How can businesses cope with Covid-19?

Plunging stockmarkets, self-isolation, social distancing, travel bans… there is no doubt that 2020 is shaping up to be a year with a unique set of challenges for everyone.

Businesses will undoubtedly be affected by the short-, medium- and long-term effects of the coronavirus. If you run a business, you will be feeling concerned and worried about the future.

Can your business continue to operate safely? Can your employees continue to work? Will your customers want your products or services? Can your suppliers keep up with demand? Will you have enough money to pay your staff, your suppliers, the taxman… all these questions and more are swirling around in a maelstrom of doubt, confusion and, for some, blind panic.

We’ve worked in insolvency, business turnaround and recovery for the past twenty years. We repeat, time and time again, “Don’t worry, we’ve seen it all before,” and most of our clients take comfort from those words. “Things are never as bad as they seem,” is our mantra. “Things will get better.”

This time, we are entering a period of real uncertainty. How long will the economy be affected by the current measures to stop or slow down the spread of the virus? What will it mean in the short-term and how will the economic landscape be changed in the longer term?

Nobody knows for sure. But my advice to business owners who are worried about the future are as follows:

  1. Don’t panic. We know that it’s not easy to stay cool as a cucumber when your plans are overtaken by events and there is little certainty about the future. Take a moment to breathe deeply, remember that we are all in this together. If you are struggling to cope with anxiety, there is lots of help available to help you get through this. Organisations such as Mind and Anxiety UK offer help and support to anyone who needs it. Keeping your mind healthy is just as important as looking after your body.
  2. Don’t feel pressured into making important decisions. Gather enough information to allow you to make an informed decision, based on the best information available. Don’t make ‘knee-jerk’ reactions. As the situation unfolds over the next few days and weeks, we will be able to make better plans than we can today. Until the Government unveils its business support measures, and those measures are seen working in practice, it won’t be clear how much support will be available.
  3. Be sensible. Don’t commit your business to things it might not be able to pay for. Businesses can be guilty of ‘panic buying’ too. Think about whether you need to spend money. If you do, then go ahead. Your suppliers will be grateful for your business. But they won’t thank you if you can’t pay them for their goods or services.
  4. Support the wider business community. One of the problems during the financial crash of 2007-2008 was that the economy started to ‘lock up’ as many businesses stopped spending money and this caused a big financial shock to the economy. If, having thought about your purchases in point 3 above, you decide that you need to buy something, is there a smaller local supplier, to whom your business could make the difference between them carrying on or having to close down?
  5. Embrace new opportunities. Does your business supply something which is particularly in demand at the moment? Can you provide your goods or services in a new way, helping out your customers and ensuring that they stay loyal to you in the coming months? Embrace technology where possible. For example, we are using the internet to deliver more of our services – why have a face-to-face meeting if a Skype call will be quicker, safer for everyone and allow us to reach more people, more efficiently and more effectively?