The BT Blog #1


5 Things your Business Can Do Now to Get Ready for Post Lockdown Re-emergence

Photograph: iStock


The COVID-19 crisis has changed our social and business landscape in unprecedented ways and created challenges for which no organisation could have been fully prepared. At Business Talk, we’ve put together our top 5 key action points to help you navigate your business through the worst of this challenging period.


1. Draft or Update Your Business Continuity Plan/ COVID-19 Compliance and Response Manual

A business continuity plan is something which all businesses, regardless of size, should consider putting in place. It allows you to put a clear strategy, processes, and procedures down on paper that you can refer to in the event of a major incidence interrupting your business. This plan anticipates the situations in which your business would have to either shut down and/or people would be forced to work remotely – and here we are.

If you already had a continuity plan in place then many of its elements will still stand and will now need to be implemented. If not, then now is definitely the time to devise one. Carve out some time to map out a compliance strategy which will give you the direction you need to keep in line with the protocols as outlined by the HSA.

The Association of Compliance Officers Ireland has suggested that organisations consider appointing a dedicated COVID Compliance Officer in workplaces, to act as a go-to person which the HSE and Gardaí can interact with and support, in terms of putting the necessary processes and procedures in place.

Some of the basics in any COVID-compliance manual will include:

On Premises:
• COVID-19 official images and signage
• 2 meter yellow ground markings to highlight required social distance spacing
• Hand sanitising facilities and waste bins for disposal of tissues, gloves etc.
• Rotas for the periodic wiping down of contact points in the building
• Operating on appointment only basis in certain circumstances

Employee Issues:
• Protocol around PPE use
• Outlining a response plan in the event of an employee contracting Covid-19 – including contact tracing procedures etc.
• Develop a Working from Home policy

The full details can be found here

2. Agree a New Communications Strategy

The rules have changed almost overnight when it comes to communicating with both your external and internal audiences. When it comes to your employees, transparency, inclusion, and timeliness are paramount. A film of uncertainty now surrounds the world we live in, and your employees will be feeling this. Regular communications that can bring clarity around the direction of the business, and promote confidence in what the future might look like, will go a long way to giving your team the sense of security they may well be craving. Research the communications technology available to you and see what works best for your organisation.

Engaging or re-engaging with customers is something which every business now needs to look at. The messages you put out there and the tone they take will, most likely, be very different to the approach you took pre-COVID. The hard sell may no longer be appropriate, but subtlety might not hit the mark now either – particularly if there’s a chance that people believe you’re no longer able to carry out your service, or deliver your product, as a result of the pandemic.

Finding your tone will take some thought and perhaps some guidance from an expert. But it’s important, because businesses are now competing for share of voice in ways they have never had to, or been able to before. Above all you need to understand the reasons behind the communication – ask yourself “is this relevant to the times we’re living in?”; “will this information help my customers in any way?” If the answers are “no”, then you need to think again.

The “we’re all in this together” slant will only work if your audience really believes you are acting in this way. Steer clear of virtue signalling – there’s little point in telling customers you are putting their safety first in light of COVID – when the Government has already set down protocols that all organisations must adhere to. You need to tell them what it is that you are doing different or in addition, to support them. Never before have people had to deal with such an influx of news from all angles, and in among all that crowding and noise, your message and your brand will only be appreciated and well received if your audience believes that you are really trying to help or inform them in some meaningful way – or maybe you are just trying creatively to brighten their day – but not just add to the noise that is all around.

No knee-jerk reactions are necessary – strategise and develop your communications plan – even if it is just a temporary one. If you decide you need to ramp up your communications to customers, and for example begin a weekly email newsletter, then commit to this – it’s not something you can or should stop-start. It’s best to take a consistent approach, rather than be full of chat one month but go dark the next. Sometimes less is more when it comes to communications. Take a breath and see what is right for you and what is achievable.

3. Avail of Grants and Supports

The Irish government has introduced a raft of new measures designed to offer financial assistance to affected businesses for the duration of the pandemic, and some supports that were already in existence have become increasingly useful and important. Don’t be afraid to step forward and ask for the help available.

• The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme helps employers to keep employees on the payroll throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by providing significant wage supports to employees direct through payroll. Up to 70% of take home pay is available to a maximum weekly tax-free amount of €410 per week. More information can be found here.
• A €200m Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) Working Capital Scheme is available for eligible SMEs impacted by COVID-19. Further details can be found here.
• Short Time Work Support. This is available from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and is an income support payment for employees who have been temporarily placed on a shorter working week. Further details here.
• The Enterprise Ireland COVID-19 Business Response Unit has a range of both financial and soft supports available to businesses. Contact
• LEO Business Continuity / Trading Online/ COVID 19 Business Loans support small businesses where COVID-19 has resulted in a reduction of 15% or more in actual or projected turnover or profit and are having difficulty accessing finance from commercial lending providers. Further details here.
• Warehousing of tax liabilities from Revenue. Revenue are ring-fencing VAT and PAYE (employer) tax debts while business are unable to trade or where trading is restricted due to COVID-19 and no interest will apply. The suspension of debt collection and the charging of interest on late payment for the January/February and March/April VAT periods and the February, March and April PAYE liability period have been extended to include May/June VAT and May and June PAYE liability periods. Full details here.
• A €10,000 ‘Restart Grant’ for micro and small businesses based on a rates/waiver rebate from 2019. This direct grant aid is available to micro and small businesses to help them with the costs involved in reopening and reemploying workers following COVID-19 closures. Applications for the Restart Grant can be made online to local authorities from Friday 22nd May.
• Commercial rates are being waived for a three month period beginning on 27 March 2020 for businesses that have been forced to close due to public health requirements.
• EI: COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme. Applications are now open for this Enterprise Ireland scheme which supports indigenous retail companies employing 10 or more people to enhance their digital capability and develop a more competitive online offer in response to COVID-19. Grants ranging from €10,000 to €40,000 will be awarded.
•An Post have announced a €2 million suite of supports for SMEs to help them through the COVID-19 period. The package includes €1,000 of direct mail marketing services free to each of 1,000 small businesses on a “first come, first served” basis from Monday 25th May. A 25% discount on An Post parcel delivery services and an e-commerce advice hub for SMEs that shift to trading online is also being made available. Further details here.

4. Reimagine Your Projections
The sheer amount of unknowns presented by COVID-19 has left business decision makers, particularly those in a financial role, in a very difficult and frustrating position. However, this is exactly the time to revisit or develop a cash flow forecast for your business and update your existing projections to take in a post-COVID business landscape. Keep your figures in perspective however, as projections are only ever a best guess and will require much flexibility in the coming year to take in the unprecedented level of uncertainty.
Marc O’Dwyer of online accountancy software company, Big Red Cloud, has the following advice. “When considering the impact of the pandemic on your business you might start with assessing the main profit and loss implications – what are the sales reductions, are there any cost savings such as on rent or rates, and what Government interventions are available in support? Also, when making broader assumptions about where you might be in 2 or 3 years, ensure you consider all the cash flow consequences of your working capital cycle, and don’t forget to consider any debt servicing costs, tax or VAT commitments.”

5. Put Stockist/ Supplier Plans in Place
A shortage of materials, labour, sourcing, and logistical challenges are the main impacts of COVID-19 on supply chain management. Companies that do not have a well-defined plan in place are at a higher risk of delayed response and recovery, particularly those who operate to a just in time (JIT) model or hold limited stock numbers.
• Rethink work practices in relation to front line roles versus work from home roles, in order to see where labour is best prioritized and where staff welfare can be best safeguarded. Align your IT systems and support to best deal with additional pressure and demands due to remote working requirements.
• Keep an active focus on stock levels and build up a good inventory where possible to mitigate any shortages. Investigate ways to balance supply and demand while building a cushion.
• Maintain active contact with key suppliers regarding their own continuity plans to help you stay ahead of any production gaps. Move quickly to trigger any secondary supplier relationships in securing additional stock where required.
• Identify key customers and ensure there is contingency in place to keep meeting that consumer demand in line with the distribution channels open to you.
• Work with your legal team to ensure full understanding and compliance in case customer demand or orders cannot be met.