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A pandemic wasn’t part of the business plan

May 7, 2020

SMEs and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of any economy. They are the key generators of employment and income, and drivers of innovation and growth. In the western world, SMEs employ more than half of the labour force in the private sector. That is why, in this unprecedented time of the global Covid-19 crisis, governments have been quick to offer financial aid packages essential for economic recovery.
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SMEs are generally more vulnerable in times of crisis for many reasons

  • It is more difficult for them to downsize as they are already small.
  • They may be more focused on one area and less diversified.
  • They may have a lower or no credit rating.
  • They are often more dependent on credit and may have fewer viable financing options.
  • Many larger businesses may take advantage of their position and not pay on time.

Karen G. Mills is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, and led the United States Small Business Administration from 2009 to 2013. She says the number one thing that we can do to keep the economy going during this particular crisis is to help small businesses withstand this brutal cash crunch, and that will support the broader economy.

“Small businesses are the very fabric of our communities, all across the country”, Mills said. “Days matter at this critical time. If we lose these small businesses, our communities are going to look very different when all is said and done, and it will take a long time to bring back the businesses we will have lost.”

So, in addition to taking advantage of government financial aid packages, what should SMEs focus on to not only survive this crisis, but build their resilience and come out the other side in a stronger position?

Remco Marcelis is Managing Partner and Founder of Australian financial company, Standard Ledger. He has worked with start-ups and high-growth SMEs as a CFO/Virtual CFO for many years. In a SmartCompany interview, he lists six survival tips to stay focused amid the noise and turmoil (summarised below):

1. Do a financial recce

Understand your financial position. How much cash do you have? How long will it last? What are you owed (and how likely is it to be paid)?

2. Keep the team together (while apart)

Microsoft Teams, Miro, Asana, Slack, Business Sorter, and there are many more. Try a free demo so you get the best solution for your business.

3. Focus on your core

Time is precious. Consider what you don’t need to be doing right now, which will help you cut costs too

4. Think carefully about your people

Focus as many of your people as you can on income-generating activities that aren't too high-risk. If you have to look at reducing costs, consider ways around it to keep your team (you’ll need them to bounce out of this). We’ve seen entire companies take a 25-30% pay cut rather than lay off people. Make sure you investigate any government funding available at this time.

5. Update your cash forecast

If you don’t have one, create a forecast as quickly as you can and before you start making too many decisions.

6. Plan for the worst (but hope for the best)

Step back from your business by creating a SWOT so you have an overview and will make the most-informed decisions. Work out your priorities and the steps and resource needed to achieve them. Do nothing else until you have completed them. Scattered energy is the enemy.

This is a time when you need to get back to basics quickly. Focus on generating sales, getting paid and having up-to-date and accurate financial information. If you need funding, make sure you have clarity and a plan before you commit to funds. If you borrow, it is critical to spend wisely.

Crises have the potential to accelerate innovation and spur a willingness to try new things formerly thought too risky, simply because now it is a necessity.

Think about how you can change your business, perhaps through collaboration, by identifying an alternative customer, or new use for your product or employees’ skills and talent. Consider if a move to a digital platform and virtual market place is an option.

Go well.

Why leave it there?

You can also check out our free resources. No sign-up required. We have templates and guides available for common business areas and topics

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