For many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) is taking a heavy toll, with some customers staying away, employees advised to work from home and disrupted supply chains. Meanwhile, some clients may be wary of doing business because of fears that orders won’t be fulfilled. So, how can you keep your business moving during this time of uncertainty? Read this article for tips to help your company and employees.
Communication is always important, but in times of difficulty, open, honest, relevant and regular communication with employees, customers and suppliers is essential. The fact that almost everyone is being impacted by coronavirus means almost everyone will understand your predicament. Whether it’s an email, phone call, statement on your website or comment on social media, stress that you understand the anxiety and concerns your stakeholders are facing, then highlight the action you’re taking. Make it clear you want two-way communication – a conversation with clients, employees and suppliers – and that you’re always ready to listen. Explain that during difficult times, you’re ready to be creative in the way you work with them to keep business moving. It’s also important to communicate with your bank, lender or shareholders. As well as asking for advice and extra help, let them know if you think you might suffer cash flow problems or you’re concerned you might be about to go into the red.
The big banks such as Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB are offering help and advice for business customers. If you have angel or venture capital investors, tap them for information and advice. They can frequently provide insights based on their other investments.
Federal and state/territory governments have announced economic survival packages for businesses impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Learn what support is available for your business so you can keep it running during the pandemic.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, many businesses are allowing their employees to work from home. But this isn’t just something unique to the current crisis. Research by Indeed reveals 68% of Australian businesses, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, allowed their employees to work from home. And there’s evidence to show that people work more effectively from home and take less time off sick. Technology such as Zoom, Skype and GoToMeeting offer an alternative to face-to-face meetings. Workplace from Facebook, Slack, Monday and Basecamp are among other apps that enable collaboration between colleagues working remotely and the management of teams who are now based at home. Microsoft and Google have offered some of their products for free a limited period because of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s important to stay in regular contact with your employees who are working from home. You might not be able to have regular team meetings in person, but you can do them online. In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to keep in regular contact with your people. This will help you maintain morale and engagement. Don’t forget to talk to your cyber security provider about any increase in home working to ensure your data is safe. Although many employees will be able to work from home, there will still be those who need to be present on site. It might be possible for those in back office functions such as payroll and HR along with certain other departments, such as marketing and legal, to operate remotely. However, staff in businesses such as care homes, cleaning or hospitality, for instance, will have to be present. It’s important to treat all these people equally and fairly.
It’s often said that crisis and opportunity are two sides of the same coin, with coronavirus providing SMBs opportunities to provide new products and services. Already, some gyms and personal trainers – businesses that are all about physical presence – are keeping in touch with their customers by creating fitness videos on YouTube and offering clients training in their own homes. Even if you can’t sell as easily to your clients at present time, think about providing them with useful, relevant information and content, and generally keeping in touch. This will help ensure that when things return to normal, not only will those customers be more likely to buy from you again, but you may have a deeper engagement with them. Food outlets and restaurants are looking for new opportunities to deliver meals while other companies are exploring mail order options. Professional services firms are moving meetings with clients online, as are training companies that have always worked with their participants on a face-to-face basis. For retailers, you’ll be looking to optimise opportunities with online sales platforms. As well as Amazon and eBay, you could consider Shopify, Yahoo Store and Magento among others.