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The Brick & Mortar FDN Business Owner’s Guide To Handling Business During & Post Covid-19 Restrictions
With Covid-19, the world is facing its biggest crises since World War II. The epicenter of the virus has moved from China to countries such as the USA, Italy, Spain, the UK, Brazil, and Russia among others, with devastating effects on those countries’ economies.
Why a Lockdown?
Lockdown is an emergency step to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to prepare medical facilities in a controlled way. In effect, it means that you will have to stay at home and that all non-essential businesses will be forced to close their doors for the duration of the lockdown period.
The effect will be that food stores, medical suppliers, emergency services, banks, and law enforcement continue to function. Most other industries will come to a complete standstill.
HOW WILL PRE- & POST LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS AFFECT THE OWNER OF A ‘NON-ESSENTIAL’ FDN BRICK & MORTAR BUSINESS IN 2020?
In a complete lockdown situation, you, as the FDN business owner. will be facing (or is already facing) some of the following issues:
- You will be at home and your office will be closed for business.
- You might not have an income for some time if it is derived from a brick-and-mortar business or office, and you are likely to develop cashflow problems.
- Your employees, if any, will be forced to stay at home, and will still be expecting a salary in some form or the other.
- You will have debtors on your books that will be expecting payment for services rendered and goods already delivered to you.
- The situation with your creditors will be the same. There will be customers that owe you money and they won’t be able to meet their commitments for the same reason.
- Living standards will drop and everything will slowly but surely become more and more expensive and harder to get.
WHAT SHOULD YOU AS AN FDN BUSINESS OWNER DO IN THE EVENT OF A LOCKDOWN / POST-LOCKDOWN IF NORMAL BUSINESS OPERATIONS IS NOT POSSIBLE?
This is a critical question. The reality is that YOU, as well as your employees, may catch the Covid-19 virus. YOU and/or some of your employees may die and become part of the ever-rising statistics.
There are a few things that an FDN business owner can and should be doing in the event of a lockdown situation:
- HONOUR & OBEY THE LAW IF IT IS JUST & FAIR
The first important rule is to obey the law and follow the rules laid down by the government if such rules are just and fair to protect all citizens. Encourage your employees to do the same. As bad as lockdown is, it will be in your interest to obey the law.
- THINK ABOUT THE WORST OUTCOME THAT MIGHT HAPPEN & PREPARE FOR SUCH
What will happen if you contract the virus and don’t survive? Do you have a successor in the line to cover such an eventuality?
Appoint a possible successor and inform that person that he or she will be your successor in the event of your death. Provide your successor with a ‘to-do’ list or the steps to follow in the event of your death or inability to continue with your business.
- UPDATE YOUR WILL
It will be time to have an updated will in place. If you do survive, it is done and dusted and you won’t have the added worry. Ensure that your family and maybe even your successor knows where to find your will, and who the appointed executor is.
- HEALTH INSURANCE FOR ALL FAMILY MEMBERS
Do you and your family have health insurance in place?
In some states, (if not all) and in most countries, the treatment of Covid-19 is free. Experts believe that the effect of Covid-19 on health care insurance will be staggering. Never the less, ensure that your health insurance is up to date. The same rule will apply if you are responsible for the health insurance premiums of your employees.
- GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR DEBTORS
Have the courtesy to notify your debtors that your business is in a lockdown (or post-lockdown) state and that you will not be able to meet your commitments for the foreseeable future. They may not like it, but they will most probably be facing the same predicament.
- GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR CREDITORS
The question regarding your creditors is maybe the difficult one. They will be facing similar problems. Should you be able to extract some payment from them, try to do so. Money in the bank is money in the hand to meet your own commitments.
- NOTIFY YOUR BANK
Lastly, but not the least, notify your bank that your business will be closed for the duration and probably the post-lockdown period. Try to negotiate a Standstill Agreement with your bank. Don’t assume that the bank will know that your business will not be operational. Rather be the first to alert them to your impending situation.
Your individual situation may be unique and may require some more steps to be taken. We listed here the more important ones.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY FDN BUSINESS DURING THE LOCKDOWN PERIOD?
Nothing, of course, you would think. That is true, but there are some precautions you should take before closing ‘shop’ for the lockdown period, and plan for what happens once restrictions are lifted. Let us consider some precautions and preventative measures:
- Inform your employees what is expected by the government and what the implications are. Inform your employees that you are going to obey the law and advise them to do the same.
- Update your employees on the financial implications to them, to you and the business in general. Larger companies may be able to ‘carry’ employees for a short period, but you may not be able to do so and will have to offer employees only a portion of or no salaries at all. Keep in mind that your employees will also need the means to survive. Bring them up to speed with all possible unemployment benefits. Don’t forget to inform them how to claim these benefits!
- Your employees may be ‘requested’ to take their annual leave in the lockdown period to lessen the financial impact on them. It won’t resolve your cash flow, but you will have all of them available to make up for the lost time.
- Has your electricity bill been settled? You don’t want to be ‘in the dark’ when things are starting to normalize.
- Notify your suppliers that your business will be closed for the lockdown period. Remember that you may have out of state or out of country suppliers with different or partial lockdown regulations.
- Should you be residing some way from your business and not have a home office, it may be wise to leave some keys in possession of a trusted person. Ensure that your appointed successor knows where the keys are held should you catch the virus and not be making it!
There may be a lot more to do and much more that you want to do, but we hope that this list provided some guidance in this respect.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SURVIVE THE LOCKDOWN?
Undoubtedly, it is going to be a testing time for you, your family, as well as your employees and their dependents. They are all going to look up to you for leadership and to inspire hope.
INSPIRATION AND REALITIES
- Have a list of contact numbers of all your employees in your possession. Show an interest in them, people are one of the biggest assets to any business. Do not neglect them in this trying time. Keep in touch, show them support, especially if one or more of them are infected by the dreaded Covid-19 virus.
- The harsh reality is that you may lose some of your employees’ altogether! You will have to plan for that and have back up plans in place.
FINANCIAL FIGURES CAN BE HARD AND RUTHLESS
There is work that you should be able to continue doing from home.
- You will have debtors that will be expecting their bills to be settled. You or the employee responsible for debtors should be able to work from home and keep your debtors up to date. Due to the lockdown, your debtors may not be knocking at your door, but it is essential to know how much money you owe them. Use these updated figures and start planning for the future.
- At the same time, you will have creditors. This will be the time to assess who of them might and when they will be able to settle their debs to you. The result will be critical to your planning.
- Assess the possible income from open orders on your order book. Potentially these open orders are going to be your first line of income at normalization.
- You will have to decide what percentage if any of your employee’s wages and salaries you will be able to pay. Figures are ruthless. The reality is that you may not be able to take all your employees back. It will be time to decide which employees are critical to your business and its survival. Keep in mind that the future for your employees and their families are as bleak as yours. They will have dreams and plans as well and will be entitled to know where they stand.
WHEN WORKING FROM HOME
IT Security is of utmost importance. Your business might have the latest anti-virus protection. This may not be true for employees working from home. Strict rules will have to be put in place and access should be limited only to the portion of work that should be done from home.
WHAT CAN THE FDN BUSINESS OWNER DO DURING A LOCKDOWN TO ‘KEEP ITS DOORS OPEN’?
Believe it or not, there may be some glimmers of hope.
- Assess what surplus office equipment, tools, and furniture you have and start advertising online. Deposits can be made and collections arranged for the end of the lockdown period.
- Do you have some training in the pipeline for your employees? Consider the possibility of online training.
- What is the possibility of branching out?
What products or even services are you able to deliver in addition to your current line of business? Will you be able to provide supplies like masks, medical products, or even logistic services to the government or medical institutions? This step may ease your lockdown status to ‘essential business’ and create a lot of goodwill that may even be a source of business at normalization.
- Most IT work can be done remotely and from home.
- Publishing and printing of books and other material may be taboo during the lockdown, but consider the internet and all its facets. People will get bored and online books and articles will be in high demand.
- Are you in the clothing or textile industries? Can some of your products be classified as ‘essential’? You might just be able to get part of your business going.
THE LOCKDOWN HAS COME TO AN END
Eventually, the lockdown will come to an end. By that time, we will be faced with a world economy that has been turned on its head.
Let’s be positive and assume that we have survived and that you are on your way to pick the pieces up at your business operations. At this point in time, the business owner should know what his/her financial position is, and you should be able to make informed decisions based on facts. But, in the end, the business owner will know what had worked for their business. The trick will be to make that work even better!
FIRST THINGS FIRST – SOME Q & A TO FACE
Is your business or home office still intact, and the way you left it?
- Are all the business software programs working as they should be? It may just be the time to update the anti-virus software.
- Your business or home office may need to be cleaned, disinfected, sanitized, and decontaminated where needed. Make that a priority to prevent another outbreak.
- All employees should be reminded to maintain best practices, like hand washing and other sanitizing habits. The wearing of masks and gloves may be part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
- Have any employees worked from home? Carefully check and make sure that everything is returned and back at its rightful place.
- The business owner may be facing some painful decisions as well. Have all his employees returned to work? Are those that are back in good health? Have any of his employees’ fallen victim to the virus? Tough questions with tough answers, but it will be his to face.
- Will the business owner be able to retain all his employees and at what salary will they be retained?
- Be in touch with your suppliers. Are they operational and will they still be able to supply you with stock?
- Does your state or country have any small or large business assistance plans in place? If so, find out whether you qualify for any benefits.
- Enjoyed working from home?
Now that everyone has had a taste of what it is like working from home, more employees might prefer this option. Consider remote work for employees that request such.
BACK TO BUSINESS
- Evaluate all open and pending orders before and during the lockdown. Will the customers still be able to take delivery of your product or service? Rather than losing an order, try to negotiate new prices, terms, and rescheduled delivery dates.
Should some of your customers be unable to pay any outstanding debts, an agreement should be reached regarding the rescheduling of such debts.
- If your customer did not survive the ordeal, you may be facing some legal problems. Should these customers have any open orders on your books, the best will be to regard it as canceled.
- Start emailing and inform all past and potential future customers that you are back and open for business.
- You may even take that a step further. Start a newsletter, or even better, some of your suppliers may already have newsletters. It may not be a bad idea to advertise and drum up some new business that way.
It is unlikely that life will just be back to normal at the end of a lockdown. The world economy would have nosedived, and doing business will not be easy. The bright light on the horizon is that the human spirit always prevailed in the past. We firmly believe that business owners and other FDN’s are some of the toughest in the world and that most of them will be on their feet sooner than later and be walking tall again.
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