We understand that everyone is a little overwhelmed with messages, information, media and speculation around COVID-19. An unprecedented pandemic that we've only ever seen in movies, living the experience is something that we're all approaching differently, although the feelings of anxiousness and fear of the unknown seem to be prevalent in our community.
We don't want this to be another piece that adds to the anxiety, but rather a sharing of advice, recommendations and tips to help you strengthen, feel supported and not so alone during this time. We want to provide a place of reassurance for you, a reminder that you are not alone, and a place where we can build our community up to come out of this stronger than we were before it all happened. And that's what we're most excited at here at SBE. What innovative ideas our alumnae will come up with during this time, when we're all forced to batten down and isolate. What digital advancements we're going to see as a result of coronavirus as we dust off those books we've been meaning to read, and we connect with our household over a board game, as we let those creative ideas flow without the interruption of a bustling office space.
This time of uncertainty will pass, and until then, here are some tips and tricks to get you through, from our incredible SBE Australia community.
1. As consumer spending behaviours are undoubtedly changing due to the pandemic, now is a perfect time to take stock on your businesses expenses. Ask yourself and your team where every dollar is being spent and if it's 100% necessary. Is it driving value? It not, can it be cut? Perhaps it's possible to restructure employee salaries within your business to be a mix of base salary and commission or performance based incentives. Or if you engage contractors, are you able to negotiate with them to make their work milestone based, rather than time?
2. Grants. There are a range of government grants that have become available (with more to appear, we're sure) as well as private grants available from businesses such as Facebook. You can read more about the Facebook Small Business Grants Program here. The Australian Government is regularly adapting the situation with support for businesses. You can follow the latest news here.
Further information around federal funding and help available is here. State support is also available, and varying state to state. Businesses operating in New South Wales can look here, Victorian businesses here, Queensland businesses here, South Australian businesses here, Western Australian businesses here, Tasmanian businesses here, Northern Territory businesses here and Australian Capitol Territory businesses here.
Unrelated to COVID-19, although announced at the perfect time, the Australian Government has launched a Boosting Female Founders Grant Program. You can learn more about it here.
State grants often require a match, but that can be a relatively easy ask of existing investors or even family and friends and a pending grant can create momentum to get existing investors to pony up a bit more. Non-dilutive capital is good capital!
3. Talk with your biggest/most strategic customers and see if you can get them to prepay for your products and services. We've had some of our companies get 2-3 years of prepaid SaaS revenues from their strategic customers. Shorten SaaS and Services AR collections in general to year or at least quarter in advance, or if for products, deposit with order to cover costs and balance due in advance of shipment. Some strategic customers may even be willing to invest in your company to help you get through this period.
4. Extend vendor terms as much as possible. Some of your key vendors may be willing to loan money to you and/or invest. Others may be open to carrying your inventory in exchange for limited exclusives or warrants and/or a few extra points of margin.
5. This is a tough environment to go after new angel money due to the volatile stock market. Consider doing a smaller investment round at flat or reduced terms with existing investors to give you extra runway in advance of need. VCs are less impacted by short term conditions, however this is not the time to fight over valuation. Get the money before you need it!
1. Stick to a schedule. When you work remotely, it’s essential to stick to a schedule, so your days have some of the structure and predictability you enjoyed in the office. Habits can be comforting, so in addition to working during your typical work hours, align your breaks and mealtimes at home with those at work, too.
2. Create physical boundaries. Where possible, try and make your workspace a different setting to where you spend most of your free time to allow for some mental separation. For example, if you spend most of your time in the living room when you’re not at work, choose a different place to set up your desk so you won’t feel like you’re in the same space around the clock.
3. Think about your physical workspace. Numerous studies have shown that the characteristics of your office environment can affect behaviour, perceptions and productivity . Ensure your monitor and laptop is set up as ergonomically as possible and then you can start personalising your place of work. Choose music, scented candles, plants, photos – items that bring you joy while working at home. We also recommend getting dressed for the day, wearing what you would to the office. Getting out of your pyjamas might seem silly when no-one can see you, but it will help you mentally switch on. And it gives you something to look forward to at the end of the day when you can change back.
4. Keep moving. At home, it is easy to get right into the zone and not look up for several hours; however, research shows that keeping yourself moving has many advantages. Improved concentration, a sharper memory, faster learning, enhanced creativity and lower stress, to name a few. Stand up to read a document, walk around the house when talking on the phone, do a YouTube workout in front of the television at lunchtime, grab some fresh air with your morning coffee.
5. Nutrition. It is so easy to grab snacks when the pantry and fridge are so close. It is recommended to mindfully manage your meals the same way you do when you are at work. Put some healthy snacks in the equivalent of your desk drawer, pop a fruit bowl and bottle of water on your desk – even consider packing your lunch. There are several healthy home delivery meal services as well as pre-prepared options from the frozen section of the supermarket if you usually buy lunch on your workdays.
You can read the rest of Georgie's wonderful tips here. She's got 12 more to share with you.
1. Watch your social media consumption. Whilst it may feel like a great way to connect with others, there is a whole raft of fake news circulating social media sites on the status of coronavirus, so be careful this form of connection isn't just adding to your anxieties about the situation.
2. Self Isolation doesn't mean social isolation. Go old school and pick up the phone. Call your family friends and colleagues and check in on them. Check in with how they're feeling, and share your feelings about the situation.
3. Knock off drinks don't need to disappear, they just need to be virtual. Apps such as Houseparty make it exceptionally easy to enjoy an after work beverage with your team to debrief from a long day or week, whilst still in the comfort (and isolation) of your own home.
4. Take a break from technology. As we are surrounded by devices, it's important to give yourself a break from screen time. Rather than going from your computer screen to your phone to the television, pick up a book from the shelf, play a board game or do a puzzle. Or perhaps pick up a pen and write down thoughts, business ideas or goals for the next 12 months.
5. Find positive digital communities to join. There's a range of inspiring events that are being taken online, as well as communities such as We-Being that provide places of support.
There are opportunities and silver linings out there. How can you adapt your product or service to the needs of teleworking, new health concerns, job losses, and volatile financial markets? Nimble companies can survive and thrive, even during pandemics and recession.