25th March, 2020

Business owner checklist: Here are your key priorities for the first week of COVID-19 lockdown

As the world begins to feel the full impact of coronavirus, small business owners are left wondering how to adapt, survive and pivot. This checklist gives you actionable and easy insights you can start right away.

From restrictions that affect full industries, to new ways to handle cash, there have been more laws, rules and regulations put in place in the past week, than there have been in the past decade.

It can be overwhelming for small business owners to keep up. That’s why we’ve put together this actionable checklist, to ensure your business can start, survive and succeed during COVID-19.

1. Be aware of Government-mandated closures

As of Thursday 26 March, there are tighter restrictions on weddings, funerals, fitness classes, beauty salons, arcades, play centres and other public spaces. If you work in these industries, ensure you are abiding by government laws.

Pubs, licensed clubs and hotels (excluding accommodation), places of worship, gyms, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, casinos all must close as of Thursday 26 March. If you work in these industries, you should close shop.

You can read about current closures and stay updated via the Prime Minister’s website.

2. Keep friends and family safe by observing social distancing measures

Stay 1.5 metres away from others, wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, avoid touching your face and if you’re sick, stay home.

Of course, this information isn’t specific to business owners, but in your role as a leader in the community, you can help by spreading the messaging and being an exemplar of good hygiene.

You can find the latest health advice about COVID-19 on the Department of Health website.

3. Consider going cashless

The Department of Health advice says the COVID-19 virus can spread through “touching objects that have cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person” on them. Therefore, many retail stores, cafes and restaurants have stopped using cash to decrease the likelihood of spreading disease.

Restaurants such as McDonalds currently still accept banknotes and coins, but educate staff to wear gloves while doing so.

4. Be sure you’ve signed up for myGovID (AUSKey will no longer be available)

As of the end of March 2020, myGovID will become the new and only way for SMEs to gain access to government business services. After receiving complaints about AUSKey’s limitations and inability to integrate into more advanced business systems, the Government has introduced ‘myGovID’.

We previously published a blog on this matter, which you can read here.

5. Continue to measure cash flow

Cash flow management needs to be an integral element of the overall COVID-19 risk assessment and action planning for businesses already impacted and likely to be impacted by COVID-19.

Be sure to review and adjust cash flow budgets and capital expenditure, assess financing options, cut overheads, manage your inventory, debtors and creditors, consider alternative revenue streams and keep on top of tax obligations.

In this article, an accountant provides his advice for protecting your cash flow at this time.

6. Understand stimulus measures, and if you’re eligible for them

On Sunday 22 March, the Australian Government announced a $66.1 billion second stimulus package.

Not-for-profits and businesses with a turnover less than $50 million will receive a tax-free payment from $20,000 to $100,000 in an expansion of the cash flow measure announced in the first package.

There was also an introduction of a loan guarantee scheme that would see the Government partnering with lenders to guarantee unsecured loans of up to $250,000; and new regulatory protection measures for businesses. Read more here.

UPDATE: Since this article was published, the Government has announced new wage subsidies for employers as part of a $130 billion JobKeeper stimulus package. Read about the new wage subsidies here.

7. Consult with your key business advisors, including bookkeepers and accountants

Few businesses considered the potential impact of a massive pandemic such as the current coronavirus crisis, which has created a breeding ground for panic and poor decision making.

Accountants, bookkeepers and other business advisors are well placed to consider the impact this event will have on your business. Now’s the time to get proactive in reaching out for their expertise, and you can find an advisor near you on our Partner Search page.

8. Consider ways to begin pivoting your business model for the duration of lockdown

Uber, Apple, Estee Lauder, Walt Disney and Microsoft were all founded during recessions.

This sort of economic climate is a time when customers, entrepreneurs and established businesses are willing to try innovative new businesses, products and services to see if they meet their customer’s needs.

Look at re-evaluating your product offering, take stock of your customers and reconsider your physical locations.

In this article, MYOB’s chief economist Jon Manning provides his advice on updating your pricing strategy, while this piece includes wisdom from two entrepreneurs who successfully navigated through the GFC of 2008.

9. Be a considerate employer

If you do support workers, be sure to give them as much support as you can during these tough times.

More importantly, if you’re in a position where you need to stand staff down or you’re considering redundancies in order to manage your costs, then you’ll want to be up to date with current workplace law to make certain you get it right.

Here’s a piece that unpacks the Fair Work Ombudsman’s advice on leave entitlements during this time, or you can get some great information on workplace law over at HR Central’s blog.

10. Stay positive, seek help when needed

As a business owner, you play multiple roles within society and it’s times like these that the true value of those roles begins to shine.

Whether it’s how you treat staff or talk with friends and family (or even reflecting on your own attitudes at the moment), remaining mindful, compassionate and positive is really going to make a difference to the people around you.

You can consider Smiling Mind’s app as a great source of mental wellbeing wisdom that can also be shared with employees.

Beyond that, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Call Lifeline Australia for crisis support on 13 11 14.

COVID-19 business checklist infographic
A business checklist to guide you through the first weeks of lockdown.