Lean into COVID-19

What a difference a couple of months make

From November through to January we witnessed devastating fires. The regional small business sector has already taken a big hit (the extent of which is still yet to be seen) and yet we still must prepare ourselves for the economic fallout of the Coronavirus.

What can we do as business owners to navigate through this?

The take-home message is to be pro-active. Businesses already have a heightened awareness and the sure-fire way to control this is to plan, particularly around cash flow.


Follow these proactive initiatives.

  1. Communicate. In uncertain times, people need to feel safe and in control. Contact your customers early and often, even if only to say, ‘your order is still on track to be delivered by [date]’, or ‘We are looking forward to seeing you on [date]’. It doesn’t take much to reach out and reassure people that your business is OK, and they will be looked after.
  2. Ramp up your hygiene practices. Have hand sanitiser visible and easily accessible for all your team and customers. Take the lead and use it often yourself.
  3. Review and communicate your travel, delivery and sick policies with your team


Identify the trigger points in your business which may highlight a potential downturn. What are these and what decisions must be made at each point as the Coronavirus impacts the business? Once the pandemic passes, what is your plan to recovery?

Examples of trigger points are…

  • Reduced leads and customers coming through the door
  • Customers delaying, postponing or cancelling orders
  • What do you have in place to identify when business starts to return to normal?


  • Team: Reduce your team and/or send them on holidays (which could also burn cash as most have additional leave loading or severance pay). Consider remote work solutions if possible. You may need to keep them to cover shortfalls if staff can’t come to work.
  • Increase or decrease inventory? One burns cash and the other increases cash flow but leaves empty shelves.
  • Focus on the predictable core customers and main products of your business.
  • Reduce or increase advertising? Do you have the capacity to do more work?
  • Cut all expenses by a percentage
  • Request longer payment terms from suppliers
  • There are short-term loans available for eligible bushfire affected businesses..

Two useful links

  • Business Australia: Employer’s guide to help Aussie business owners navigate the challenges arising from the economic implications of the coronavirus. Click Here
  • Coronavirus information and support for business (Australian Government). Click here

Remember tough times don’t last, tough people do.

Thanks for reading

Stuart “pro-active” Goodfellow

Your Questions Answered

Here are the answers to a few questions I have received. If you have a question, email me at [email protected] and get your question answered here.

Am I covered if my team member works from home?

I Hi Regional, I am tempted to send some of my staff home to work remotely? Will my Public Liability cover them if they have an accident at home?

Thank you,

– Jim

G’day Jim,

Here’s the disclaimer… call your insurance agent.

Look, your agent will probably err of the side of caution, but if your team member is working from home then goes to hang out the washing in their pj’s and crocs and trips over the dog, it’s unlikely to be a workplace injury. However, if they fall off their home office chair or the computer drops on their head, they are may be covered.

Ask your insurance agent to investigate it and give you a written/emailed ruling and guidelines for your team. Then have your team member to sign off what is acceptable or unacceptable.

Do I increase my safety stock levels or let my inventory run low?

Hi Regional, I don’t sell toilet paper, rice or pasta, but if I did, I would be ordering up big-time. I run a café and wonder if I should be ordering more cups, coffee beans, and forward ordering food in case my supplier runs out, or should I just wait and keep more cash in the bank in case I need it for overheads like my rent and wages?

– Andrew

Hi Andrew,

Have a look around you. How as the lunch time traffic today? If you work in the city and the buildings are emptying out, it doesn’t matter how much coffee you have, the demand will be low. However, if your business operates where there are many separated businesses, such as an industrial area, you could be somewhat protected from the effects of broadscale business shutdown.

The key is to talk with your best customers and key suppliers. They will give you the hint as to short supply or demand and you can act accordingly. Your customers want to know that business is normal, and you will be there for them. Your suppliers also want to know that you will continue to buy from them. Keep up the chatter and you will sail through this.

Do I take the gamble and fire the cannons?

Regional, I am looking at introducing a new product range. I know the market needs it as there are others in this market, but it will come at significant initial start-up cost. Should I take advantage of it or wait until things settle?

– Chris

Hi Chris,

Hey I’m all for taking a chance but as long as it is informed, and you have the rigour to support it. We know that the deal of a lifetime comes along every day, we simply fail to recognise it or act on it.

The fear is ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ To reduce the coin-toss decision, make sure you do your homework.

Is there room for another player in the marketplace right now? Do you competitors have manufacturing, supply of delivery issues that you can capitalise on? What is your point of difference once the market returns to normal? How long will it take for you to launch and what will it cost to breakeven? Is the cash you have available to invest in this new product needed for cash flow of your existing core business?

If the time, the cash and the details are sound then it makes sense to light the fuse, otherwise it may be prudent to keep your powder dry and be ready to jump in then.

Good luck, Stuart

Lean into COVID-19