Did you dare to dream? You did. Did you see your entrepreneurial spirit and pursuits support your family while doing what you are passionate about? You sure did. Did you work hard and build your business plans well? OF COURSE, YOU DID! You’ve planned carefully, for the next month, the next season, and the following year. Plans A, B and C were considered, even contingency plans secured. But who could have been prepared enough to stand against the unimaginable events that suddenly appeared and stopped the globe from spinning? The coronavirus outbreak literally put all of our lives and plans on halt very quickly as the health crisis continued to further distort the economic outlook. The entire global economy is hurting, but there is no doubt that small businesses are hit the hardest because, unlike the big companies, they only have so much cash flow at their disposal. But even in these turbulent times, there is an opportunity, dear friends, an opportunity to innovate, to serve, and to grow. We are here for you, and we are determined to help you set up your business to succeed during emergencies.
Where will your business be 6 months from now? It’s a hard question, but we have to start here because now is the time to make important changes so that you can have the future and jump right back into your dream.
New Plan: Take Care of Immediate Necessary Actions
Throughout Canada, many measures have been put in place to stop the spread of the virus. Physical distancing is now mandatory, which has resulted in many brick-and-mortar businesses closing their doors temporarily, if not permanently. Meanwhile others have shifted their offices to work-from-home setups. If your business is on this list, there are a few immediate actions that you can take right now to buy you some time until you regroup. Pen down your overhead costs for at least three months – start with your rent, utilities, and employee salaries, then add other usual expenses you pay to keep your business running. Once you have these numbers, no matter how grim they may look given these circumstances, without getting discouraged, match them up against what you will realistically be able to cover. Review your finances to identify and clear up some room there by reducing currently unnecessary expenses, and proceed with finding ways to postpone some of your expenses. Reach out to your landlord to see if you can arrange a temporary deal regarding your rent. The same goes for your suppliers. Perhaps they can offer you special pricing, debt forgiveness, or delayed net payment terms, or a combination of these. And because we are all in this together, chances are they already have emergency helplines established and looking past this crisis to a time when they will need your business back. It’s time to help each other, and the best human intentions have been echoed across Canada.
Your most significant expense may be reserved for your employees, those who built and grew your business together with you. Every dedicated employer will look for every possible opportunity to save their loyal staff and their families. Leave no rock unturned before you even consider cutting these costs; with the forced change of how we continue doing business, there may be new workflows to be discovered and new resources to dip into. Let’s discuss these further.
Turn to Government Aid to Help Your Business During Emergencies
As many restaurants, bars, gyms, salons, and other essential and non-essential businesses live through the lockdown, the Government of Canada has launched an unprecedented economic response plan to help small businesses and employees. As the situation evolves by the day, it is important that you stay up to date with the releases of any new benefit that you can apply for right now. At the moment of writing this article, a significant aid package has already been rolled out to Canadian small businesses. A wage subsidy program is now available to companies and non-profit organizations, which will help cover 75% of employees’ salaries for organizations that have experienced a decrease in revenue by at least 30% due to the COVID-19 crisis. The maximum subsidy is $1,129.33 x 75%, or $847/week.
Additionally, interest-free business loans of up to $40,000 are now available to eligible businesses, where 25%, or up to $10,000 of the loan can be forgiven if 75% is paid by December 31, 2022. And all of this comes right after the new employment insurance measures had been established to immediately release monetary aid to workers who have lost their jobs and would not have typically qualified for Employment Insurance (EI). Thoroughly inspect what applies to your business and choose the programs that will help your business and employees the most. Don’t forget to keep track of the latest support news and updates from the government and other entities during crises, as there may be assistance on the way that could set up your business to succeed during emergencies. For example, during the 2016 Alberta wildfires, both the government and Red Cross came forward with aid to help evacuees, while the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce provided complementary office space to displaced businesses. It’s important for you to always stay tuned into all forms of help being offered. That said, there may be even more incoming support to save businesses from the current pandemic.
Now that you’ve addressed the most pressing issues, pause to breathe. Just breathe. Everything is going to be okay. You have managed hardships before, nothing quite like this for sure, but trust in your ability to find your way around it again. First thing’s first; you need to take care of yourself. In fact, we should have listed this as the top priority; however, we know you won’t have peace of mind until you regain some control of your financial situation and settle your worried and scared employee family. If that’s been addressed for the time being, you need to clear your head so that you can figure out where to go from here. Organize your day and establish a new work-rest routine. Eat well and plan your meals to keep your immune system in optimum health. Take regular breaks and try to stay physically active in the comfort of your home. Many gyms have mobilized their efforts to provide free workout classes online that do not require equipment. Often enough, tune out of any news, social media, and work, and use that time to enjoy reading, playing, meditating, and going for a walk if it’s safe to do so. In the case of the current pandemic, you could still go for a walk while keeping a safe distance from others, and should connect with loved ones at home or with others virtually. In regular times maintaining your health is of enormous importance, but if you would like to set up your business to succeed during emergencies, taking care of yourself is essential! A body that feels good and a mind that is steady will leave no room for panic; it will allow you to regain calmness and clarity, which will positively impact your employees and your business. There are many resources out there to assist people facing crises; if you feel you need to speak to someone to help you get through an emergency, getting in touch with one of them would be a great idea. The Government of Canada has launched a portal to promote mental health and offers a helpline to anyone who is having a hard time bearing the stress brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
Mitigate Your Risk
Take a detailed look at your business insurance policy to see which emergencies you are covered for, and how much coverage it entails. You may be covered for business interruption if your business is impacted during certain catastrophes. When obtaining insurance, always ensure you look into and consider insurance policies that cover emergencies, to protect your business from all kinds of sudden disruptions; not just pandemics, but other major events such as wildfires and floods. Take a step back and assess your risk to different emergency situations and choose your coverage accordingly. For example, you likely won’t need any wildfire insurance if your business is in Toronto, ON, but should definitely give it some serious thought if your business is in Kelowna, BC. The amount of business interruption coverage is often limited and insufficient for emergencies, so you may want to consider increasing your coverage, particularly for higher risk events specific to your location.
You Must Innovate
The consequences of the coronavirus outbreak were very rough and instant for some businesses, while for others the impact is still very uncertain and likely long-term. The newly created situation has dictated radical changes for almost everyone, well, unless you are Netflix while the entire nation is ordered to stay home. If you are that business owner who is asking yourself right now what current events mean for you, you must start by examining your business model and how it holds up against changed customer behaviour caused by this pandemic. If you have a store-front operation and are currently able to keep your doors open in accordance with provincial emergency measures, there are many ways that you can improve your store’s safety during the COVID-19 outbreak. While trying to understand what matters most to your customers, you may need to come up with new routes of connecting with them, and relying on technology and a variety of payment systems to add new revenue streams to your business. If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that it’s not wise to keep all eggs in one basket. Being flexible and having the right tools to quickly adapt to any situation, is what’s going to set up your business to succeed during emergencies; this one, and any future ones.
Accepting Payments in Different Ways Creates New Possibilities
The “brick and click” business model has proven to be a winning solution for the retail sector even before the pandemic, but adding digital channels to your brick-and-mortar store is now a must amidst the latest events. Making your products and services available online is a massive leap in the right direction – both in terms of emergency preparedness and business growth. Whether you need a whole new e-commerce gateway setup or a super-simple, plug-and-play online store to launch right away, think about providing the option of delivering your products and services to your customers. If you are a restaurant owner, we can help you set up your own mobile-device-friendly online restaurant with complete ordering capabilities, along with delivery and pickup options, so you can resume your kitchen operation independently; eliminating the need to offer your menu items through popular ordering systems that take large commissions. There are no commissions for this solution. For payment upon delivery, you can equip your staff with on-the-go reliable wireless devices that can accept contactless payments. And if you work remotely and provide your products and services remotely, you can also accept payments in a remote fashion. Mail Order Telephone Order (MOTO) payment capabilities, allow you to accept payments from your customers using any computer or mobile device, any time. What’s great about this option is that you do not require your own website. A virtual terminal is ideal for these types of transactions.
Offering a variety of payment processing products and services ourselves has helped us navigate this crisis better, and enabled us to pass on the opportunity to continue to serve your own customers during this time. We have also learned a great deal from our clients and are able to suggest some best practices. For example, our clients who carried Clover Flex devices in their stores are now using them to accept payments upon delivery. At the same time, they can also log in to its cloud-based capability and accept payments virtually. This is another great option for MOTO transactions, with added versatility.
Catch up with Marketing, Learn New Skills
For a typically overworked small or mid-sized business owner, temporary arrangements of a quarantined life may still come with some benefits, freeing up precious time to catch up with business metrics and marketing. It’s actually a perfect time to deep dive into your business performance and learn from the past, and discover consumer patterns by examining traffic and engagement scores for your online channels. It’s almost a now-or-never opportunity to use every free minute to educate yourself on digital marketing for small- and medium businesses, exploring an abundance of free content that you can find on the internet. Hopefully, you are able to keep your staff during operational slowdowns created by emergencies and can invite them to join you in learning and acquiring new skills. Depending on what changes you plan to deploy to continue or restart your business, adjustments of roles and responsibilities may be the way to go. Keep in touch with your employees if working remotely or even if taking a temporary break. Virtual meetings and hangouts can be helpful, while sending employees inspiring messages and reminding them of how valuable they truly are, are essential in boosting their morale during troubling times.
While the world is adjusting to the new “norm” caused by the coronavirus health crisis, there is an opportunity to emerge differently. Sure, it’s challenging, but you wouldn’t be here had you not been triggered by a challenge before. And that’s why we are confident when we say “emerge differently”, you’ll find that it has a very optimistic ring to it. Remember, stay in good health, deal with immediate events, and diversify. Contact us to help you arrange those baskets.
So again, where will your business be 6 months from now? How prepared will you be for the next emergency? You’ve totally got this!
Ozrenka (Olja) Blagojevic, Marketing Communications Specialist at MONEXgroup
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