COVID-19 : how to survive in business

Whoever said that one person alone couldn’t change the world clearly never saw that person eat a bat, or for you conspiracy theorists out there – never saw someone mix up pandoras box in a Petri dish and let it escape. Whatever your belief or opinion is, one cannot argue that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc globally. It is neither racist or ageist and indeed the only positive thing one could say about the deadly virus is that it is 100 %  non-discriminatory – it attacks anyone and tragically has killed some 190 000, and of that figure at least 18000 in the UK. It should be noted that those figures will be extremely conservative.

In economic terms, all countries are in the mire with talk of the virus sparking global depression and trade slumping by an incredible 32 %. Yes, read that again – trade slumping by 32 % globally.

So how do you beat this unseen killer as a business? I have spoken to all my team about their experiences with clients and contacts and business leaders from the Pesticide, technology, and supply markets and here are the central themes emerging which may help. In no particular order –

Stay ahead of the curve – yesterday’s way of business is now dead and gone and it is essential that you change and act decisively. Cash flow is king and there for financial planning for different scenarios is crucial. Safeguard what cash you have in the business and go through line by line everything you spend money on, cutting all non-essential expenditure. Seek to defer all loans and monies owed to institutions like the HMRC or VAT. Delay as much expense as is possible and be determined to get results.

Leadership – fear and panic are contagious, but so is strong, calm leadership and if ever your company needed a strong leader, that time is upon us. Regular catch up with all staff members if possible by face to face video conferences has proved very successful giving immediate reassurance and providing a framework of expectations going forward. Get in the play to win mindset as opposed to playing not to lose.

Use what’s available – if you have staff that can be furloughed– do so. But do not be discriminatory, always acting in a fair and reasonable manner.  Keep abreast of all government actions and if you need to apply for one of the government-backed loans, do so, again getting well ahead of the queue.

Communication – the buzz word of the moment is adaptability and flexibility. Brush up on your IT skills and embrace Zoom or Life size video conferencing. Work out other ways of communicating with your teams and clients other than e mail or telephone. We conducted our first-ever virtual mediation the other week which was a great success and indeed having now done one and seen it work first hand, I doubt we will be going back to the old fashioned model of all meetings at someone’s office.

Reconnect – there are undoubtedly going to be winners and losers here, but make sure in your downtime that you contact your key clients, even if it is just to shoot the breeze with them. They will remember who contacted them and who didn’t and it costs nothing.

Business Lasting Powers of Attorney ( LPA ) – this allows you to nominate and authorise a person of your choice to make and implement business decisions in the event you became incapacitated. Well worth considering at the moment and going forward.

And finally relationships – developing further and rekindling relationships now has never been more important both internally and externally. Pick people’s brains and see where there are gaps in your business and the market generally. You can bet that those people you reach out to now will not forget you in the long run, you may well spot opportunities or at least more efficient ways of working.

If you have any legal issues surrounding any of the above please feel free to speak to me in confidence on 07789 401 411 or email me on giles.ward@milnerslaw.com

Senior Partner

Milners Solicitors based in Leeds, Harrogate, and Pontefract.

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