Covid-19 SME 10 Point Plan
Essential Guide To Ensure Business Continuity
Coronavirus is here and the WHO has now declared it a global pandemic. Business owners must continue to monitor the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their employees, facilities and supply chains as decisions may need to be made quickly to take account of what is a fast-changing situation.
The decisions you make and the actions you take on protecting and serving your customers and staff during this time should be at the forefront of your minds and your number one priority as business owners.
“Your business will be protected and will weather this severe storm if you implement as many of the following 10 points as you can in the immediate future.”
Covid-19 SME 10 Point Plan
1) BE A LEADER
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
Advice: Do not panic – you need to be positive and proactive even if you aren’t particularly feeling so.
Energy, both good and bad, is contagious and spreads throughout your business and can be felt over the phone in conversations with customers.
As the business owner to your customers and staff, there’s a lot of risk that falls on your shoulders. But as the leader, all eyes are on you to step-up in these situations.
What message are you giving to your staff and customers by your demeanor and body language? They are looking for confidence, strength and encouragement just as their own confidence may be down with everything going on around them. They need you to lift their spirits.
In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr Stephen Covey highlights in Habit 1 – Being Proactive a concept called the
Circle of Concern vs Circle of Influence.
Our Circle of Concern is filled with all the things in the world that affect us – coronavirus, governments, share markets, travel bans etc. – that we may care about and things that can cause concern, however they are all the things we have no control over.
Our Circle of Influence on the other hand is filled with all the things that we can control – emotions, attitude, health, relationships, decisions and actions – and the things we should ultimately be focused on as much as possible.
Right now, we must focus on the things in our circle of influence, the things in our control. If we don’t, it will just cause stress, will be counterproductive and it’s a waste of energy.
1. Take care of your health. Sleep well, exercise even if walking around the block, try meditation and make sure to eat well.
2. When you put the key in the door of your office, pick up the phone or turn on the Skype video call, turn on the right attitude and positive energy.
3. Consult with your staff often, consult with customers often, consult with family members often.
4. Be decisive, don’t dilly-dally, make decisions quickly and act.
5. Choose your sources of news and information wisely. Media outlets survive on invoking fear. Seek clear, transparent information from non-bias sources.
2. PROACTIVE COMMUNICATION
Advice: Exceptional times call for exceptional actions. People want reassurance and communication during these uncertain times.
Be there for your customers and staff and a major way to do this is to be available and be responsive – return emails and phone calls, but do so in a logical manner otherwise your business will become chaotic.
1. Send proactive communication to your staff on office protocols – e.g. – managing corona virus
2. Send proactive communication to your customer base on your working status and recommended communication channels.
3. Make sure you call all of your A and B customers first to address any concerns and ensure they know your best methods of contact during this period.
4. Put a communication policy in place for all staff to return calls / emails within the same day or latest the very next morning.
5. Make the best use of technology, use of your calendar and book appointments with clients.
3. FACE THE REALITY
Advice: This is not a time to bury your head in the sand with regard to the implications of this crisis on your business and the wider economy.
You need to be aware of the potential downturns to your business. You need to determine what impact the current environment has on revenue being re-generated in the next year.
1. Determine who your vulnerable customers are and keep a register of sales that may be reduced or wiped-out as a result of business closure.
2. After you have determined what expenses to plug and what opportunities to take, this should all be laid out in a detailed revised cash flow forecast.
3. Factor in things like reduced leads, cancelled new business, debtors not paying.
4. REMOTE WORKING
Photo by The Coherent Team on Unsplash
Advice: OK, we’ve heard a lot about this over the past few weeks but in reality this is not an option for many businesses.
For those of you who can transition to remote working this may be the opportune time to do so.
The landscape is changing on a daily basis and governments are enforcing heavier restrictions on movement and business operations.
Your remote working solution needs to be activated as soon as possible and done so in a way that allows staff to communicate effectively and work productively and securely.
It’s also better to be proactive here as you should have the health and safety of your staff in mind. If one staff member is found to have contracted the Covid-19 virus, your entire office will need to be quarantined and all staff must self-isolate for at least two weeks.
So if you run your business largely from the cloud or have the infrastructure ready to transition to remote working, you should do so sooner rather than later.
1. Ensure each staff member is set up with the following equipment:
- Modern Computer / Laptop that is connected to the internet at home.
- Internet speed is tested (google – speed test and run) – anything below 15MB per second and you should contact your IT specialist to seek advice on improving if possible.
- Have access to a Sky has IP internet phones that connect via the internet or you can have staff use their mobiles, however ensure that their plans cater for call volumes / data required.
- Workstation – where possible, to ensure the staff member is productive from home, they should have a dedicated work space /desk. This may mean purchasing a simple desk from IKEA.
2. Get customers to scan information (orders etc.) and if they don’t have a scanner get them to use their iPhone, take a photo and send it.
3. Set up free / low cost tools for working remotely. Have appointments with clients using Zoom, Loom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or Skype.
4. Ask your solicitor if you can vary staff employment contract to allow /cater working from home.
5. Ask your insurance broker if your staff are covered under public liability / cyber security insurance working remotely.
6. Setup anti-virus software on all computers and security software to protect all passwords.
5. BUY TIME WITH CASH BUFFERS AND CUTTING UNNECESSARY COSTS
Advice: Even though your attention will probably be directed towards fielding customer and supplier calls and queries, this should be an area of attention for your business.
As a priority, review your costs on a regular basis to ensure you can “trim the fat” wherever necessary.
1. Get your profit and loss statement, go through all of the lines and work out whether or not some of the costs can be reduced / eliminated.
2. There may be legacy mobile phone contracts, excess user accounts of Microsoft etc. that are hanging around that you no longer need.
3. Where possible we want to try to look after fellow small business owners. Big companies normally have more insurances in place and more funds in place to cope with these sorts of challenges.
4. Try not to cut expenses that are helping you to grow or to be more efficient.
5. Look at your personal expenses as well. It’s not just about your business expenses you may need to trim back on your personal expenses and lifestyle if your business is being impacted.
6. Ask service providers like insurance brokers, printer providers, energy suppliers etc. to get updated quotes /deals.
6. STAFF TAKE PAID AND UNPAID LEAVE
Advice: This point is of course used as a last resort if you determine that your cash-flow cannot continue to support your full workforce. It may also be the case that you lose too many customers and have too much staff as a result.
It’s always much better if you do find yourself in this situation to ask all staff to incur a little pain, than to have some individuals incur lots of pain and lose their jobs.
We understand your staff’s livelihood is very important to you. Different businesses will have different levels of cash reserves and it will be in the hands of every business owner to balance the best interest of the organisation with the interests of their staff.
DON’T FORGET the Government Wage Subsidy Scheme
7. DON’T STOP MARKETING
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Advice: The marketing tap in your business needs to remain on or needs to be turned on. Don’t stop spending money on things that are helping you grow and generating leads.
It’s so much harder to start turning the tap back on later if you shut it off now. You need to review what is working and what isn’t working and identify what expenses you can trim that may not be providing great results right now.
Focus on the marketing that is working, which means you really need to be able to track where your leads are coming from and which campaigns are working and really understand the numbers around that.
1. Review where your marketing budget is being spent right now and see if you can reduce the budget on campaigns that may not be providing a great return.
2. Have a report generated and understand your numbers around what sort of return you’re getting from different marketing channels and different marketing tactics that you have in place.
3. Create new content, offers, guarantees, if you don’t have one, put in place a guarantee to reduce the perceived risk of using your service.
4. Negotiate a better rate with your advertising platforms where possible.
5. Keep sending regular content and updates to your existing database and customer base. It’s normally free to do and will magnify credibility built with those prospects during this period.
6. You may also need to modify your approach and message to your marketplace. This is in order to cater to people’s concerns that they have at the moment.
8. CASH IS KING!
Advice: Whether times are good or bad we all know how important this aspect of any business is.
Knowing your cash-flow position throughout the crisis is vital.
1. Review cash-flow position on a weekly basis – same time, same day every week.
2. Look to extend supplier credit that’s available to you.
3. Communicate with your bank as well, and speak to them early, and potentially look for a mortgage / loan holiday.
Be on the front foot once again rather than a month down the track when everyone’s trying to do the same thing with the banks.
4. Put in place additional credit facilities – it’s going to be a lot easier to get those facilities in place sooner rather than waiting – whether it’s an overdraft, line of credit or credit card. Be proactive!
5. Potentially refinance, get better rates, and look at both personal and business debt.
6. Communicate with suppliers if you are having problems paying – be upfront and communicate with transparency
9. USE GOVERNMENT STIMULUS PACKAGE
Advice: I sent out information this week regarding entitlements for both employers and employees.
Please keep yourself abreast of any/all updates.
1. Review gov.ie for up-to-date information on your entitlements.
2. Review revenue.ie for updates on how to implement and apply for each scheme.
3. The Credit Guarantee Schemesupports loans up to €1 million for periods of up to 7 years.
Applications can be made to AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank. Eligibility criteria apply.
4. Micro-enterprises can access COVID-19 loans of up to €50,000 from Micro-Finance Ireland.
The terms include a six months interest free and repayment free moratorium, with the loan to then be repaid over the remaining 30 months of the 36-month loan period.
Loans are available at an interest rate of between 6.8% and 7.8%. Businesses can apply through their Local Enterprise Office or directly at microfinanceireland.ie
5. The €200m SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Schemefor eligible businesses supports loans from €25,000 up to €1.5 million (first €500,000 unsecured) with a maximum interest rate of 4%.
Applications can be made through the SBCI website at sbci.gov.ie. Eligibility criteria apply.
6. A €200m Package for Enterprise Supportsincluding a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme is available through Enterprise Ireland for vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure or transform their business.
10. REAL-TIME ACCOUNTING
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
ADVICE: Every business owner needs to know their numbers especially in times of crisis. We all have very legitimate concerns when it comes to our finances. Is my business going to be ok?
I have been advocating the benefits of cloud (“real-time”) accounting for some time. A larger number of you have implemented the software to your businesses with great results.
Now more than ever you will need:
1. Actual Profit & Loss weekly, monthly and quarterly
2. Actual Profit & Loss year-to-date
3. Up-to-date Balance Sheet
4. Cash flow projections (3, 6 and 12 month)