Business Learning – COVID-19.
The idea of this blog is to help business owners identify some issues which might have occurred within business operations, and hopefully improve the preparation for business owners into the future. The blog is my personal opinion only and based on what I have personally noticed in Facebook groups and other social media platforms, and also with talking to business owners throughout the time, I understand my opinions may not be shared by everyone, as everyone’s circumstances are different.
The last 18 months or so, until October 2021, has been an interesting period in Australia, although more so in Victoria which has spent many days in lockdown or with severe restrictions in place.
Think it has shown that our Government MP’s and a majority of business owners are not trained adequately in responding to a health pandemic of this size, or nature, however, they have all done the best they can at the time, trying to ensure the majority of the community members are kept safe, whilst not everyone has agreed with their decision making.
I have pushed for a couple of years now, that as part of your business continuity plan, businesses should be considering legislative changes that could occur to close their business or change their operations. Whilst the full lockdown of a pandemic was probably not something I was fully thinking of, however, it has shown over the last 18 months, especially in Melbourne, how with a strike of a computer key industry or multiple industries could be shut down almost overnight. The disappointing part was the long-time frame in Melbourne of when business was either closed, or trade severely impacted with the restrictions and the change in operations for example shops turning into clink n collect, or take away only, which caused businesses to require limited staff.
Regional business owners found it difficult to obtain supplies from Metro Melbourne, due to businesses being closed down for a length of time, but also found it difficult as many businesses rely on China and other overseas countries to provide supplies for their business, either to run their business or on-sell as such, however during the global pandemic, closed down several manufacturing companies overseas, and therefore Australia could not obtain a range of supplies.
Businesses soon tried to find suppliers within other States of Australia which was difficult for many, however, it was difficult to get anything manufactured in Australia due to the high cost of products being produced as we have higher wages than most countries.
Many coaches, website designers, markets, etc who thought they had sufficient work within their area or State, suddenly had to pivot what they were doing and find a different source of clients, which were from the different States and Territories of Australia who were not in lockdown themselves. For a business to grow outside their area, they had to turn to the online world and develop or improve their websites and online shops to sell more.
Coaches, mentors, facilitators, etc moved to online platforms like zoom, teams, etc so they could present their workshops, meetings, etc online. Which it seems online training, zoom conferences, team conferences, was more accepted in 2020/21, were possibly in 2001 they were not acceptable, or the technology was not capable on a wide scale.
It is fortunate, people were familiar with online shopping from stores, or overseas, however during this time, it has increased in online sales, where couriers companies struggled to keep up with the deliveries due to the magnitude of orders which were processed.
For myself as a Small Business Mentor, I had to increase my client base in other States, and take on different types of jobs to keep the money coming in. Before 2021, I was happy with clients in my State, as I am the sort of a person who likes the personal touch, however like others I too had to adapt, be flexible and to develop my skills to do business in the online world.
Firstly, I will say many business owners have done well, to ensure they are still operating, or in a position to reopen once the State opens. Unfortunately, several have decided to close their doors during the lockdowns, due to the uncertainly, but also the lack of funds in reserve, although many have been appreciative of the available State grants.
What the lockdowns, demonstrated was many business owners, whether sole traders or companies, were trading at the bottom of the barrel, and did not have sufficient cash reserves, making it difficult to survive. Many businesses struggled to go 1 month without access to funds coming in through sales, which made it difficult with lockdowns and many industries closed down, which meant it was difficult to increase sales at any point to ensure revenue was coming in therefore many businesses were waiting for the State grants to be paid, however often these were coming in only in dribs and drabs, or always in the rears, and never at a consistent rate.
After speaking with many business owners, but also watching many discussions in the Facebook groups, it demonstrated many businesses owners did not have a support network in place.
And when I say support, I mean as in an Accountant, business coach, mentor, or anyone else who can assist them during this time.
I am not sure whether many business owners did not know where to look for information and find the relevant information required, whether it was trading restrictions or grants etc, or they were too lazy to go looking for the information and took an easy route of using free Facebook groups to source information. Although as many found, these Facebook group discussions were just a confused as the business owner asking the question, or at times we’re given the wrong answers which do not help when fines are so high on doing the wrong thing- gaining information is all about trusting the source you get it from to ensure it is accurate information.
Many business owners will need to consider their future, as to whether they remain in business or not, and decide to move into paid work as an employee, and either forget the business for now or move the business to side hustle, for now, it is a tricky situation.
Many Business owners will need to double if not triple their sales, and their profits, to catch up on their outstanding accounts, for example, many have deferred part of their rent per month under the scheme, however, they need to be able to pay it back and catch up on their normal monthly rent, plus the extra in the deferred rent which will be difficult for many, and will depend on how long they negotiate with their landlord/agent and the time given to catch up on outstanding rent.
Business owners, whether they are a service provider or a product/retail business will need to consider how to grow their client base, in a way that will help them find clients in different States and Territories around Australia, which will ensure they can continue to trade through any other localised restrictions.
Retail/ Product providers will need to consider whether they can buy their products from one, as having it only from one country e.g. China, Japan, etc are not good during a pandemic, as manufacturing can be closed down there, and we need to wait for weeks/ months to get products sent to Australia. The concept now must be to ensure all our eggs as such are not in one basket, e.g. all our supplies come from one country or one supplier, we now need multiple suppliers.
Business owners, especially the smaller operators, with limited employees, will need to find a way to source their support resources. To ensure they have someone to go to to find out information when something is not working. Whether it be an Accountant, Lawyer, Mentor/ Coach, local Business Association, etc, everyone needs support. In the past, some might have thought paying $500 a month to a Mentor, or Accountant might be wasted money, however, if they are doing the legwork as such for you, and finding out about legislation changes, grant possibilities, etc for you, then it could save you time and allow you to work either on and in your business to keep the sales growing.
I hope people reading this have gotten something out of it, and know there is a positive if you are still operating, as you have gotten through all the above, over the last 18 months or so.
Now we slowly open up to the world again, we need to ensure we can open up our businesses to paying customers, and only do what you are comfortable doing at present, no need to rush back into anything, remembering the one COVID positive case in your workplace whether it be staff or customer could see you closed for some time, hopefully, 7 days at a maximum, although with many 1-2 operator retail stores, it is going to be difficult, as one case can wipe out your whole workforce for a while.
Please remember there is help out there for you, whether it is to assist with your health, Mental Health, or with your business, all you need to do is ask for me, there are many people out there, just waiting to be contacted and asked for support, or assistance which can help you through this period, as it is going to be tough for many.
If you need any business support, please feel free to contact me to discuss.
If you are experiencing distress, or this blog has caused any issues please call LifeLine 131114,