Tips to help you prepare your business for life on the other side of Covid-19.
With some Australian states slowly lifting coronavirus restrictions, business owners and employees are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. While we’re all being warned against complacency, an idea of what life might be like on the other side of Covid-19 is starting to appear in everyone’s minds.
As restrictions are lifted, people will be keen to head back to work, eat at their favourite restaurants and drink at their favourite bars. Business owners who have changed their offering or been forced to close temporarily are planning ways to weather the current economic storm. It’s exciting to focus on getting back to cooking great food and mixing great drinks, but important to ensure you plan a safe path to navigate.
We spoke to Broadsheet financial controller Daley Smith to get some tips on the administrative side of relaunching your business.
While there is still a lot of uncertainty around the coming weeks and months, it’s good to have a number of contingency plans in place for different scenarios, such as particular restrictions being wound back at different times. If you’re certain of anything, communicate it to your employees – but make sure you communicate what you’re uncertain about too.
“You want to keep your plans as agile as possible and keep your staff informed. Some communications will be pretty detailed, others not so much because there’s uncertainty, but it’s important to convey that to everyone,” says Smith. “If there’s no news, communicate that there’s no news. I think weekly emails are a good idea, but if you’re a small business and you’re able, chat to employees on the phone so you can have a proper catch up. The most important thing to get right is keeping your employees happy throughout a challenging time.”
Business owners are hoping to re-hire (and retain) as many staff as possible under the federal government’s Jobkeeper scheme. If you’ve changed direction or have plans that require new skills, you may need to hire new staff. While this isn’t at the front of many business owners’ minds, Smith says it’s worth considering where possible.
“There are a lot of people out of work, so there’s going to be a lot of people out there looking for a new role. I’d definitely be putting some feelers out, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a pool of candidates you think are suitable depending on what direction the business goes in the next few weeks,” he says. “You don’t necessarily need to engage people in employment if there’s no spot for them at the moment, but if you like what they have to offer I would communicate that to them and keep in touch with them. You need to have plans in place now so you’re prepared for the announcement that you can reopen.”
We’re all spending more time than ever on our phones and laptops – and it’s draining – but it’s still important to stay in touch with your customers, clients and other external parties.
“Most businesses are probably communicating on social media more than ever. If your favourite restaurant comes out and says it’s doing delivery for the next two weeks or indefinitely, people will understand even if there’s not a lot of certainty around the message,” says Smith. “People appreciate being kept in the loop even if there’s no big announcement. That short, sharp message to keep customers engaged is great. Something is always better than nothing.”
While anticipation builds for the easing of restrictions and you’re focusing on the front end of your business, it can be easy to lose track of money. Smith acknowledges it can be difficult for small business owners to consolidate their finances, but it’s important to gain an understanding of where you sit to help make informed decisions while you’re planning.
“In any stage of business, whether it’s normal trading conditions or a time like this, cash flow is the most important thing. You can have all the plans in the world, but if you don’t have a good grasp of your profit and loss, balance sheet reports and cash flow forecasts, it’s hard to make any solid progress,” says Smith. “I’d be investigating loans now, chatting to banks and applying sooner rather than later if that’s what your business needs.”
Smith says that even as conditions go back to normal, we might see a change in workplace culture, with more openness to remote work. If your business is going through this adjustment, it might be a good opportunity to weigh up your options and have a chat with your landlord.
“Companies that have been hesitant to have staff work from home are now seeing that productivity doesn’t really decrease. Businesses might get an office that’s half the size to save money on rent, then have half the office working remotely,” says Smith. “I think there’ll be a softening in the rental market in the short term; leases might become a little cheaper. The best move might be to chat to your landlord and work something out based on your current circumstances – you can refer to the recently released code of conduct around relief for commercial tenants.”
Photography: Arianna Leggiero