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Tips on Reopening Your Business After the Coronavirus Outbreak

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The mandatory shutdowns and restrictions on many businesses in Australia are starting to ease, almost two months after the border closures and the strict social distancing measures were implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus infections. As the government takes baby steps to remove all curbs by July, businesses are also preparing for their reopening.

If you’re one of the many entrepreneurs who are waiting for the green light to reopen, here’s what you need to prepare to get your business back on track as quickly as possible:

  1. Revisit your business plan
  2. Provide more flexible working arrangements
  3. Promote social distancing and strict hygiene measures
  4. Consider taking out a business loan
  5. Adjust your spending budget
  6. Plan for the next crisis

Revisit your business plan

Crowd limits and social distancing practices may continue after businesses are allowed to reopen. Thus, many people will remain wary of real-life social interactions and may continue to avoid crowd gatherings. It will take a while for everyone to feel comfortable doing their pre-coronavirus practices. Additionally, people’s needs and interests may also have changed after being on lockdown spending more time at home.

To address the changing market demands, you may need to change your marketing plans, shift your focus to new products and services, or change the way you interact with your customers. These include:

  • Getting your products on online marketplaces or developing an online ordering system so consumers can check out and buy without visiting your physical store
  • Offering online sessions and consultations for your services, like virtual fitness or cooking classes or online health and dental consultations
  • Offering products and services that are high in-demand, such as healthy and sanitary supplies, vitamins and supplements, fitness equipment, DIY and home improvement items, and bicycles and motorbikes
  • Providing food pickup and delivery services for restaurants and catering businesses
  • Using Zoom and other video conferencing platforms to meet with your business partners, employees, and clients

Provide more flexible working arrangements

If your business has managed to operate while having your employees work from, you may want to continue providing this option. Allowing your employees to work remotely from home and have more flexibility in their work schedules not only promotes social distancing but also helps you reduce your operating expenses as your employees use their computers, Internet, and electricity at home.

Moreover, your employees may feel valued and cared for. Providing more flexible working arrangements will also be favourable for many workers as they may need to spend more time at home to take care of their families because of school closures and other disruptions caused by the pandemic. In turn, they won’t have to look for jobs elsewhere and you won’t need to hire and train new employees to continue your efficient business operations.

Promote social distancing and strict hygiene in the workplace

Social distancing is the new normal

As your employees start to go to the office for work, have them continue practising social distancing until the COVID-19 finally dies out. You may need to rearrange work stations, meeting rooms, pantry, and other related office facilities to create enough distance for each employee and restrict the number of people in one space.

Cleanliness is (next to) godliness

Sanitise your workplace before reopening to ensure a clean working environment. Observe more hygiene measures when your employees are reporting for work again, such as:

  • Placement of hand sanitizer dispensers at more highly trafficked places like the reception area, pantry; and near elevators, doorways, and shared equipment
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting the workplace, paying special attention to the frequently touched surfaces like elevator buttons, doorknobs, handrails, water dispensers and coffee machines, and shared office equipment
  • Using no-touch garbage cans, disinfectants and cleansing wipes, soap dispensers, and face masks and gloves for your utility staff
  • Posting signs that remind employees of the handwashing and proper etiquette for coughing and sneezing
  • Discouraging ill employees from reporting to work

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Consider taking out a business loan to recover

Your business might have lost significant sales during the lockdown. Unless you have plenty of cash on hand, you’ll likely need more working capital to kick-off your business operations again after reopening.

The Federal Government has provided financial assistance for sole traders and companies that are affected by the temporary closure and imposed restrictions on businesses. These include the:

  • Instant asset write-off threshold of $150,000 for business vehicle and equipment purchases
  • Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses, including temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent and temporary flexibility to provide temporary and targeted relief
  • Temporary cash flow support at least $20,000 up to a total of $100,000 payment for eligible businesses
  • Reimbursement of up to a maximum of $21,000 per eligible apprentice or trainee ($7,000 per quarter) to help pay the wages of apprentices or trainees
  • Income support payments for casual employees
  • Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, which supports up to $40 billion of lending to SMEs including sole traders and not-for-profit companies. Under the scheme, the Federal Government also guarantees 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs.

While these federally mandated programs are greatly beneficial, the funding is limited and it may be depleted even before your application for a loan is reviewed. Thus, it is important to consider other sources of financing, such as:

  • Business loans from banks, credit unions and online lenders
  • Business lines of credit and credit cards
  • Equipment financing
  • Merchant cash advances
  • Inventory financing
  • Purchase order financing

Business loans are also competitive. You are likely to get approved and get low-interest rates and favourable terms if your business is profitable, established, and has a good business credit score.

Adjust your spending budget

As you adjust your business plan, you may also need to adjust your budget. You would likely have to spend money before making money after reopening your business. These expenses may include the costs for sanitation and hygiene measures, hiring and training new employees, purchasing new inventory, and advertising campaigns.

Ideally, your budget adjustment should make your operating budget as lean as possible and eliminate the monetary waste. If needed, you can defer paying yourself a salary or taking a pay cut to help your business to get back on track faster.

Develop a contingency plan for the next crisis

The coronavirus pandemic hits businesses hard because no one is prepared. Now that you’ve survived the coronavirus pandemic, you understand the importance of a contingency plan to increase your business’s odds of surviving and thriving again during tough financial times.

These plans may include:

  • Building up liquid cash savings
  • Paying down your debt and trimming non-essential spending
  • Find ways to make your staff work more efficiently to cut operating costs
  • Remote working option in times of crisis

A Timeline for Rebuilding

While it is exciting to reopen your business after the coronavirus crisis and start working on your new ideas, you cannot do all your grand plans at once. It is important to have a realistic timeline that prioritises your most important actions.

You may need to secure funding for your business first before rehiring employees and restocking inventory before officially reopening your doors to customers. Do not also forget to track your progress to improve profitable activities and eliminate those that do not provide a solid return on your investment.

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