Australia is a wonderful island nation but that doesn’t mean we’re isolated. Macarthur is a great local community, but it doesn’t thrive and survive solely on home-grown support nor are we unaffected by events outside our boundary. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this into stark reality. The realisation that something from beyond our shores and outside of our control can cause havoc with pretty much every aspect of our lives and our businesses.
These impacts have been widespread and severe. We’re now being encouraged to adapt to a ‘new normal’. But isn’t that the next normal? What was the original normal? Is there ever any normal?
For businesses to be in a position to adapt to any ‘normal’ includes putting the big global picture into your small business frame.
Capturing the Big Picture
Before we’d even heard of COVID-19, Australia had, both historically and more recently, felt the effects of global events. An understatement yes, but against the backdrop of the severity of COVID-19, it creates a perspective to work from.
When Saudi Arabia oil refineries were hit by a drone attack in September 2019, the immediate conversation in Australia, after the initial outrage, was will our petrol prices rise? The answer came in October when prices spiked. Every time then US President Trump tweeted a new policy or action, it seemed like international stock markets reacted. As UK Prime Ministers Theresa May then Boris Johnson continued their cross-channel talks negotiating BREXIT, countries around the world started making their own plans for a post-BREXIT economy.
As huge fires burned through the Amazon, the lungs of the planet, much of the world held its breath. Following the November US Presidential Election, the world waits to see how the Biden administration will affect the rest of the world.
While you might think some of these issues don’t directly affect your day-to-day business, it might be time for reflection. Consider your supply chain and your customer/ client base. If these are impacted, then it can flow-on to your business.
Predicting potential risks so you can implement appropriate risk management strategies is technically the right business approach. But for small business with limited resources, sometimes we just have to be as ready as possible and react to the fall-out. We have to establish our own normal.
Breaking up is hard to do
When Neil Sedaka released the hit “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” in 1962, I doubt that he imagined that nearly 60 years later it could refer to a political issue – BREXIT. Several years and counting and this issue is still in play. If your business has supply chains or trade links to the UK or Europe, you will want to stay across this.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have an explainer https://dfat.gov.au/geo/united-kingdom/Pages/brexit.aspx which explains that Australian businesses should consider how Brexit could affect them, taking into account their trade and supply chain impacts and look at the guidance provided in regard to importing and exporting from both the UK and Europe.
The US-China ‘Trade Wars’ continued to dominate the global trade scene throughout 2019 and ‘trade tensions’ have been affecting some Australian exports. You may not trade internationally but your customers might and your suppliers might. Your supply chain may have links which can be affected. So don’t discount the global normal even if you consider yourself purely a local business.
What’s in a name?
In August 2019, while pursuing a trade deal with the EU, the Australian Government was faced with the EU demands for changes to the names of some products, specifically in this case feta cheese and Scotch Whisky and some repackaging of Australian products.
The EU, Australia’s second largest trading partner, was seeking to protect the brands from its region. While Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham is quoted as saying he would drive a hard bargain and consult with Australian businesses before proceeding negotiations, what are the possible outcomes locally?
If you operate a Macarthur café or restaurant, like the fabulous Justinian’s, or a supermarket and sell or serve dishes with feta cheese, or a bottle shop that sells Scotch Whisky, you may potentially be in for some changes. Product name changes involve costly rebranding and/or relabelling for producers and education for consumers to understand and accept the ‘new’ product.
A similar stoush arose ‘across the ditch’ in regard to the trademark of manuka honey. Highly-prized for its antibacterial features, it is produced in both Australia and NZ from the manuka tree. But NZ honey producers are reportedly seeking to obtain a Chinese certification trademark which would only link ‘manuka’ to NZ products. Thus having potential implications for Australian producers.
Turning problems into opportunities
Closer to home and closer to NOW, COVID-19 has presented some businesses with the opportunity to pivot to new operations. Pivots which may end up being permanent and positive changes to the business model. In response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, the Federal and NSW Governments and the RBA have introduced measures and initiatives to support business. Measures which may represent opportunities for your business.
Historically low interest rates create an environment to encourage investment in your business especially when combined with the Instant Asset Write-Off and temporary full expensing measures. Speak with your accountant about how you could optimise these for your business. The NSW Government has provided support for businesses through many policies including payroll tax relief and other grants. Keep on top of what is available at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19 In the Federal Budget, the Government introduced multiple measures to assist business in an economic recovery plan. www.ourcomeback.gov.au
On a smaller scale measure, business loves the opportunities presented by growth and development especially the major projects happening in Macarthur. But we don’t like the downsides, especially traffic congestion. In mid-2019, a NRMA survey highlighted the major cost to business of staff wasting time in traffic and the increased fuel consumption. Perhaps it’s time to review your delivery, call-out and travel practices to reel in wasted costs.
Creating and Controlling Your Own Normal
The way that the ‘big picture’ impacts on our small business can be infuriating and overwhelming and lead to feelings of losing control and anxiety. Before looking closely at some of the external impacts on local business, first look at yourself. Feelings of anxiety can lead to mental health issues and if you’re feeling that way, please seek help. There are extensive services available https://www. health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/services/Pages/supportcontact-list.aspx
One of my favourite mantras in bad times is ‘there’s no such thing as problems, only opportunities’. Yes, I admit it’s very optimistic, especially in a global pandemic and it doesn’t always work out for me. And please, I am in no way making light of any of these most critical issues we are currently facing. But we need to be aware and alert to how global issues can impact our small local businesses and be ready for the next normal by using all the resources available to us.