How to ensure your small business survives coronavirus


Since the announcement of a shutdown, small businesses might feel paralysed or apprehensive.

But as a business owner, you need to act immediately.

There are five things to consider:



Before you start, will you make it through the lockdown until it all returns to normal? Look at:

What is your cash position accessible right now?

What debtors are immediately collectable? Anyone who hasn't paid within 90 days is probably uncollectable. But call every debtor under 90 and confirm payment.

Your tax position - GST and Payroll PAYG - are you eligible for the $25,000 PAYG relief? Can you defer payments of GST/PAYG with the Australian Taxation Office for a few quarters and create a payment plan spread over 12 months?

The costs of opening the doors each month. They typically involve staff, rent and cost of goods.

INTEREST charges on bank loans. Can you defer any repayments?

WHAT do you owe suppliers and creditors over the next two to three months? While we want your debtors to pay you, you need to pay your creditors, too.

BASED on the above, how many months of operating costs do you think you have available to fund the lockdown? Government support programs might help.


Skye Vogel owns a small business, dress shop, Ember & Ash Boutique Picture: AAP Image/Richard Gosling
Skye Vogel owns a small business, dress shop, Ember & Ash Boutique Picture: AAP Image/Richard Gosling


Ask yourself what activity your business will perform during the lockdown.

If your business is deemed a non-essential activity, who will perform the activities during lockdown (full time, part time, on-call, etc) and who will be stood down? Furthermore, what and how will they be paid.

As confronting and uncomfortable as this is, it is vital to know where you stand, what your decisions need to be and your moral obligations.

If staff will work from home, get them to transition immediately to reduce the rush and test it out.

Seek legal advice to understand your position.



You need clear, open communication immediately.

All staff, on or off site, need to be contacted, but you need to establish how and by who - and what will be said.

Anticipate lots of questions, confusion and uncertainty. Stick to the facts of what you know and what you plan.

Be measured, confident, reassuring, honest, and don't make commitments you can't stand behind.



It's vital for connection and mutual support to touch base with everyone at least twice per week.

This will help them feel heard, not forgotten, not isolated and it's good to hear how their peers are coping. Plan how and who will do this, for example via group video or phone hook-ups.



Finally, you will at some stage need to call the business back to work. Think about who will decide which staff and when, and what you will say to them.

I can't emphasise enough, Communicate. Communicate Communicate - openly, honestly and authentically.

Remember Andy Weir's quote in The Martian: "They say no plan survives first contact with implementation."

This is uncharted territory.

People won't remember what you said, but they will certainly remember how you made them feel and how you behaved.


John Downes is a business mentor and chief executive of Acorro

Originally published as How to ensure your small business survives coronavirus

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