In a few short weeks COVID-19 dramatically changed the face of Australian business. Overnight whole industries were forced to close or drastically modify the way they did business and for many the repercussions have been devasting.
Official information, guidelines and advice is constantly changing and if like many business owners you are struggling with information overload, the below ‘checklist’ may assist you to navigate these uncertain times.
- Understand your business financials – As a business owner it is always important that you understand your financial position, but in a time of economic uncertainty, it is essential. Understanding your numbers will enable to you to make informed, strategic and rational rather than reactionary decisions. If you don’t currently have a good accountant or financial advisor, now is the time to get one.
- Seek expert advice – There are options out there to assist you and your business financially survive the coming months. Special business loans, tax deferrals, loan repayment deferrals and early access to your superannuation. Some of these options might give you a short term cash boost but make sure you understand how it will affect you in the long term.
- Check your eligibility for assistance – The Federal and New South Wales governments have announced numerous stimulus packages to assist Australian business owners through the pandemic period. Check your eligibility as you may be entitled to various grants to financially assist you over the coming months. Again, if you are unsure seek the advice of your accountant or financial advisor.
- Understand your employee options – Familiarise yourself with your obligations as an employer. Up to date information is available through Fair Work and we have created a cheat sheet as a first step to understanding your rights and obligations. If you have employees who are covered by an award please note that the Fair Work Commission has inserted temporary provisions into numerous awards to provide for additional leave entitlements in response to the pandemic.
- Commercial leasing – One of our favourite topics at the moment! For many businesses rent is one of the biggest overheads and for many paying full rent when their sales have suffered a significant decrease is not sustainable. On 7 April 2020 Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a Code of Conduct (‘the Code’) to apply to commercial leasing during the pandemic period. Please see our previous blog post for details of the Code. The NSW Government has now enacted the Code meaning NSW landlords and tenants need to adhere to the terms of the Code when renegotiating rental arrangements during this time. While the Code provides that tenants and landlords must negotiate in good faith to agree temporary arrangements appropriate to their individual circumstances, in practice we are seeing many parties struggling with these negotiations. Feel free to contact us should you wish to discuss your leasing options and obligations further, we are offering businesses a 20 minute free consultation to assist them in navigating their tenancy issues.
- Communication is key – There are not too many businesses which are not impacted in some way by the pandemic. While for some trade has completely stopped, for others, such as our accounting and financial advisor friends, enquiries and calls for assistance have exploded. Regardless of where you sit on the spectrum, it is anything but ‘business as usual’, and communicating how your business has been affected to your staff, key stakeholders, clients and customers is key to ensure positive relationships are maintained. If, due to increased demand, it is taking you longer than normal to respond to client enquiries let people know. Or if you have had to change the way you do your business to ensure compliance with public health orders notify and reassure your customers what you are doing to keep everyone safe and healthy.
- Innovate to Mitigate – One of the most positive things to emerge in the Australian business landscape is how quickly many businesses have pivoted and innovated in order to mitigate their loss and survive. Many businesses have begun to think outside the box and reviewed their offerings, are experimenting with technology, remote consultations and taking their business online. This crisis has forced years of business innovation in the space of a few weeks.
- Reach out to your network – In times like this it is important to reach out to your business network for support and advice. As we previously mentioned, there are not many who are not impacted in some way by this pandemic and understanding how others are responding and innovating may help you resolve issues you may be having or inspire you to think about things differently. If you feel like you’re flying solo, please reach out, we’re always happy and willing to assist where we can.
- Keep informed and stay vigilant – Things are very fluid at the moment and regulations, advice and orders are changing daily. The internet and social media is saturated with information and advice and unfortunately there are some people who are trying to profiteer from people’s distress and confusion. Keep it simple and stay safe (and sane) by staying up to date with important information from official government sources and seek accounting, financial and legal advice from your professional advisors.
For further information in relation to any legal issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic or if you need to discuss negotiating changes to your commercial leasing or licensing arrangements, please contact us – we are here to help.