COVID-19 has caused disruptions and changed the way we do business. For many business owners, it has forced a quick pivot to service and operations, as well as adaptation to new rules and regulations.
Some industries like the food service sector have been able to keep up with the rapid pace of change by acting quickly to provide take-out and delivery options. Other industries like consumer-packaged goods have been able to capitalize on new product opportunities like manufacturing or distributing masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and protective equipment. Real estate, retail, entertainment and travel sectors on the other hand have been hit hard and have slowed or even stopped operations completely.
BC's Restart Plan lays out the steps we will all take together to protect our people and ensure that our province can come back from COVID-19 even stronger than before. Right now, British Columbia is entering Phase 3 of restarting its economy. And, that means many businesses are planning their reopening and workers are planning to return to work.
While reopening, it’s important to take time to reflect, plan for recovery and create revitalization programs. As a business owner, reviewing your financial health and creating a business strategy for the months ahead will be important. You may even need to dust-off, revisit or revise your business plan. Here are a few considerations for planning your recovery:
Your business recovery roadmap starts with reflection. Think about how the coronavirus has affected the health of your business, and how it could affect your finances if a second wave comes later on down the road. Examine your financial status and credit availability. Then, set projections of where you might be in the months to come. Think about where you are now, how things of changed, and even why you started all those years ago. Look at your business plan to see where it has shifted. Now might be a good time to review your business profile, business objectives, competitive landscape, marketing plan, staffing and financials. The way we operate our businesses has changed as a result of COVID-19, which means you will need to readjust your strategy accordingly.
Before you start grinding on about day-to-day work like you may have under ‘normal’ circumstances, you’ll want to plan out how to operate under the recent changes brought about by COVID-19. Uncover what your business is going to look like, not just in the day-to-day operations, but in the next year. Then, plan out the next three to five years that it might take to rebuild. Foreshadow the things to come and conduct a SWOT analysis to see where you might be most vulnerable. These steps will all help you develop a plan to limit stresses on the business you worked hard to create.
How have your customer’s expectations changed, and how do you communicate to them? These are great questions to ask yourself as you plan to recover. Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus is something most businesses have either done or are in the process of doing. Now’s a great time to improve your customer service strategy.
Outline the before COVID, during-COVID and post-COVID consumer profile for your industry. If you anticipate changes, as we move through the pandemic, you will need to factor that into your planning. Most consumers have discretionary spending on non-essential products and services. So, you may experience a decrease in sales if you’re working in the B2C space. If you’re working in the B2B space, production lines and supply chains may have been altered. So, you may experience product shortages or delays. For example, if you are in the business of importing or exporting, you might have longer wait times at the boarder which can impact your customer’s timelines. Determine how changing spending habits or purchase order expectations will affect your business.
Consumer behaviour is always evolving. You’ve likely experienced some consumer behaviour shifts in the past and learned to adapt to them. It’s part and parcel of being a business owner. Be perseverant and find out the changing needs of your customer, so you can better market to them and meet their needs. This is key. Communicate any changes to your business, target new opportunities, and connect with your customers. Even if you must tell your customer that you’re reconfiguring your operations due to COVID-19, at least you are providing clarity and an open door for business. Right now, consumers are helping to support local businesses and brands that they perceive as helping their communities. Many are happy to even support struggling businesses too. The message of ‘we’re all in this together’ couldn’t ring truer.
Revenue losses due to COVID-19 puts smaller and more financially vulnerable businesses in a challenging position. Even under ‘normal’ conditions, most companies face cash flow, liquidity risks and financial challenges. These challenges have been amplified by the economic impacts of the coronavirus. This could be the result of disruptions to operations, higher operating costs and lost revenues. Interruptions to operations might include staging and managing the supply chain. Extra costs may include unexpected purchases of home office technology, IT security solutions or protective equipment for staff. And, lost revenues might come from the decline of foot traffic and tighter consumer spending. Every business’ risks and challenges are different, so it’s important that you do an assessment that’s tailored to you.
Conduct a financial viability assessment to understand where additional planning might be required and start identifying and mitigating business risk. Determine the low, medium and high-risk elements of your operations and begin developing financial plans to overcome them. Ask questions like: Does my business have enough cash to survive the next three, six or even twelve months? Am I able to deliver the goods and services required of my business? Can I fulfil all my contracts?
Also, focus on identifying cash coming in and cash going out, and whether your cash-flow has been affected. Determine where your cash reserves might be and where refinancing, grants or loans might work to soften or harden your ability to operate. Set up a cash flow forecast that includes various scenarios for the next three to twelve months. Especially place an emphasis on cash flow, liquidity risks and budgeting. Developing strategies to manage your cashflow will result to more money flowing into your business and help you curb unnecessary funds going out. You don’t have to go it alone. When it comes to assessing your financial viability, talk to an expert.
Unprecedented times have produced financial challenges for entrepreneurs and businesses. Seek out financial relief measures for businesses that might be available to you as a business owner, such as the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) for Small and Medium Enterprises, and Co-Lending Program for Small and Medium Enterprises.
Get additional support from a Business Advisor. Whether it be flexible loan payment options, payment reductions, interest only payments or deferrals, or in some cases additional liquidity, an advisor can provide customized advice and solutions to meet your short-term and long-term needs. They will be able to review and address your business’ unique financial situation to see what additional financial relief options might be available to you. Visit our FAQs for more information on current financial relief measures, as well as other frequently asked questions.
Ask yourself: How does COVID-19 impact your approach to physical workplaces or even managing virtual workplaces? In British Columbia, WorkSafeBC and the provincial government requires all businesses to have a plan to protect workers from the potential spread of COVID-19 at the workplace. As a business owner, this is important because any infections to staff could lead to reduced productivity and further revenue loss due to a re-closure of your premises. If one of your teammates tests positive for COVID-19, other workers and customers they may have encountered during their window period might also be at risk. Measures to reduce the risk will need to be implemented, and new policies and training will need to be provided to staff.
WorkSafeBC has outlined what employers should do to ensure a healthy and safe workplace. This includes recommendations for who can be at the workplace, physical distancing requirements, work-from-home options and even limits on worker travel.
In B2C workplaces, you’ve probably noticed physical distancing stickers on the floors of your supermarket, protective screens at gas stations, and greeters who provide hand sanitizer as you enter shops. In the B2B world, you’ve probably even seen a greater transition to e-commerce and entire networking conferences held online. Take cues from your industry and peers. Translate best practices from their business and apply them to yours.
Creating a safe and productive workplace will not only make it easy to adapt to the new rhythm now, but it will make your workers and customers feel safe. Preparing now will also keep you ready for a potential second wave, or other similar events in the future.
We’re committed to your success and getting you the resources and advice you need during these unique times. Contact your Business Advisor directly or call 1-888-597-1083 to speak to one of our financial experts. We can help you manage your financial health during challenging times.
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Gain insight on how to create a business plan, mitigate risks, increase sales and more. Here are some other helpful articles to lean on for insight:
6 Tips to Manage Your Business Cash Flow
Why You Need to Do a SWOT Analysis
Identifying and Mitigating Business Risks
How to Write a Business Plan That Will Grow Your Business
Better Service, Better Business — Why You Should Improve Your Customer Service Strategy