Business owners are facing myriad challenges because of the Covid-19 crisis and subsequent economic fallout.
As part of the Northern Advocate's new Go Local! campaign, Northland experts and entrepreneurs share practical tips to help businesses weather the coronavirus storm.
Communication is key
Susan Cooney from Oxygen8 Business Consulting based in Whangārei, said it's important to communicate with staff, clients and customers.
Talk to your landlord, suppliers and bank if needed.
"The more communication you do the more people will understand what you're doing," she said.
"It's also really important to let everyone know that you're following the directions of each Government level in response to the virus and sticking to health and safety protocols.
"Keep up with newsletters and emails to keep customers informed. Call them and check in with them, and this will help to secure work."
Steve Davis, a formerWhangārei business consultant and current Harcourts real estate agent, said maintaining a commitment to being 100 per cent customer focused was also key.
"This is the time that your customer loyalty will count more than ever," Davis said.
"If you have built good customer loyalty, your customers will want to support you and you need to show your appreciation for their support in these changing times."
Do a financial review
This is a biggie, Cooney said.
Businesses should review their budget with a focus on cashflow "because you want to make sure you've got money coming in faster".
Changing payment terms to seven days, if possible, will allow businesses to pay current expenses.
"If you don't have money coming in you can't pay your bills. Doing this will keep the economy flowing."
Review suppliers and change them depending on what deals they can offer, and review costings and margins. Consider leasing equipment rather than buying it so there isn't a huge outlay, Cooney said.
"It's important to review your expenses; go over them with a fine-tooth comb. Anything that's not essential reduce or eliminate it - run lean."
Davis said all unnecessary expenses should be culled for the next 6-12 months "as long as they don't limit your ability to provide the level of service your customers expect".
But don't stop advertising, he said, as you need to remind customers you are open for business.
Innovate your business
Davis recommends looking at ways to innovate around customer focus, products and services to ensure customers needs are met.
"What can be done online that will allow your customers to interact with you from home?
"If you don't do this and a competitor does, you might find this is the very time you will lose customers who see alternative ways of interacting with their suppliers as being more favourable.
"Don't let this happen, be the first to introduce innovation and keep your customers happy and loyal."
Cooney said this is also a great time to review products and services.
"Ask questions on what they offer. Do they still work and fill the need, and what new things can be incorporated?"
Look after and upskill your staff
Cooney recommends upskilling staff so they can continue to learn and grow and feel a sense of responsibility.
"Find out what they want to learn and design training programmes for them."
Gaining staff input about the business also creates trust, she said.
"We're going through this crisis together. That filters down from the owners. If the owners are taking an interest in them that creates a good work culture."
Paihia business coach Sarah Greener, who also owns The Rock Adventure Cruise, said it was important to have a good team on board.
Apart from staff, she suggests having a bunch of great advisors to turn to, such as an accountant, lawyer, mortgage and insurance brokers, a mentor and coach or "someone else who's been there and done it before".
"There are lots of amazing business people who are not in the game anymore that would be happy to help," Greener said.
"Don't be afraid to change; you don't have to stay with someone who's doing a less than great job. If they're so busy they can't help you now, find someone who can."
Look at time management
Cooney said it was important to "get a good picture" of where you're spending time.
"Has it been productive? Has it brought value to the business? Going through this you recognise what you've been doing. Develop a weekly calendar and work through it with staff and look for efficiencies."
Control the controllable
Even though the future looks uncertain, it's always been that way, even before Covid-19, Greener said.
Her advice is to stay focused, positive and calm and don't waste time and energy on things you can't control.
"People are freaking out because they don't know what will happen because of Covid-19. But the future has always been uncertain.
"The only thing you have control over is you - your thoughts, feeling and actions.
"Time spent focused on what the competition is doing or not doing, or what the Government is or isn't doing for you is wasted time."
Swim towards the life ring
Greener said business owners should take advantage of an abundance of free resources that have become available.
"I've never seen, in all my 13 years in business, a time where people are throwing out so many free resources that would normally cost an enormous amount of money.
"People are giving away advice on how to strategic plan, how to use LinkedIn really well, lawyers are giving away advice over commercial leases, and there are webinars by accountants.
"There's so much good stuff people are genuinely putting out there to help, either because they've been there themselves or they understand how much pain people are in.
"Connect with those things and use them."
Cooney said it was also important to seek help through Government funding and agencies like Northland Inc.
Northland Inc set up a business support helpline [0800 525 001] and has a team of Business Growth Advisors available via www.northlandnz.com/covid-19.
Visit business.govt.nz/covid-19 for a host of information including workplace operations at alert levels, wage subsidy and leave support, and the business finance guarantee scheme.
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