We are currently facing a situation where it is far from business as usual. With a strong focus on social distancing to contain the outbreak of COVID-19, this and other mandatory precaution measures are heavily impacting the output of businesses across the spectrum. It is, however, the smaller enterprises who will ultimately feel it the most.
The reality is that as a country, we must stand together in solidarity and adhere to government’s measures to overcome this challenge. We know however that this is putting immense pressure on small businesses who are now forced to adapt under already trying circumstances. What will help this temporary transition is considering tools that will help this transition and maintain the continuity of business operations.
Simone Cooper, Head of Business Banking at Standard Bank Group, offers tips for business owners to consider during this period:
Many businesses have taken the decision to work remotely or from the safety of their own homes. This does not mean that work cannot continue. What it does mean is that communication will be key. With the outlook uncertain for the foreseeable future, it makes sense to implement systems that provide teams with a platform to communicate on workflow. At the same time, a remote work policy should be implemented so that employees know what is expected of them when working remotely.
With consumers now avoiding public places, more will look to make purchases online. This presents an opportunity for small businesses to adapt to the change in consumer behaviour. There are ways to set up an online extension of your business that are affordable, and easy to set up. Undertaking this effort will benefit the business in the future, as e-commerce continues to grow in South Africa – with or without a global health pandemic. The online shopping phenomenon has hit mainstream in the country and local shoppers have come to expect both an online and offline presence from retailers and businesses, as they seek convenience and easy access to goods and services.
Be Proactive to manage cash flow
Be proactive in your approach to managing your fixed overheads like negotiating with landlords for a rental reduction or for a payment holiday for the duration of the lockdown. It is important to make arrangements with debtors to make partial payments if possible. Transparency is key, be honest with your staff about salaries and what the business can afford to pay. Take the lead to have a conversation with your bank – apply for a payment holiday on existing loans or discuss restructuring existing debt so as to create cash flow.
Keep calm and stay positive
While it may be difficult amid all the noise, resisting the temptation to panic, keeping a clear head and a positive attitude are essential to survival. It becomes important to see the opportunity among the challenges and to adapt the business in the face of the challenges. It is also a time in which planning is critical to a buffer against rising costs, tighter margins and lower demand. There will also be a time when demand begins to spike again. All these eventualities should be considered.
Passion and faith are contagious so make sure that you have plenty of it to share. Create a commando spirit, share quick wins and don’t hesitate to reach out to your team members for special help and support.
From a reputational perspective, your consumers will be looking to see how best you live the company’s values during this transition period.
It is always important to stay transparent with your customer and to communicate with them should there be any disruption to your product or service delivery. If the concerns are communicated to them at an early stage, it prevents any potential customer dissatisfaction later down the line.
Be vigilant of fraudsters
Online scammers are preying on vulnerable internet users during this time, as they look to exploit the fears of those who are looking for more information about the virus outbreak. Make sure you protect yourself by setting up key internal controls and fraud detection systems to protect systems and information during this time.