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COVID-19: It's not too late to plan for your business

Posted 17/03/2020 by Amy Patterson

COVID-19 has arrived in the UK and it is now reportedly a global issue. Stock markets are plunging down on last weeks close, oil prices are in free fall, supply chains are being disrupted, and in the middle of it all, small and medium-sized businesses are dealing with frightened employees, wavering consumers and an uncertain future.

Ever since the coronavirus started infecting people in China, we have for the most part sat watching from the side lines, rather like sitting in the garden before a lightening storm, you can feel the atmosphere, the sky darkens, you hear faint rumbles, the odd flash of lightening the odd spot of rain and then, boom it hits you.

This virus has in some ways been a little like that for most of us, certainly from the mixed reactions from clients we see at Farnell Clarke. People are and have been making strategic steps to help themselves in an act of damage limitation.

It is not too late to plan

Despite cases continuing to rise and markets sending people and companies in a panic, it’s not too late for businesses to plan and establish a damage limitation process to mitigate or at least minimise any risk.

1. Communicate with staff

One of the most important things you can do is communicate with your employees. Many are likely to be concerned about their health and how they can continue working as more things get shut down.

Effective communication of what you are doing, what the plan is and how this will be achieved is vital to care for your employees and reassure clients at the same time. We all appreciate the severity of the is situation, but we must be calm and work together.

2. Invest in work-from-home technology

While most people likely have a phone, a computer and an internet connection, some may not have enough bandwidth to do the kind of work they do at the office at home. Some companies may also not be set up with the right collaboration tools, such as internal communications programs or secure Wi-Fi.

We live in an age of technology so there will be hardware in most homes with the correct approach, security and application could create a home-based structure for us carry on regardless.

3. Create a disaster preparedness policy

A lot of companies haven’t planned for a crisis on this scale, but as many are finding out now, they need one.

Security Protocols: A good plan will cover a number of things, including procedures around remote work. GDPR should spell out how people should work from home and ensure they have the equipment to carry out their job.

Remote meetings: Conducting a webinar or remote meeting will meet the client’s needs but without the need for travel.

Insurance coverage: It’s also important to include things such as insurance coverage for business closures or trip cancellations, certainly now will be the time to get the insurance ‘terms and conditions’ and check your level of cover.

Funding and finance options: Look at what short term financing could be available to keep the business going through this time. Things like bank overdraft, credit card merchant facilities, company credit card, factoring/CHOCS facility, unsecured loans from 6 months to 60 months, secured lending, refinance of equipment and vehicles right the way through to asking friends or family.

Look at your ledger: Another key area is to check the condition of your ledger or WIP (Work in Progress). By this I mean look at your invoices outstanding and look to collect in on aged invoices that are outside your normal terms of trading. Perhaps speak to clients and see if they could settle slightly earlier to ensure continued service to both parties, do not forget if you do not get paid on time, this can have severe consequences.

Supply chain: Look at who and where you get your raw materials from. Now is the time to take stock of your situation, from how many nuts and bolts are in stores through to a complete inventory of what you have.

This is critical, depending on the outcome of this, you can then evaluate accurately how long you can trade on current reserves, which contract you can complete, start or choose to postpone. In addition to this you can determine costs, staffing levels, time scales and be able to plan for the future

The main thing is to keep your head up and not lose focus or indeed faith. During and following the various wars we, as a nation suffered great hardship, sadness, personal loss and distress. But we emerged from that and as a society where reborn and redefined having been sculpted by the events that are unfolding around us.

· Stay calm

· Stay in charge of your ship

· Stay in contact with staff, talk to them, they are worried too

· Stay alert, watch your clients for signs of stress or issues

· Stay on top of your collection process, recover aged invoices

· Stay in touch with your professional circle, accountants, bank

· Stay active securing new local supply chains and support

Speak to us, email us, we are here to help, as mentioned now is the time to gather your professional team around you and start planning and where possible putting structures in place that will help sustain the business through this rather uncertain period.

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