AustralianSuper works with over 300,000 small to medium businesses, many of which have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. To show our support we sat down with Andrew Culley who heads Deloitte Private, to get his insights on how businesses can start to move forward.
The economic impact of COVID-19 hit many small to medium businesses hard and fast.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in May 2020 reveal 72% of Australian businesses have lost revenue as a result of the pandemic.
Deloitte Private’s Managing Partner, Andrew Culley, is charged with leading the global professional services firm’s support for Private Enterprises. Here, Culley shares some insights into how businesses can start to move forward as we emerge from the initial phase of the COVID-19 crisis.
Culley says the speed of the change meant many businesses went from a revenue profile they were comfortable with to virtually zero revenue overnight.
‘It's not just the speed with which it hit, but the concern is also over the lasting impact the pandemic will have for many organisations.’
The road to recovery – where to start?
Deloitte Private is recognised as the number one advisor to private businesses and wealthy family groups in Australia
Culley says anecdotally 50% of Deloitte Private’s small to medium businesses expect to see revenue return in 6 months, but a third believe it will take more than a year.
75% of clients believe the top line would bounce back, but 25% don’t.
ABS figures from May 2020 show 4 in 5 business operating under modified conditions reported a loss in revenue due to COVID-19. Businesses in transport and warehousing industries were the most likely to have reported a reduction in revenue.
And while more than half of businesses in the retail sector (53%) saw a drop in profits, 44% of the industry reported a revenue boost during the pandemic.
Culley says this is likely because of a successful transition to online sales and engagement with current and new customers.
While many businesses may be simply treading water or living day to day in these uncertain times, Culley says careful planning has never been more important.
‘Planning is critical, because it enables people to make really valuable decisions for now and the future, at a time where there is so much uncertainty.’
AustralianSuper Group Executive, Rose Kerlin says small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our economy. For AustralianSuper specifically, employees of these businesses make up approximately 60% of members2.
‘These businesses, started by hard-working everyday Australians have so much to juggle at this time and it’s vital they are well supported as they plan their way forward,’ says Kerlin.
Business recovery in a COVID-19 world
Deloitte Private has developed a workbook for small to medium businesses, which outlines some simple steps and questions to help businesses respond, recover and thrive.
‘You can't just leap back into running the business that was there before the pandemic began,’ Culley said. ‘Either because you might not have the financial position to do so, or there might be restrictions on how you should interact with customers.’
To manage this Culley recommends breaking planning into small, achievable milestones.
‘You could start by making some decisions about what might be possible in the short term, and plan some activities to achieve this and say get revenue back to half of what it was before,’ he explains. ‘Then once you get to this milestone - back to half - look at ways to lift the revenue again.’
‘If you plan milestones that are either time-based or revenue-based, you can create a financial plan that supports those decisions,’ he says. ‘That way you’re coming out of this response time with a plan to grow and recover. But you're doing it safely and sensitively, based on the resources you have available.’
6 tips to help recover your business after COVID-19
Culley says there are 6 key areas businesses should focus on:
1. Focus on your customers
Having the customer at the heart of business decisions is critical.
‘As you start to reopen and re-energise your business it’s really important to understand who your customer base is,’ says Culley. ‘Also understanding what's changed in your relationship with your customers over the last few months, and how they are buying from you differently now.’
‘Are they buying more online or are they buying more physically? Have you seen any changes in their behaviour? And how do you want to take advantage of that as you start to grow your business again?’
We know people’s behaviours have changed. Culley says organisations that build relationships and trust with customers, will likely perform better.
‘Particularly if you’re in industries like retail or tourism. It’s important to consider how you can make customers feel comfortable and safe in your facility, and be sure you understand how their expectations may have changed.’
2. Know how to manage your cashflow
In this climate, cash is king.
‘At the moment a businesses’ ability to plan anything is dependent on access to liquidity and cash,’ says Culley.
‘Sit down and look at the known cash inflows and outgoings over the next 3 to 6 months. And then start to plan for revenue to lift,’ he says. ‘As you go, consider your available cash flow and if you need more support, plan for where you can access it.’
‘Make sure your relationship with your bank or finance manager is solid. Ensure you’ve done your planning with your lenders.’
As well as the federal government’s Job Keeper payments, there are many other forms of assistance or grants businesses may be eligible for. Search Deloitte’s COVID-19 stimulus and support finder to ensure you’ve accessed all available incentives.
While many businesses might be in a hurry to reopen, Culley says it’s important to run your numbers first.
Someone who runs a restaurant for example may be able to open now, but it might not be economical to do so,’ says Culley. ‘You might need a certain level of patrons or foot traffic before you can afford to open commercially.’
Paying your employees’ super
It’s important for employers to remember that employee super contributions make up part of their business’s cashflow needs. Kerlin says it’s critical businesses stay on top of all compulsory superannuation contributions, in line with the superannuation guarantee.
3. Understand your supply chain
Culley says it’s vital to ensure your relationships with suppliers are strong.
‘You need to know how your key suppliers are faring through all of this, whether they are able to meet your needs at this time or as your business grows.’
Consider whether your supply chain is equipped to meet the changing needs of the customer or demand. And if there are any issues or concerns start to explore and make contact with alternative suppliers.
‘It’s also a good time to reassess costs. Look into whether you’re getting the best price or trading terms, and explore other options if you are not.’
4. Make time for your team members
At the start of this crisis businesses had big concerns around customers and staff safety. Culley says it’s even more important as businesses reopen.
‘That means making sure you continue to adhere to the latest regulations with respect to safe working and the reopening of facilities.’
Culley says clear and constant communication with your workforce is key.
‘As you expect people to come back into your business, you need to make sure employees feel comfortable with you as a leader of the business.’
It might also be a time to reshape team sizes or find more effective ways of working.
‘I think we’ve all learned a lot about being more agile, so when you think about growing your business, think about the skills that you need to get covered quickly,’ he says. ‘You might have found a new market, a way of serving people better or discovered more technical skills.’
5. Digitally enable your business
If there’s one thing COVID-19 has taught businesses owners, it’s the importance of technology.
In many cases businesses have had no choice but to do things differently and utilise all available technologies to survive.
‘So much of the way we operate is now being done digitally. We all have learnt a lot about those capabilities that maybe we hadn’t planned to do so soon or had put off doing until later.’
Culley says taking a good look at the effectiveness of the technology is important to ensure it’s the right fit and whether it should become a permanent part of the business.
And importantly make sure you get the security aspects right.
‘It’s just so critical to make sure you’ve dealt with all the cyber risk associated with being online,’ he says
6. Review workplace safety
Workplace safety practices are one of the biggest issues for anyone reopening a business, says Culley.
Our experience as a customer has completely changed. The idea of using hand sanitiser on entry to a shop or seeing crosses on the floor is now standard.
‘It’s so important to be across the detail of what’s changed for your business,’ says Culley. ‘Making sure you are accountable to do that is a really important aspect of a workplace.’
He recommends making a clear plan on how you engage with customers and staff as restrictions continue to relax over the next few months. And in this way, you will also ensure your very important reputation is protected and, where at all possible, grows positively.
Safe Work Australia has the latest national guidelines.
The country went into lockdown very quickly and recovery will take time. Culley says navigating this ‘new normal’ takes resilience, determination and the ability to stay true to the vision of your business.
‘Business owners who are clear on those things will be able to make good decisions and manage their recovery and revitalisation well,’ says Culley.
‘There are a lot of uncertainties, and no one has all the answers, but if we do some careful planning, in sensible windows of time, then we can take some of the edge off that uncertainty.’
AustralianSuper and Deloitte
Deloitte has chosen AustralianSuper as its preferred fund for its employees for over a decade.
Our team supports businesses of all sizes. To discuss your business’s super needs, including setting up AustralianSuper as your default superannuation fund for employees, please contact us on 1300 300 273 or visit australiansuper.com/employers.
If your business already uses AustralianSuper as its provider and you wish to review your needs, reach out to your Business Partnership or Account Manager.
1. Deloitte Private have work with an excess of 100 partners
and 1000 team members advising privately run Australian businesses.
2. AustralianSuper. June 2020. 60% is representative of members who are linked to an employer, not total membership.