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How to protect your small business from the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Michael Nuciforo
With toilet paper flying off the shelves and the airline industry in disarray, Coronavirus (COVID-19) has certainly dominated news headlines for the past month. Whilst the Government, Health authorities and broader community battle to deal with the virus, many Small Businesses are starting to brace themselves for the likely impact caused by rising consumer anxiety, panic, and self-isolation. Whilst Small Business owners have a right to be concerned, there are some simple steps that you can take to reduce the impact of this flu-like virus.

Calculate your business' risk of impact due to COVID-19

Disclaimer: Any results are estimates only, and may not take into consideration other factors. Seek professional advice before making major business decisions.
The latest stats from the World Health Organisation (WHO) sadly confirm that there has now been in excess of 100,000 Coronavirus cases and 4,000 deaths across 103 countries including China, Iran, Italy, US, and even Australia. The sheer size of the human toll makes for grim reading and we pass on our sincere condolences to all those who have suffered the loss of family, friends and loved ones. 

Due to the sharp escalation in Coronavirus cases and deaths, countries have started to take drastic action to stem the flow of the disease. In China, workers are still prevented from coming into work, in Italy, entire regions are in shut down, and any similar outbreak in Australia would no doubt lead to similar measures being enacted. 

Whilst it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, there is a high risk that even at this stage, there will be a considerable impact to the Global economy and small business owners everywhere. With this in mind, we wanted to share some tips for how to handle the disruption and prepare yourself as best as possible.

Tip 1: Create a health plan
The first thing that matters is obviously your health and to ensure you maintain a healthy workplace environment for your team, suppliers and customers. To ensure everyone is on the same page, it’s recommended that you start by creating some specific policies and educating your team about them. These policies should cover general personal hygiene such as washing hands, using hand sanitiser, avoiding large groups, working from home if required, and definitely staying out of the office if anyone has even the slightest suspicion they are getting ill. We would also encourage you to set up more regular cleaning and sanitation at your workplace if possible.

Tip 2: Contact your suppliers or partners
Getting in touch with your suppliers and partners is critical for future planning. Firstly, you will want to understand if there are any potential delays, or impacts, due to the virus. If there isn’t, you’re in luck, if there is, then it’s time to start identifying alternative suppliers. Be careful not to rush any changes, as you will want to ensure your product quality is not impacted. If any of your suppliers are still open for business, but are based in impacted regions such as China, Italy, Iran and South Korea, definitely request a clear outline of their policies and procedures for dealing with the virus. Even though it’s unlikely to transfer with products and goods, you should exercise extreme caution given the circumstances.

Tip 3: Communicate with your customers
Due to regular news reports about the growing number of infections globally, consumers have started to become more concerned and are heading out less as each day passes. Many have taken to restricting their movements and buying a stockpile of essential household goods. Due to this, it’s important you contact your customers and explain what steps you are taking to protect them. This can be done in three different ways, we recommend sending an email, adding a message to your site and also adding signage to any physical stores. In your communications, you can reiterate that your goods might be produced locally, or in areas not impacted by the virus. Customers will want to know this. We would also encourage you to look at providing some special deals or discounts to get people shopping again.

Tip 4: Calculate different impact scenarios
The best way to ensure you’re prepared is to model out different scenarios based on the type of business your run. Now it’s time to use the Thriday Coronavirus small business impact calculator.  The Thriday small business calculator helps you to do this by determining if your business relies on suppliers impacted by Coronavirus, if your sales are generated by tourists, and if your sales are done in person or online. All these factors will play a big role and with Thriday, you can then calculate a score to determine how likely you are to be impacted. Please note that any results are estimates only, and may not take into consideration other factors. You should always seek professional advice before making any major business decisions. When Thriday launches, you will be able to do all your cash flow projections and forecasting using our in-built tools. We know that financial planning is not the domain of many small business owners and we want to do it automatically for you, so you can focus on your business as much as possible. You can sign up for Thriday here.

Tip 5: Monitor and adjust accordingly
You have your health plan confirmed, your partners, suppliers and customers have all been communicated to and you have assessed the different impact scenarios. Now it’s time to get back to business as usual, and monitor what’s happening with your business. Depending on how things are, you might need to make additional adjustments along the way. At this time, it’s best to be agile and act quickly upon new information as it comes to hand. Continue to create contingency plans. In case any staff get ill, make sure you have an arrangement in place with a temp hiring agency, if the regions your suppliers are located are suddenly impacted, make sure you have identified a back up supplier somewhere else. Having multiple options is your best chance of success.