It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions you need to make to keep your organization running during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in chaotic times, it’s important to take a step back and focus on the things you can do to make a difference. The things you can control.
Take the long view with social distancing
In light of the federal and provincial government recommendations to maintain social distancing, there’s a good chance you’ve already reduced your business hours or closed to the public altogether. You’ve probably also considered whether your business can accommodate remote work.
As the situation unfolds, it’s important to continue monitoring Health Canada and the World Health Organization for more public health advice. In implementing their official recommendations, you should also consider the long-term impact of COVID-19 on your business. Do you have adequate contingency or continuity plans?
Given the current uncertainty, your contingency and continuity plans should be stress tested for different financial circumstances. Consider both the best and worst possible outcomes and examine how your cash flow matches up with those scenarios. We’ve recently published some practical steps you can take to manage cash flow, including forecasting and stress testing.
Explore alternative sources of supply
If you decide to revisit your business continuity plan, one important part of that plan is your supply chain. Given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, diversifying your supply chain is a good immediate response. It could also support business stability in the long term.
Look for new ways to reach customers
Location-based services, such as restaurants, have been among the most affected by social distancing. Until these measures were implemented, food delivery services were becoming increasingly popular, but most restaurants still presented their clients with a dining room experience. This has changed.
Think about how some of these options might work for you: takeout services, delivery services, “U-Bake” and selling finished products without in-room dining. Think of your most popular menu items and how to help your customers access them—or recreate them—in different ways, such as through online subscriber-based cooking class.
Is there an opportunity for your business to move stock online? Consider reviewing your online presence and how you might expand it and make your business stand out to your customers. For example, some retailers are offering free shipping and returns, while aiming to create an exciting experience outside of the store.
For non-location based businesses that are also dealing with significant change and business impacts, think about how virtual coffee sessions can help you connect with clients and future clients. Now is the time to be creative and keep reaching out to your community.
Have proactive discussions with financial partners
Maybe, despite your efforts, your business is facing cash flow issues. If forecasting and stress testing show that your business might not be able to meet all its debt obligations, it’s a good idea to reach out proactively to your financial institution.
Don’t wait until your liquidity reaches crisis levels. If there’s a good chance you won’t be able to make certain payments, it’s preferable to provide your financial institution with as much notice as possible. If you’re proactive, you might get the flexibility you need. For more tips, take a look at our article, ‘Steps to manage cash flow and financial headwinds’.
Review your employee supports
If some of your employees are off work, the first step is to determine whether you can continue to pay them for shifts they would have worked. Look at how you can support them first and build this into your forecasting.
You may also want to consider implementing alternate work arrangements. In addition to remote work, this might include offering your employees the option of work sharing. This could help minimize the impact of the downturn by having employees share their work hours. We would suggest first seeking legal advice around these options depending on the nature of your business.
Another important measure to support your staff is insurance and benefits. As this can be a stressful time, employees might need mental health support, whether through an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) or through other insurance coverage.
If your business can’t keep paying wages, your employees may be able to receive government assistance. We published a summary of available government assistance and EI-related measures. It’s a good idea to check for any updates as the situation is changing day-by-day.
Be vigilant against fraud
Scammers are already using COVID-19 in phishing attacks, so it’s important to remain vigilant during this time of crisis. Don’t give into any sense of urgency, because this is an emotional tactic often used by scammers. Ensure that your financial controls remain in place in a telework and/or reduced attendance environment. Given the amount of change we are dealing with, fraudsters know unfortunately that this is a good time to attack. Don’t be afraid to slow things down and do them right. You can find other fraud prevention tips here.
We're here to help
We understand that you want to be agile and responsive as the situation unfolds. Having access to experts, insights and accurate information as quickly as possible is critical—but your resources may be stretched at this time. We’re here to support you as you navigate through the impacts of coronavirus on your business and your investments.