How your business can prepare for surviving a lockdown.

Victorians woke up on Thursday to the news of yet another snap lockdown, this time for seven days. As the national vaccine rollout continues to move at a glacial pace, there’s been a growing realisation that this is likely to be the way we live for quite some time.

We have to face the difficult – but very real – possibility that this lockdown could last longer than a week if the outbreak can’t be brought under control. And in the future, as our Victorian Labor government continues to mismanage the contact tracing of this virus (compared to NSW, for example), it may only take another small COVID-19 outbreak to snap us back into lockdown again.

It’s a stressful situation for all of us, and we extend our best wishes & solidarity to all the Victorians grappling with difficult emotions this week. In particular, we know how hard this is for business owners, many of whom are still recovering from previous lockdowns. To help you make it through and prepare for the future, we’ve compiled some tips to help your business become more lockdown-resilient. Here’s what business owners need to know about surviving a lockdown.

Look back to the last lockdown.

One of the few upsides to going into lockdown over & over is that we’re getting used to dealing with it. It’s not quite as scary & unpredictable as it was the first time.

So before you do anything else, you should take some time to analyse how you & your business coped with the previous lockdown – what worked well, and where did you struggle? Were some of your online services overwhelmed, while other parts of your business had nothing to do?

Don’t limit your thinking to a purely business-focused response. Think about the physical and psychological impacts that lockdowns can have on your staff – and be sure to get their input on adjusting or changing any work processes.

Reviewing these past lockdown situations will go a long way to helping your lockdown plan be more dynamic & effective for your business.

Develop a business continuity plan – and make it flexible!

The next step is to get it all written down so you can start working through the finer points. Make sure that all staff are clear about their role during a lockdown, and that everyone has what they need to work remotely securely and effectively. Ensuring that people kept communicating regularly during the day via Teams, Zoom or phone calls was something that I found to be really important to our workplace during the last lockdown. Your team need to be communicating with each other, not just sitting in their own bubbles. 

Then you should look at the other areas that will be affected. Assess whether you have the right IT infrastructure in place for team collaboration and whether your customer or client base can still access your services effectively. It’s also crucial to assess whether your supply chain has vulnerabilities – could it be cut off or delayed by border closures? 

You can find various templates for business continuity plans online – like this one – or we can help you put one together. Keep in mind that each COVID-19 lockdown might not exactly resemble the last. You should always aim to keep a bit of flexibility in your plan & your finances in case anything changes rapidly. 

Negotiate agreements with suppliers and customers. 

Keeping a steady line of income is critical to keeping a business afloat. If lockdown is set to delay important payments or cause a sharp dip in your projected income, it can be a smart move to talk to your suppliers or customers and see if you can establish different processes that keep things running steadily. 

This can provide small cash injections and strengthen your working capital, without having to take out a loan. For instance, some suppliers often give supplier credits – where the costs are deferred until you have resold the goods. This can help you keep your business up & running without selling out of all your stock.

You should also be open to adapting the way your clients or customers pay. If payment is set to be disrupted, then consider options like giving discounts to customers who can make quick payments. You can also ask for advanced payments on big jobs, or break down long-term projects into multiple invoices so your income stream is steadier. 

Consider a pivot – but prepare first.

If lockdown looks set to drag on and on, and your service or product just isn’t sustainable in a locked-down environment, then it’s worth considering if there’s an alternative way to make an income. There are all sorts of creative options – think distillers switching to making sanitiser (as a good friend of mine did), or clothing manufacturers making face masks. 

If you decide to go down this route, then it’s important to make sure you’ve got all of your internal processes ready to go before you make the public announcement. Otherwise, you can easily get immediately inundated with online orders that you don’t have the tools to process.

Stay Positive!

Finally, the hardest battle is always in the mind. The last year has shown the devastating effect that lockdowns can have on our emotional state, so it’s important to take time to care for yourself and make sure that you’re coping alright. It can help to focus on the positives – remember that lockdowns are difficult, but it’s better than experiencing the mass deaths we saw in America or India. 

There are more tangible positives as well. Many employees have reported increased happiness and productivity when working flexibly from home. You can wear pyjamas, you don’t have to commute, and you can spend more time with your loved ones. Plus, your business can save a surprising amount of money on overheads when everyone is working from home. Just try to learn from last time and be sure to keep your team accountable for results, whether they’re wearing PJs or not! 

By being prepared and maintaining a positive mindset, you and your business have a much better chance of coming out of lockdown relatively unscathed. If you’re looking for more specific advice on adapting to COVID-19, or you’d like help implementing any of the above strategies, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today. We’ll be here to help you through this difficult time.  

Disclaimer: This advice is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether this advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances before acting on it.

COVID-19 & associated lockdowns can have a huge effect on our mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling to deal with this news – don’t hesitate to reach out. You can contact Lifeline (13 11 14) or Beyond Blue (1300 224 636) at any time for confidential assistance.

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