OPINION | 6 tools to help small businesses survive coronavirus

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Businesses will bear the brunt of social distancing practices and disrupted supply chains caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

While it is too soon to say what the impact of the pandemic will have on the local economy, many small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will be most affected by changes in customer behaviour, labour shortages and late payments.

Given their size, lack of access to emergency capital and additional resources, small businesses are likely to be most affected by the declaration of national state of disaster.

It’s difficult to determine how long businesses will experience disruptions from Covid-19, it could be weeks or months. The best thing SMEs can do is to be as prepared as possible.

Nobody can guarantee what the immediate future will bring. However, there are some key considerations for local SME owners to manage the impact of the outbreak.

Monitor customer behaviour 

Small businesses may need to alter their activities to suit their customers change in behaviour.

SMEs in the service industry are at risk due to restrictions on travel and fear around contamination, making it more difficult to make up cash flow losses.

Manage cash flow 

Under extended pandemic scenarios, SMEs are at risk of running short on working capital.

Labour and material shortages, and lower demand from customers may result in less turnover. Managing cash flow, as far as possible, will be critical.

Communicate with suppliers 

While you may not have direct links of trade to China or any other affected regions, some of your suppliers might.

Ask if they’re facing delays in obtaining stock and whether or not they have additional materials on hand for you to purchase in advance.

Balance supply and demand 

Consider whether production can be scaled back or amended to protect imported stock.

If this is your business’s off season, look into slowing down on the production side of things to keep a steady cash flow available.

Consider a work from home policy 

If your industry, internal systems and processes allow for it, consider allowing employees to work from home. This can help maintain productivity and greatly reduce the chances of employees contracting Covid-19.

Remote work is especially relevant for SMEs in professional services, but is less applicable for SMEs in the manufacturing and retail/restaurant sectors.

Prepare for late payments 

If your business fits into a larger supply chain, you may face late payments from customers who are experiencing a decline in sales as a result of the outbreak.

It may be worth looking into accessing additional funding to manage this.

Daniel Goldberg is CEO of fintech company Bridgement.

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