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Follow these proven SME crisis management techniques to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus).
If yours is one of the businesses affected by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak (and let’s face it, whose isn’t?), then here is the expert advice you need to ensure your business not only survives the crisis but has the right strategies to ensure business continuity. From employee welfare to cash flow and supply chain sustainability, here’s what your SME needs to do to get crisis management right.
When faced with a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, one of the first things to do is to look after your staff. According to author, speaker and business coach Margie Warrell, “organisations which respond in ways that grow their currency of trust with employees will benefit from the loyalty and engagement long after the crisis is over.”
Communicate with your team frequently and clearly, making it clear what the “mission critical” priorities are, and always be transparent, Warrell advises.
Even more important is enabling the transition to remote work and flexible working hours where possible – not just in the midst of the health crisis but after it finishes. “The more flexibility, the greater leverage of a virtual organisation,” she says.
Also, use this opportunity to encourage two-way dialogue with your team: find out how you can support them and, equally, seek upwards feedback. “Look to your team to input on ideas for cost savings and revenue driving,” suggests business adviser, CEO and entrepreneur Dr Mathew McDougall. They can offer valuable insights and it’s empowering for them.
The Australian government, as well as various state and local governments, have put in place a raft of measures designed for supporting small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis – so it’s important to stay up to date on what you are entitled to. These include allowances such as the JobKeeper payments and cash flow boost schemes.
Additional financial stimulus packages offered by the NSW government to support business investment include the small business support grant and the SME guarantee scheme for eligible business loans. You can check the financial support packages offered by other state and local governments on their respective websites.
Plus, businesses that are feeling economic impacts on account of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak can also avail themselves of rent relief, as mandated by the Australian Government’s code of conduct for commercial tenancies, as well as flexible payment options for energy and utility bills. And most banks and insurance providers have allowed for deferred payments on business loans and insurance premiums.
While small business owners are understandably stressed in times of crisis and uncertainty, it’s worth remembering that a slower pace can be turned into an opportunity. Focus on the projects that have been lying on the back burner, whether it’s an overdue website upgrade or non-urgent tasks such as rethinking organisational structure or supply chain channels.
SMEs can manage this crisis by also thinking about what lessons can be learnt and applied in the future. For example: are there any risk management policies you need to put in place? How can you diversify the business to make it more resilient?
This is also a good time to look at up-skilling for you and your team. There are plenty of online courses available, many now being offered at discounted prices or even free.
Another savvy way to make use of this time is with corporate social responsibility. According to a March 2020 study by Mindshare US, 94 per cent of consumers are looking to brands and companies to stand up and help. “Good corporate citizenship can be done in various ways – building community engagement, encouraging employees to get behind local community initiatives, or fund raising for the most vulnerable in the community,” says Warrell.
Work out which behaviours from this time will outlast the impact of the coronavirus (and no, that doesn’t count hand hygiene).“Focus on what you can do now to get through, while also identifying opportunities for new markets and growth for the business. This may look very different to what you are doing now,” says Dr McDougall. “Most innovation comes out of a crisis or an urgent need for a solution. Spend some time observing how consumers are responding and you will see gaps and opportunities.”
“The ’new normal’ may hold opportunities to provide a more diverse product offering,” adds Warrell. For example, organisations that have pivoted to respond to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak – such as gin distillers now making hand sanitiser – could potentially turn this crisis into a diversification opportunity.
Many organisations are also adapting to remote working, which can turn into a long-term way of operating. “Look at how you can foster more organisational agility too,” says Warrell. “Use this crisis as a catalyst to delegate decision making authority downward, entrusting employees down the ranks will build engagement and can lead to more effective solutions at the coal face.”