7 essential small business banking tips to thrive after a crisis

The spread of COVID-19 poses important challenges to Canadian businesses. With the situation constantly evolving, small business owners need to be prepared for any disruptions.

If you’re looking for ways to make your business more resilient, use these tips to clarify what you as a business owner need to anticipate, and how to respond on a day-to-day basis in this quick-changing business environment.

1. Start with health and security

Now’s the time to prioritize the health and security of your employees. To make sure you haven’t overlooked anything, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Have you implemented best practices to keep your employees safe? This could include social distancing signs and markings, additional hand-sanitizer stations, facemasks, new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, and even adding alternating shifts with fewer workers on each shift.
  2. Can your people work remotely? People can communicate from home with their laptop or smartphone, they can manage projects and share documents with online apps, making remote work easier than ever before.
  3. Do you have a contingency plan for quarantined employees? Will your employees work remotely during this time? Create a policy and procedures document so your employees know what’s expected of them during quarantine, reporting to you and/or your provincial authorities, and self-isolation requirements.

2. Prepare a communication plan

Create a schedule for regular communication with your employees, whether they’re working remotely, laid off, quarantined, or still working on site.

In addition to a regular weekly or twice-weekly email providing updates on your business activities, make sure to reach out with new government news announcements.

Let your team know that you’re staying current with breaking news and how it could impact them. This helps reassure them that your business values their wellbeing as individuals.

3. Reach out to your customers

Your business depends on your customers, so take the time to reach out to them as well. Once this crisis has passed, they’ll remember how your business took time to connect with them.

Email your list and/or phone your top customers to touch base and ask how they’re doing. Confirm that their orders are still on track, and ask for any outstanding payables. Provide communication/service channels to contact you even if your office or shop has been closed due to the pandemic restrictions, and provide additional services where possible.

If yours is a B2B company, your communications could also include updates on news that could impact them directly. For B2C businesses, consider including links to helpful articles on working from home or balancing homeschooling and work-from-home responsibilities.

4. Reach out to suppliers

If your small business bank account balance is suffering as you wait for your Canada emergency response benefit to get processed, don’t wait to reach out to your suppliers. It’s better to connect with them as soon as possible to discuss your outstanding orders, future orders, and negotiate deferred payments.

Now is the time to confirm the timely delivery of your supplies, and also to identify any health and safety suppliers who could provide health and safety PPE (personal protective equipment) to outfit your employees.

Remember, they’re impacted by the pandemic as well. Like your business, theirs is likely navigating the Canada emergency business response eligibility and emergency business account setup process as well.

5. Evaluate capacity and resources

How well can your business service your employee and customer needs right now? Part of dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis involves a frank assessment of your business’ current capacity and resources to establish operational resilience.

Consider modifying your health and safety practices if needed to meet the current COVID-19 safe workplace requirements for your province. Next, align your workforce to meet your current and post-pandemic demand projections. Depending on your current and potential new services or products, this could even include hiring new staff.

If your small business bank account is suffering despite assistance through the Canada emergency response benefit, now could be a good time to review and trim any possible expenses.

Look for opportunities to pause recurring orders, subscriptions, or expenses instead of outright cancelling them. This could help you avoid additional costs to set up new accounts or subscriptions down the road when times improve.

6. Compile your weekly rolling cash flow plan

Considering the rapidly changing pandemic news and how quickly it can impact businesses, now it is more important than ever to control your business cash flow.

To stay aware of changing patterns that can impact your business decisions, complete these three tasks weekly:

  1. List weekly cash inflows: watch for increases, decreases, and check against corresponding activities such as promotions or new services to identify unexpected opportunities arising from the pandemic.
  2. List weekly cash outflows: keep a close eye on where the money is going and question the absolute necessity of each item.
  3. Analyze your cash flow forecast: the weekly patterns you see in your cash inflow and outflow could point to a longer-term trend. The earlier you spot it, the more time you’ll have to either align your business activities to benefit from the trend or change your activities to protect your business as much as possible.

7. Prepare for recovery

Although it might seem difficult to see past the seemingly overwhelming impact of COVID-19 on small businesses, the current environment won’t last forever.

At some point, Canadian businesses will move into a recovery phase — we’re already starting to see that happen. And as you navigate your changing health and safety issues, employee experience, pandemic communications with customers and suppliers, cash flow, capacity, and resources, remember that the decisions you make today can help set the stage for your business’ success as the economy recovers.