Covid-19 the gift that keeps on giving! After more than a year of ‘what-if’ scenarios and wondering when it will all end, as we head into the new financial year, and for some of us, another lockdown, it’s time to get proactive about our businesses. While I’ve seen lots of inspirational and encouraging posts on social media, the reality is, another lockdown, no matter how short and sharp, can throw business into chaos. Add to that the mental-health consequences, and for many, you’ll be left wondering why on earth you’re still in business at all.
Rather than dwell on the uncertainty, while Covid is in the community and we continue being subject to business shut-downs, now is a good time to deep-dive into our business.
Here are some strategies that will help you get started.
Know your numbers
Now’s the time to review your Profit and Loss and examine the numbers.
- Where is your business vulnerable? Look at your income and your costs.
- Can you reduce or cut back on some of your expenses in the short term or permanently?
- Consider asking suppliers for longer terms, payment plans or better deals.
- Are you paying too much rent? Now’s the time to talk to your landlord and negotiate a deal.
- On the rental front, if you’re faced with another lockdown and can’t operate, try to negotiate a reduced rate for the lockdown period.
- Look at your leasing payments. Make a note of the lease term left and if you can afford it, ask if you can save money by paying it out early. Alternately, ask for a ‘repayment holiday’ for a few weeks.
- Review your subscriptions and cancel or suspend the ones you can live without or no longer use.
- Assess your inventory; cut back or cancel backorders on things that aren’t selling or are no longer needed. Look for new product lines to replace the non-performers.
- Everyone LOVES a sale. Consider liquidating some of your existing stock – if you’re in retail and don’t have an online presence, consider selling on Gumtree, eBay or Amazon.
- Shorten your invoice terms to 7 days and follow-up customers who don’t pay you on time.
- Contact your Insurance broker and ask them to review your business insurance – are you covered for loss of trade, for example?
- Talk to your accountant, BAS agent or bookkeeper about ways to streamline and save in your business.
Set business goals
The best businesses plan. They often review and refine their business plans and strategies, making sure they include all the business pillars in their planning approach.
Business owners who don’t plan are often reluctant to do so because the process seems so overwhelming. However, now might be a good time to work on some new business goals, especially if you’re in lockdown.
To avoid overwhelm, I like to plan in 90-day sprints. For me, planning 90-days out is more manageable and measurable and gives me something to work towards. Planning in shorter periods also allows you to test your idea. You’re more likely to change and pivot your plan depending on what is going on in your community and business sector.
Change the way you work
Do you still need that office space, or can your business operate in a full-time WFH arrangement? If that’s the way you decide to go, do you have the tech in place to manage remotely? Do you need to purchase equipment or subscriptions to online platforms that allow you and your team to work from home without interruption to your business?
As we face continued disruption to our business, it’s time to consider what the new ‘normal’ will look like for your business. It could be full-time work from home or part-time work from home and time in the office. No matter what you decide, create standard operating procedures that reflect how you want your business to run going forward. SOPs are a great way to communicate changes to your team and set the tone for future work. They also allow you to use virtual assistance seamlessly during peak times.
Consider diversifying your services
If we’ve learnt nothing else after the last year, it’s now clear that diversifying our business income streams can be the difference between surviving, thriving or failing. So, what can you do in your business to create new income streams with that in mind?
Grab your team and start to strategise – two heads are better than one. What opportunities are there in your sector? How can you diversify your business and income streams to capitalise on those opportunities? What can you come up with and launch in the next two to four weeks?
Is there a product or service that you can add to your business? Can you create an online course perhaps or a new product? Is selling your product online an option? Is there an opportunity to home deliver your goods or products?
Talk to your existing customer base and ask them how you can help them. Continuing to engage and nurture loyal customers with special offers, a gift with purchase, or free postage, for example, can make your community feel seen and appreciated.
Plan and strategise. Look for growth opportunities that might compliment your existing business. You don’t need to implement all of your ideas at once. Instead, take your time and ensure that each new idea you have is considered and strategically implemented when the time is right.
Talk to your staff
Keep communication lines open. Your team are the most valuable asset you have in your business, and it’s as important as ever to look after them. We’re all suffering from Covid-fatigue and the uncertainty that lies ahead. So keep an open mind to flexible working arrangements that will help both your business and your staff.
Staff at the coal-face might have some great ideas to help you streamline processes and introduce tech to make their job safer and simpler and save you money. Creating an inclusive and understanding culture is the key to success.
Are you a solopreneur or running a small business?
Why not consider gathering a team of like-minded business owners and get together regularly to talk all things business? It could be in-person or done virtually. But having a platform to honestly share business problems and help one another find solutions can make a huge difference to your business and your mental health.
As a sole trader or solopreneur, the isolation can be challenging. If you don’t have any business buddies, why not reach out to your other business owners who inspire you and suggest creating a business mastermind of your own.
Know your obligations
While there are no longer ongoing federal government stimulus measures to help business, while we continue to have forced shut-downs and business closures due to the pandemic, it’s important to be aware of state and local government grants and assistance that might help your business. Check-in regularly with state and local government websites to see what’s on offer.
These do tend to be a little hit and miss. Take a long time to roll out and have strict guidelines that a many solopreneurs and small business owners, in particular, will fail to meet. As a result, when you’re able to, create an online account attached to your main business account and regularly transfer money for compliance obligations and ‘rainy-day’ savings.
While on compliance, be aware of your obligations for GST, PAYG and SGC returns – due dates and amounts that you’re liable to pay. If at any point you find yourself with a huge bill that you can’t pay, don’t put your head in the sand, jump on the phone and chat to the Australian Tax Office and ask for assistance. Alternately, if you use a bookkeeper, BAS Agent or accountant, they can assist with this task.
Finally, for individuals who live and work in a Commonwealth declared hotspot, there is a Covid-19 Disaster payment on offer. There are strict rules around this, and information can be found here.
All businesses go through ups and downs, and local and international events directly or indirectly impact us all. Economic downturns and the resulting negative impacts on business are not unusual. Business owner experiencing a downturn for the first time or continually, through the ongoing effects of the pandemic, can find the mental health aspects exhausting and stressful.
If you’re currently in this position, please reach out, ask for help, get advice from other business owners, and talk to professionals who can assist.
Regardless of where you are now, remember why you started your business. Give yourself a break and the space to decide how you’ll work in the future, what strategies you’ll implement and how you’ll choose to react to the changing landscape. No matter what, the time to act is always now!