Managing Your Business During COVID

Canadian businesses are facing one of the most significant upheavals in modern history as we deal with COVID-19. To survive in the short (and long) term, managers, supervisors and owners need to completely revise their strategy for 2020 and well into 2021 to properly compete, maintain customers and their top employees. But first, there are some immediate actions you need to take to ensure optimal success during this difficult time.

Health and Safety

Before you look at the bottom line you need to first ensure that all of your staff are safe (including yourself). The Government of Canada and CDC have provided some excellent resources to help employers with managing in the current COVID-19 environment. Here are a few we think are helpful:

Of course, the best way to protect your employees is offering a work-from-home solution. This may not be the ideal solution, but it may be a requirement depending on whether your business is deemed essential or not. You will need to review the exact policies for your province. (Here is Ontario as an example: https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces)

Finally you can help reduce anxiety and the overall impact to your employees by ensuring they have access to the financial aid and programs set up by the Canadian government.

Create a Communication Plan

During a crisis you can ever communicate enough – over communication is often necessary to ensure that all stakeholders (employees, consumers, suppliers and owners/shareholders) are all on the same page and understand how the business will function over the next few months. This communication should also provide direction on timing for return to work and processes (when known).

Keep in Contact with Your Customers

Your customers may not be able to see or reach you at this time but they will want to know that you are still there. Don’t focus too much on “selling” but think about your communications as an outreach or touch-point to remind your clients that when this situation resolves that you will be very willing and able to provide your services or products again.

If you ARE still able to provide your services to customers make sure they know your doors are still open and what processes are in place to protect everyone during the transaction. If there are contracts or orders still in progress, reassure your customers that things are on-track or provide a timeline if delayed.

Ensure you continue with your accounts receivable communications and be understanding if there are requests for extended payment terms. Remember that most of your competitors may be offering flexible payment terms so be aware of how your industry is handling these challenges. Staying on top of your accounts receivable will be one of the most important tasks over the next 3 months as every business will be feeling cash-flow constraints. You can help alleviate yours by being consistent yet gentle in your ongoing communications.

Understand Supplier Situations

If you rely on suppliers or contractors to service you during this time, reach out proactively to understand if there are any delays and how that will impact your business. If needed, review payment terms with your suppliers and if possible, understand what flexibility they may offer you.

Review your Financial Situation

March 2020 will forever change the history of all of our businesses and now that we are past some of the what-ifs, it’s now time to plan for the what’s next.

Review your Workforce to Match Customer Service Requirements

With few exceptions, businesses will see a decrease in demand and you will need to make some tough decisions on what amount of labour is required to service it – especially from a work-from-home environment. It is important that you understand your contractual obligations and consult with your human resources department or legal counsel. Review what is available to you as an employer through the Canada Economic Response Plan Wage Subsidy https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan/covid19-businesses.html#wage_subsidies

Review all Operating Expenditures

  • Rent / Mortgage deferral plans – discuss options with your landlord or banking institution. Many are providing assistance to small and medium sized businesses
  • Monthly subscriptions – check your software and credit card bills for expenses that can be stopped or temporarily suspended. You will be surprised at how these can all add up
  • Food / Water / Coffee services – most of these services have already been suspended as non-essential but ensure you aren’t paying for them today
  • Check every line item of your P&L from the previous 12 months to see what additional expenses can be trimmed back during the next 3 months

Review your Cash Flow Requirements

Work with your financial team or accountant to truly understand how some of your new cost-reduction strategies will impact your cash flow over the next 3 – 6 months. Business Development Canada has put together a simplified overview of how you can easily plug in your requirements to see your cashflow situation:

Check out the BDC site for more information on how to use this spreadsheet to forecast your cashflow: https://bit.ly/2JDuKE8

Start Your COVID-19 Return to Work Preparations

In a matter of months, the curve will begin to flatten and businesses will be reopening. The most successful businesses will have a plan in place to safely reintegrate their employees into their work environments and assist all stakeholders in understanding how the business will operate safely. Remember, in all likelihood businesses will return amid some risk of COVID-19 still in the general population so you will want to ensure you have new policies and procedures in place to combat a second wave and deal with the possibility of sick employees.

Will all of your employees return back at the same time? How will you manage social distancing when back at the office? What new protocols or procedures will you put in place to manage sick employees or those that are fearful of returning?

We know there are lots of questions still to be answered so we have put together a variety of COVID-19 Return to Work programs and resources that may help you. Please feel free to contact us for more information or for a free consultation to discuss how we can assist.

Remember, this too shall pass and we look forward to helping all of our clients and readers on that path to business recovery.

Acknowledgements: Business Development of Canada inspired this post and a portion of our content. Please visit their site for their recommendations here: https://bit.ly/2JDuKE8

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