Coping with COVID-19 and changing business needs

Ritchie Cotton

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

COVID-19 is creating a new normal for thousands of businesses across Australia, leaving some, at present, unable to operate altogether.

For those lucky enough to continue operating in some capacity, adapting to changing business needs (let alone thriving in the current climate) is likely one of your biggest challenges yet. And, not knowing what tomorrow will look like for your business can be a terrifying thought.

But there’s always a silver lining. New challenges open new doors, and this tragic time could lead to something unexpectedly exciting. You will get through this. Here are five actionable steps you can take to reclaim control from COVID-19 and keep your business strong.

1. Safety first

Before you start thinking about the health and longevity of your business, consider your health, and the health of those around you. Practice social distancing, work from home where possible, stay informed on the latest Government updates and, in case you haven’t been told lately—stay at home!

If you have a team, make sure everyone who can work from home is doing so. There are Government measures in place to help pay employee wages, even if your business has to go into hibernation for a while.

2. Check out Government support measures and see if you qualify for assistance

Several measures are currently in place to help small businesses stay afloat in the current climate, including financial assistance, more lenient insolvency laws and wage subsidies to help business owners retain their staff and pay bills.

These measures are temporary, and will be in place for the foreseeable future—at this stage, that’s looking to be six months. Check out the full list of support measures currently in place.

3. Work out what you can do, and contact creditors to make temporary arrangements

In testing times, we’re reminded of how amazing people are—communities, businesses and individuals have all stepped up, offering much-needed support to those in vulnerable positions.

At Valiant, we help people first, then compare business loans. We don’t just give you a quote—we offer a solution, with your needs and concerns at the core of what we do. Many of our partners share a similar mentality, so reach out for help. Contact lenders, suppliers and creditors to see what they can do to tide you over.

Most businesses are understanding (we’re all going through this together) and may be able to suspend repayments, delay invoices or loosen deadlines to give you some extra breathing room.

4. Adapt your business strategy, and operations, to meet new or changing needs

Though you might think the success of your business is currently out of your hands, focus on what you can control.

If you can’t sell your usual product or service the way you used to, how can you leverage your skills, experience and resources to offer something more profitable during this time?

Many businesses have switched to survival mode, forced to think creatively to make ends meet, and this isn’t such a bad thing. Cafes are delivering coffees to doorsteps, bookshop staff are biking to their readers’ homes, and dance classes are moving online (i.e. to the comfort of your own lounge room).

If there’s a will, there’s a way. And, if you need some extra funds to kickstart or manufacture a new product, consider taking out equipment finance. If you purchase new or used business equipment at this time, you can also take advantage of temporary changes to the Instant Asset Write Off, which allows you to instantly deduct assets up to $150,000 each.

Alternatively, unlock cash quickly (in as little as 24 hours) with unsecured finance to support new business needs. If you need a hand figuring out the best solution for your business at this time, chat to a lending expert. Who knows—your new product or service might even be a keeper.

On that note, it’s important to ask yourself whether your new business model is sustainable, or just a temporary solution. This will help you plan for the future (both short and long-term) and figure out what new resources you’ll need.

Next, work out how you’ll move your company from the office, home. What technology will you need to invest in or use more of? Will you have daily calls or leave your staff to their own devices? Set up regular team meetings to touch base, and decide on the best methods of communication for the upcoming months.

5. Make decisions based on new business needs, and give yourself credit for hanging in there

Managing mental health as a business owner is already a challenge for many people. According to BeyondBlue, nearly half of small business owners experience high levels of psychological distress, mainly due to cash flow issues, working long hours, social isolation, customer demands and conflicting responsibilities between home and work.

What happens now, when costs need to be cut, stores need to close and staff need to be let go? We can’t promise the next few months will be easy, but that’s what survival is about. Take care of yourself and your mental health first, the rest will follow.

Though the future is uncertain right now, thinking ahead (as best you can) will give your business the best chance at bouncing back quickly once this crisis is over.

For example, if you need to let some of your staff go now, but think you’ll be able to hire again once the crisis improves, be open and transparent about this in your conversations. Let staff know that you plan on rehiring and would love to have them back onboard when the business permits and if they are interested.

But, don’t provide hope where there is none. Instead, consider other forms of support. Can you introduce employees to new contacts? Do you know of any other companies hiring?

Looking beyond right now: What does this mean for SMEs long-term?

While COVID-19 is an evolving tragedy right now, having detrimental effects on our health, economy and society, there will be an end. While we don’t know when, or exactly how big the impact will be, there are people working tirelessly every day to make COVID-19 history, and support people and businesses in the meantime.

With COVID-19 occupying our social feeds, news coverage and minds just about 24/7, it can be hard to see the positive side to such a terrible pandemic. But the silver lining is this: people are closer to their families than ever, dogs across the globe are having the time of their lives, communities have huddled close and become more connected (despite social distancing), introverts are resting, creative juices are flowing and the support we’ve seen so far has been overwhelmingly huge. Most importantly, we’re proving to ourselves and those around us that we can get through this, and we can adapt. That’s what being human is all about.

Looking to the future: while we can’t see it yet, extraordinary products, services and ideas will be uncovered that otherwise would never have existed. Working from home will come with lessons learned and new perspectives. Shaking up the system will allow us to fix problems we never knew we had. Who knows—we might even come out of this stronger than ever.

Ritchie is our CPO and a Co-Founder of Valiant. His number one mission is to make business finance easy for Australians, and help SMEs reach their full potential. Ritchie loves playing music and cooking Italian food, with risotto being his specialty!

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