay their own taxes, which means savings for your business. “Virtual designers, web-based accountants or remote marketing services are just a few of the professions to consider when outsourcing to save money or time,” says Jim Pendergast, senior vice president of specialty lender altLINE.

Cut: Non-Earning Assets
When business is booming, companies tend to spend on equipment, vehicles and office amenities. But when you’re not busy, those asset sits idle. “You have a non-earning asset you either paid for and are not earning from or you have a loan against it and you’re paying principal and interest payments,” Lefkowitz says. “Selling those assets frees up cash flow when you need it most.”

Keep: Customer Service
Focusing on your existing clients means being there for their questions, concerns and complaints. Customer service – actual human beings available by phone, email, video or social media – will be more important than ever. “Finding new clients is more expensive than retaining existing ones,” says Ian Wright, CEO of Bequests. “Build strong relationships with them, and as you provide them with excellent customer service, they will stick with you and even tell others about your business.”

Cut: Staff
This should be your last resort. Don’t just take an ax to your staff, though. Joseph Meuse, founder and president of consulting firm Business GPS, recommends looking for areas where you can strategically reduce your workforce. “Eliminate any redundancies or nonessential positions,” Meuse says. “If that’s too painful, you can also change full-time positions to part time or make salary reductions across the board.”

Keep: CFO/Controller
One position you absolutely shouldn’t cut is your chief financial officer or controller. “You always need somebody to manage your operations and have financial oversight,” Lefkowitz says. “Most entrepreneurs are great at their core business and selling but tend to not have that strong financial background. They need a trusted advisor, especially to navigate a challenging time like we’re currently going through.”

Face Masks Could Soon Get Certification Labels

ASTM International, which sets standards for a range of products, is working with scientists and manufacturers to develop guidelines for filtration efficiency of cloth masks and other face coverings.

Masks may soon be getting a set of standards to help consumers determine how efficient each type of face covering is at filtration. ASTM International, the organization that sets technical standards for products ranging from amusement park rides to drones, is working with industry and government partners to create the guidelines. Once those standards are agreed upon, masks that meet them would bear a label certifying that.

Chris Rodgers

The standards are needed, experts say, because there’s a lot of variation in how well face coverings block particles from passing through. N95 respirators are required to filter out 95% of all airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns. But cloth masks that are available to the general public don’t have to meet any particular filtration standards. Back in June, the World Health Organization published recommendations for a multi-fabric, three-layer mask, but that design doesn’t necessarily match what is available for sale online and at retail.

“We want everyone to be wearing masks … [but] there’s a huge variability how effective cloth masks are,” Linsey Marr, a civil and environmental engineer and aerosols expert at Virginia Tech told Quartz. “Things are ad hoc right now, and the public has no guidance.”

The task group writing the face mask standards has not yet reached a consensus on how effective the masks should be at trapping particles, according to Jennifer Marshall, program manager for public safety standards coordination at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “One of the concerns is how much is leaked through and around the barrier and the best way to measure it,” she told Quartz. Usability is also key. “There’s a balance to blocking particulates and breathability, and ultimately masks need to be comfortable and wearable.”

Those are all factors suppliers in the promotional products industry considered as they developed face masks early on in the pandemic, but different fabrics and fits have yielded a wide variety of styles with no universal guidelines.

The face covering standards will identify which labs are certified to run tests and set requirements for design and labeling, according to Marshall. They may also include type and durability of material and what portion of the face the masks should cover. ASTM began working on mask guidelines back in July, and the new standards could be published before the end of 2020, Marshall said.

The mask standards are being discussed by a group of about 50 scientists, industrial hygienists, government officials, special interest groups and manufacturers, according to the Washington Post. Employees from 3M, maker of N95 respirators, have been involved in the discussions.

Americans have been scrambling for assurances of how effective various face coverings are at blocking particles and slowing the spread of the coronavirus, as evidenced by how a viral study out of Duke University this summer put a damper on neck gaiter sales before later studies showed that face covering efficiency had more to do with the type and number of layers of fabric, rather than the form factor. An agreed-upon set of standards with associated labeling requirements could help cut down on confusion and panic.

“Whether it’s a standard or whether it’s something equivalent to the Consumer Reports rating [of] good, better or best, it is probably useful because otherwise people are lost,” Philip Harber, a professor of public health at the University of Arizona told the Washington Post. He added that the standards should be “very, very, very simple,” given some Americans’ hostility toward masks.

Helpful Wellness Products

Consider these items for health-conscious end-buyers. This year, that’s virtually everyone.

Berlekamp Plastics
Berlekamp Plastics
This handy no-touch grip tool is 100% USA-made and perfect for opening doors, pushing buttons, carrying bags and keeping hands safe from germs.

Evans Manufacturing
Evans Manufacturing
Ideal for healthcare facilities, grocery and retail stores, schools and the hospitality industry, these PPE kits include a reusable mask, pair of nitrile gloves, hand sanitizer packets, alcohol wipes and a reusable pouch.

Gemline
Gemline
A nice gift for new employees or returning students, this container set is eco-conscious and will keep food and snacks fresh and cool for hours. The lunch box is BPA-free and the cooler has a PEVA heat-sealed lining.

Nu Promo International
Nu Promo International
Hands stay clean all the time with this mini case of disposable soap sheets. Featuring a light lemon scent, they’re great for hotels, gyms and outdoor activities.

Pinch Provisions
Pinch Provisions
This vegan leather case and 1-oz. bottle of sanitizer is a perfect partner for purses, backpacks and bags using the attached carabiner or lanyard. Available in four colors.

Snugz USA
Snugz USA
Earth-friendly organizations will appreciate this USA-made tinted lip moisturizer. It has a beeswax base and comes in six different natural flavors. Think trade shows and gifts with purchase at beauty stores and salons.

Starline USA
Snugz USA
It’s easy for runners, hikers and cyclists to quench their thirst with this hydration pack. Target end-buyers with active clients; think athletic clubs, sporting goods stores and even health food stores.

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