COVID-19 ACTION PLAN FOR BUSINESS
8 Steps You Can Take To Survive The Crisis
by Anthony Thomas CFO, BIG RIG WRAPS
Speak to your suppliers, investors, partners, and local officials regularly to learn how you can implement safeguards that will help you stay above the red while officials work to contain COVID-19.
Google recommends updating your business hours and description in your Google My Business profile. Aside from letting people know when they can stop by your business, you can also update your description to give more information regarding any additional precautions you are taking.
Health authorities will ask people to stay home to contain the spread of COVID-19, this will result in people consuming less and purchasing in different ways. It is likely that you will experience a fall in demand for your products or services, labour shortages, and supply disruptions. As part of a risk management strategy, there are actions you should consider taking to prepare your business and be better prepared to take advantage of the recovery.
1. Communicate transparently with your customers
Everyone is facing this crisis together, so be transparent about what your business is going through. Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them properly. Describe the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk and give them insight into the steps you’re taking to help the community. Keep your employees and your customers safe by being as proactive as possible about cleanliness.
Do you need to send a COVID-19 email?
Just because you are seeing all of these COVID-19 emails pop up in your inbox doesn’t mean that you must send your own. Only send these emails if you have a legitimate business reason to do so. Some cases that would include:
- Company event updates or cancellations
- Information on how to access the services of a company remotely
- Updates from businesses with high foot-traffic where individuals may come into close contact with each other
Provide clear, succinct subject lines such as “Our response to COVID-19.” When writing the body copy of your COVID-19 email, connect with your recipient by acknowledging their anxiety, but keep a calm, objective tone throughout the email. Your reader will understand the shift given the situation, and your brand will actually seem much more human.
Focus on action
Your email recipients are going to be most interested in the actions you are taking to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19. Consider providing those actions in a bulleted list so the reader can efficiently skim through your measures. Have you hired additional cleaners to deep clean your business every week? This is what your recipient wants to know. Also, consider sectioning out your email into what you as a business are doing and what your customers can do to help.
Establish a remote work option. There are a lot of free tools business owners can utilize so that teams can stay in touch and keep working. Implement a remote work policy that covers when you expect your team to be online or available and how to communicate (via email, Zoom, etc). Give employees flexibility, some team members may have to leave unexpectedly. Develop a contingency plan in case you suddenly become short-staffed.
IDENTIFY EMPLOYEES WITH CRITICAL SKILLS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Consider which of your employees are not easily replaced as well as which business functions that need to keep operating regardless. Look for others who can learn the task. Outsourcing may be an alternative solution. Where such employees can work from home, make sure they take the equipment (such as a lap-top) they need to work from home, with them every night in case you have to close your premises at short notice. Consider developing a special roster so that critical staff is always available to keep essential business systems and processes running.
3. Reduce meetings and travel and be obsessive about hygiene
Postpone any team meetings or hold them virtually. Skip any conferences or other planned business travel. Stop the spread of the virus by following these health and safety tips:
- No handshakes: Use a non-contact method for greetings.
- Wash your hands: Employees should wash their hands when they arrive and every time they enter the premises, as well as frequently throughout the day.
- Try not to touch your face, and remind employees to do the same.
Constantly/regularly disinfect surfaces, including doorknobs, handrails, the POS system, and desks.
4. Review your sales and leads generation strategies
If you are forced to close your retail storefront, find ways to keep your employees earning a paycheck by selling on social media. Put your email list to good use and use video conferencing tools to reach new leads. To remain viable, many businesses will need to begin selling online or increase how much they sell online.
When considering your current marketing strategies, look to those that provide maximum exposure for your investment. Everyone needs to travel by car at some point. Utilizing mediums such as transport truck advertising will help to maintain your strong brand image and continue to direct prospective customers to your web site or social media channels.
5. PERFORM A FINANCIAL HEALTH CHECK ON YOUR BUSINESS
Update your financial statements. List possible impacts and develop mitigation strategies. Knowledge of the financial health of your business is fundamental to assist you to decide what you can and should do now to place your business in the best possible position to navigate through the crisis.
RE-DO YOUR BUDGETS WITH NEW ASSUMPTIONS
The assumptions you may have used to produce your budget are most likely no longer relevant because of COVID-19. Include a range of previously unthinkable scenarios, such as a 50 to 80 percent decline in sales over three to six months, or a supplier that is unable to supply you a key item for six weeks. Carefully consider how each of those scenarios impacts your cash flow.
ACT NOW TO IMPROVE CASH FLOW
After re-doing your budgets and determining the financial health of your business, including your cash re-serves, you are likely to find your business will struggle with cash flow in the near future. You must, therefore, act now to improve cash flows. The first step to improving cash flow is to prepare a cash flow forecast and updating that forecast throughout the crisis, possibly weekly. This will give you forewarning of any cash flow problems so you can act early to address them.
6. Crisis management for business
The following tips to improve your cash flow may appear unorthodox and extreme. Some of them we would not recommend in a normal situation, however, you may soon be operating in an environment you have never experienced:
• Take steps to increase sales, especially of stock that may not last three to six months.
• Focus your promotions on these stock items.
• Reduce stock orders, particularly stock you assume will be in low demand during the crisis.
• Increase purchases of stock you think will be in high demand during the crisis.
• Promote the selling of excess, slow-moving and/or obsolete stock.
• Contact your debtors and ask them to pay you, even if before the due date.
• If your debtors are experiencing cash flow difficulties themselves, negotiate periodic payments and make sure they stick to their side of the deal.
• Invoice as soon as the product or service is delivered. Don’t delay.
• Produce aged debtor reports and follow up with aged debtors.
• Reduce debtors by encouraging customers to pay at the point of purchase or to pay early.
• Only pay commission to sales staff when payment is received on their sales.
• Review your sales contracts to determine under what circumstances customers can cancel orders. If necessary, update those contracts to limit the ability of customers to cancel orders.
• Seek payment extensions, even temporarily to your credit terms with suppliers.
• Check your supply contracts to determine under what circumstances you can cancel orders if necessary, or at least delay delivery.
• Negotiate installment plans with the tax authorities.
• Look where you can reduce costs and limit capital expenditure.
• Look to reduce staff costs by reviewing staffing arrangements. This could include reducing employee or contractor numbers, reduced working hours or implementing a recruitment freeze.
• Reduce your drawings from the business if possible.
SEEK FINANCE TO FILL CASH SHORTFALLS
• Speak to your lender about introducing or increasing your overdraft facility. Demonstrate that you are on top of your business and understand your cash flow.
• Determine your own personal cash position to see if you can inject cash into your business.
• Seek out other investors to see if they can inject cash into the business
CHANGE YOUR BUSINESS MODEL
• Increase your investment in selling online. If you are not selling online, you should seriously consider doing so.
• Look at different ways to deliver your product or service to your customers.
• Sell or lease out assets you don’t need.
7. TALK TO KEY SUPPLIERS
Talk to your key suppliers about their ability to deliver reliably during the crisis. Consider not only their ability to produce the inputs you need, but also the transportation of the products to you and keep to the agreed costs/prices. For example, if your supplier (or their key suppliers) are based in a location hard hit by COVID-19, production may slow or stopped, and/or their ability to get those supplies to you is restrict-ed. Consequently, those key supplies take longer to arrive. If authorities impose import restrictions based on the product origins, then more time will be spent at customs clearance points before you are able to utilize the goods. In such a scenario, you should consider setting up alternative suppliers, including local suppliers even if more expensive. Source them now and start price negotiations early.
8. Stay strong and keep a positive outlook
As a business leader, ask yourself what example you are setting for your family and your community? How are you strengthening your relationships with your customers? Just remember that in every crisis there IS a silver lining. You just need to have your eyes open to be able to see it.