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The last couple of weeks have been a shockwave none of us have seen before unless we’re old enough to have experienced living through World War 2. Whether we’re employed or run a business, the situation seems to be changing by the day, businesses are closing, staff are being laid off or asked to work from home, revenues are falling and in some drastic examples, simply stopping outright.

These are scary and unprecedented times, so it’s no surprise that we’re worried or, dare I say it, afraid of what the future holds.

It’s human nature that when we’re faced with a situation that we’ve not encountered before, where we have no past experiences we can draw upon to help guide our next actions, that we revert to “fight or flight mode”. Fuelled by adrenalin, we either react instinctively and without careful consideration or we simply run away. So the first thing to do is recognise that the concern or panic that we’re feeling is perfectly normal given the circumstances, and to take a deep breath, slow the adrenalin rush and try and think logically, rather than emotionally.

We can only manage what we can manage, and there will be lots of factors that are way outside of our control for now. We don’t control what new restrictions the Government may put in place, we can only respond and adapt to them.

Our immediate priority has to be looking after the health of ourselves, our families and our teams. Make sure that everyone abides by the guidance on self isolation as required and if it’s possible for people to work from home, then do so. Now isn’t the time to worry about how you’re going to micro manage every minute of every team member’s day, now is the time to show consideration and care for your teams, treat them with respect and as adults and ask them to continue to work for the future health of the business.

Our second priority has to be looking after the health of the business. First and foremost, assess where we are now, what do the next few months look like in terms of revenue, costs and above all cash flow? Are there costs we can stop or reduce? What are the implications of this forecast? As a business owner, what does this mean in terms of our earnings? Most sensible business owners always plan for potential downturns but very few, if any, actually have a plan for coping when revenues stop overnight. What are the personal implications if earnings are drastically reduced or worse still stopped?

If you’re not comfortable with pulling together a cash flow forecast, talk to your accountant. They’re ideally placed to help you with this and the good ones will be keen to help as many of their clients as possible stay in business. They’ll be able to walk you through the financial support being made available by the Government in the form of loans, employee salary guarantees, tax payment deferments etc. If you don’t have an accountant, then get in touch… I work with lots of really supportive, proactive accountants who’d be happy to provide help in this area.

If you’re in a business that can safely continue to operate under the new movement restrictions, then great… keep on doing what you’re doing. If your current business model has been impacted by the restrictions, then your third priority is to try and come up with new ways of generating revenue. Restaurants and pubs have been told to close, so many are offering take away and delivery services, retailers are doing the same, one of the niche brewers has started producing hand sanitiser. If you normally offer some form of service to customers in a face to face environment, can you switch to an online delivery model?

If you’re still not able to continue trading in the short term, then don’t lose hope; there are still productive things we can be doing with our time. Think about how the business will be different once the restrictions start to be lifted. Plan your marketing campaigns, write blog posts, maybe even write a book! Are there other short term jobs you could take on, or are there volunteer schemes in your area you can help out (provided of course you’re not in self isolation).

Above all, look after yourself and those closest to you and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The more we do to support our customers and suppliers now, the more we’ll lessen the negative impact on the economy and our own businesses and we’ll build stronger relationships with others who may be able to help us once we get to the other side of the current challenges… and rest assured we will get to the other side.

No one has all the answers right now, but collectively we might just be able to come up with a few so if you’re struggling and want someone to act as a sounding board.. then get in touch.