A 9-Point Small-Business Survival Plan for Dealing With the Coronavirus

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COVID-19 is challenging New Zealand businesses in an unprecedented way. The media has been very vocal about the economic upheaval. However many small business owners want to learn about how best to preserve their businesses during these difficult times. They want to know not just how to survive, but how to thrive.

Keep reading to learn about 10 different approaches that you can take to preserve your business.

1. Perform financial triage

Small businesses are worried about how to pay their bills month to month and even week to week. You need to triage your financial concerns and deal with the most pressing ones first. Here’s how you can do this:

  • Draw up a cash-flow budget and separate expenses into fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are usually unavoidable. Your cash-flow budget will allow you to rank your expenses in order of importance. Set aside for only the most important of your expenses. Let the other ones slide if you have to. 
  • Figure out if any of your expenses aren’t driving revenue or locking down key business operations. Get rid of these expenses.
  • Find other sources of revenue for your business. Change up your sales and marketing plans.
  • Dip into your savings, KiwiSaver, and consider Wage Subsidy and Leave schemes. You may also be eligible for the Business Finance Guarantee scheme.

2. Look over your business Insurance

Your business may be going through its most challenging period yet. That’s why it is so important to make sure that you are insured against any potential threats to our business. It is also a good time to shop around for policies that may be cheaper under the new lockdown conditions. You can find competitive Business Insurance quotes for NZ small businesses at www.bizcover.co.nz.

3. Implement Coronavirus policies

Some businesses have had to keep their doors open. If your business is among this lucky minority, implement strict health measures to keep your employees safe. A great place to start is the Ministry of Health.

Allow your employees to take out all of their leave if they would like to. Cancel conferences, team lunches and other large group activities. You can host team activities and meetings by webcam instead. 

4. Keep your employees on board

Payroll might not be the best place to cut costs. You need to keep your employees on board because they are what drive your business. Once restrictions have eased, you do not want to spend lots of time and money on hiring new employees. Utilise any government help available to you to keep your business afloat and be as transparent and honest as you can with your employees. 

Take things week by week and month by month. You might have trouble sticking to your usual yearly forecasts, and that’s ok. Here are some important points to consider: 

  • Make sure that your employees feel secure in their roles. If they are stressed and worried, this will translate into poor-quality work.
  • Be flexible. You need to be OK with changing your plans week to week and month to month. This flexibility will serve your business well even as things return to normal.
  • Slow down or even stop your recruiting efforts. Be sure to communicate with your candidates. You don’t want to alienate potential employees when you begin rehiring in the future.

5. Look at your sales and marketing departments

What customers want is clear, open and helpful communication. Let them know that you are still up and running and tell them about any changes that you’ve made to your customer-facing business operations. For instance, they should be aware of your new ordering and delivery model if you have one. 

Social media channels are a great place to interact with your customers and keep them posted on the latest from your business

If you’ve got an electronic direct messaging system, newsletter, or other online mailing system, update it. If you don’t have one, create one! Customers love communication. 

It may seem counterintuitive but it might be a great time to innovate and change the scope of your offerings. Think about finding new markets to tap into. What do your customers want? What new gaps have opened up that you can fulfil? You might want to offer home delivery, subscription services, or even offer online services.

Make sure that you really provide for your existing customers. Deliver exemplary customer service, maintain relationships, and be as honest and transparent as you can. Make sure that you nurture your relationship with key suppliers and shareholders as well.

6. Look into R&D, improving operations, products and services

Just because your business may be slowing down doesn’t mean that you can kick back. Use this rare opportunity to focus on oft-neglected aspects of your business. You can use COVID-19 to train yourself and your staff on the latest in your field. Look into your offerings and services and see where you could boost efficiency. Brainstorm and be creative. 

Many small business owners defer seemingly small but very important tasks because they are so swamped with daily operational tasks. Now might be a great time to overhaul your systems and operations. 

Engage your employees in a great business training program. Many universities and educational institutions in New Zealand and abroad are offering free or affordable online educational programs. Why not sponsor your employees to upskill? Perhaps your business needs more work on its social media, accounting, web design, or some other niche. If so, this could be a great opportunity to improve the capabilities of your staff and business. 

7. Make Work from Home as easy as possible

Some of your employees may already work from home. Other employees may not be used to working out of the office. Be sure to adjust your expectations for the first few months of Working From Home accordingly. Be tolerant as people work out the kinks. Some of your employees might have flat mates or young children. Internet and technology probably isn’t as reliable at home as at the office. 

If your business isn’t already cloud-based, upgrade it now! Whether your business is server or cloud based, you will need to ensure that your employees have adequate protections and VPNs on their home computers. You don’t want sensitive data being compromised.

Again, you need to be realistic. Some business functions can be done from home and some cannot. Realistically assess if you need to retain a small workforce onsite. Provide support to employees working from home. You need to understand that a home office set up exposes your employees to distractions ad disruptions.  

8. Look over your strategic plan for 2020 

Making a strategic plan for the rest of 2020 is a great move. Address any projects in the pipeline and have a look at programs that you’ve always wanted to start. New Zealand businesses are facing many more months of economic restrictions. Use this time wisely.

9. Have grace

It may seem tempting to simply give up. Instead, use this difficult time to grow and learn. 

  • Make sure that your business has a robust financial reserve or savings account for future financial hurdles.
  • Make sure that you have a financial safety net for yourself.
  • Consider diversifying your product and services offering.

If you’ve got the capacity, help other members of your community as best you can. Not only will this increase the overall cohesion of your community, you will also feel more connected. As an added bonus, your business will seem more socially responsible and you will be perceived as more trustworthy by your customers. 

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