16 Mar Small business tips to get through coronavirus
As the spectre of COVID-19 (coronavirus) grows, so do the impacts on our economy, and our small businesses. We have developed some tips to help you prepare for, and manage, the impacts of coronavirus. We also have links to helpful resources.
While it’s important to be prepared, it’s also important not to panic as the coronavirus situation unfolds. If managed well by our Government and health officials, we shouldn’t see an intense spike in cases and protracted economic effects. That being said, those of us who are parents will have to deal with looming school and childcare closures, and anyone who contracts COVID-19 or has had contact with someone who has it, will need to self-isolate and deal with the health ramifications. If you currently work from home, or can easily do so, it’s less of an issue. But if you have a retail shop or office it might mean closing for a period. All of these things will have financial, physical and emotional impacts.
Coronavirus issues and opportunities
Fortunately for some small businesses, the current circumstances mean they are flourishing, such as sellers of eco-friendly hand sanitisers, insurance brokers and online stores. However, there are many small and microbusinesses already being negatively impacted, and this is likely to grow. With less people travelling, pet sitters and travel agents have less work. Pest controllers and asbestos workers are having trouble buying respirators, masks and disposable gloves. Slow order fulfilment from China is impacting IT businesses who need computer components. And with large events being cancelled, caterers, florists and event managers are facing significant challenges.
It’s important to look for opportunities in our current situation without being opportunistic and playing on fear and uncertainty. Remember your brand, and how important it is to maintain your reputation and credibility for the long term.
Tips and ideas for small business
We have put together some tips and ideas to help you through.
- If you haven’t already, identify and understand any issues related to your supply chain, such as products or components coming from overseas, and look into finding alternative suppliers.
- Develop a plan to manage impacts on your business. Consider different scenarios, and how you can handle them. How will you deal with supply disruptions? Prepare what you can in advance.
- Seek assistance from your bank, such as a deferral of scheduled loan repayments, to waive fees and charges, to arrange an interest-free period or ensure no interest rate increases, and to consolidate debt to make repayments more manageable.
- Review your cash flow budgets and predict what issues you will face in paying suppliers and repaying debt. Look for ways to reduce non-essential expenses.
Staff and systems
- Get your operations manual into shape so if necessary, someone else can help you with your business. If you have staff, is there extra training you can give them in case you need to go into isolation or look after family members?
- If you outsource tasks to people in other countries, monitor how they are going and what impacts there could be on your business if they fall ill or cannot work to look after family members.
- Get your filing (hard and soft) up-to-date and mobile so you can work from home, or so others can easily find information.
- If you end up with some downtime, it can be an opportunity to find ways you can be more time efficient and productive in your business.
Marketing and communication
- It might be a good time to rethink your marketing strategy. Can you diversify your market? Or adapt your products/services or package them in a new way? Do you need to rethink your promotional strategy, such as modifying messages to be more pertinent, or changing the channels you use?
- Communicate openly and in a timely manner with your customers, suppliers and other impacted stakeholders (e.g. landlords, banks, collaborators) about any issues you might be facing with fulfilling orders, providing services, paying bills or rent.
- Keep connected with small business peers to tackle loneliness and stress. Sharing your challenges, and getting ideas and expertise from others can be really helpful. We know our Beyond Business Groups members are benefiting from having a brains trust to help them fortify their businesses.
- It’s the perfect time to provide even better customer service and really look after the people who buy from you, to build loyalty and credibility for the future. Whether it’s in the way you treat them during the buying experience, or with information and ideas.
- It’s likely we’re in for a challenging and stressful time, so it’s important to ensure you make some time to look after yourself. If we can stay level-headed and not be wiped out emotionally we’ll be able to make better business decisions and deal with the repercussions of coronavirus.
Government economic response to coronavirus
The Australian Government has announced multiple economic responses to the coronavirus. Find the most up-to-date information on the Government Treasury website.
Australian Banking Association: Find your bank’s financial hardship team.
Business Queensland: Mentoring sessions, financial workshops, industry support, payroll tax relief package and health advice.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Up-to-date health information and guidance, workplace impacts, financial impacts, trade and export assistance. To support Victorian businesses, VCCI are also offering free membership for new members.