Australia’s businesses aren’t strangers to significant disruption, from digital innovation to regulatory change. But few were prepared for the rapid changes required as a result of the global effort to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Almost overnight, business leaders and their teams have adjusted to working remotely, unable to physically connect with clients and each other. And with uncertainty over the duration of self-isolation measures, it’s vital to re-think how your business model will remain sustainable, and also re-work cash flow to ensure business continuity.
So how do you handle this crisis? And how do you strengthen your position to be ready for what comes next? According to John Sullivan, Head of Client Development with Macquarie’s Virtual Adviser Network (VAN), the answer may depend on the strength of your business continuity planning.
“External factors may feel out of your control – but you can control what happens within your business and how you respond,” he says.
This is the key to business resilience – your organisation’s ability to swiftly adapt and react to internal or external disruptions while maintaining operations and workflows. It goes beyond disaster recovery to proactively looking for ways to minimise the impact on your business – and your people.
“It’s about getting your business into shape so it can weather the current storm – and be ready for the opportunities that come next,” says Ian Marshall, Macquarie’s Business Banking National Head of Business Development.
In an ideal world, a business continuity plan gives you the chance to test your resilience and adaptability. But while typical continuity plans may account for natural disasters or cyberattacks, a global pandemic of this scale presents a very different scenario.
With this in mind, here are five things you can do to protect your business through the current crisis.
1. Assess for vulnerabilities
Whether you have a business continuity plan in place or not, the first consideration is risk: where are you most exposed? “Identify your biggest suppliers and clients, and make sure you have contingency plans to manage them if they become vulnerable,” says Sullivan.
For example, some accountants have told him they’ve never been busier – in part because they’ve pulled back on offshore outsourcing arrangements.
“These offshore centres will struggle to work remotely, because they can no longer guarantee compliance with Australia’s data protocols,” Sullivan notes.
Cash is king during a crisis, so make sure you also take steps to protect your cash flow – such as assessing client payment risks and reviewing your current work-in-progress. If you can better understand incoming cash flows, you can plan accordingly. New cyber vulnerabilities can also arise with everyone working remotely, so check you have the right technology in place to manage this.