30th March, 2020

Business owner checklist: Here are your key priorities for the start of the 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 most 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

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 4 – Eliminate. This means that people are instructed to stay at home, educational facilities are closed, and businesses are closed except for essential services (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies and clinics) and lifeline utilities. It also means that there is rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities, travel is severely limited and there has been a major reprioritisation of healthcare services.

It is likely that these regulations will affect your industry in some way or another. Ensure you are abiding by government laws.

You can read about current closures and stay updated via the Ministry of Health’s website.

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

Stay 1.5 metres or more 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

Last week we saw Wellington and Auckland plan to remove cash sales on public transport to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

If you’re one of the few businesses still open during Alert Level 4 (supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics or lifeline utilities), consider stopping the handling of money and only accepting card payments.

4. Be sure to rethink your cybersecurity protocols

With lockdown now in place, small businesses may not be aware of additional cybersecurity measures that should be taken. Make sure to update all software and operating systems with the latest security updates and patches, ensure firewall technologies are installed and configured, keep all endpoint protection services such as anti-virus software updated, ensure routers and other telecommunications equipment don’t use default passwords and credentials, use multi-factor authentication and don’t store customer data without adequate security.

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

The New Zealand Government released a range of stimulus measures on 16 March. Totalling $12.1 billion, the initiative accounts for some four percent of New Zealand’s GDP. Comprised of a range of tax subsidies and temporary reforms, the package has a strong focus on business assistance, as well as support for the aviation sector and those workers in self-isolation.

New Zealand-based employers will also receive weekly payments of $585.80 for all full-time staff and $350 per week for part time staff until financial year end.

We have just published an update explaining the streamlined wage subsidy scheme, 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. Offer employees emotional support

In combination with Priority #10 below, now’s the time to be reaching out to your workers to maintain a positive relationship with them wherever possible.

Whether you’ve been forced to stop work, or you’re working from home, be sure to lend an ear to your staff’s needs on a regular basis and do whatever you can to make their lockdown feel a little more secure.

As time drags on, mental health and wellbeing well become increasingly important to maintain throughout the lockdown, so we’ve expanded on this in the following section.

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 New Zealand for crisis support on 0800 543 354.

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