‘The heart of the economy’ – that’s the description frequently applied to New Zealand’s small businesses but what’s often overlooked is how those same businesses are at the heart of their communities too.
It’s been another tough week for everyone and many small businesses will again be feeling the pinch but, despite the return of familiar stressors, those businesses will quietly carry on supporting the many charities, not-for-profits, community and sports groups that play such a critical role in our society.
With that in mind, and on behalf of The Alternative Board, I’d like to give a shout-out to the thousands of business owners around the country who quietly and unassumingly help out the organisations around them. Sometimes this help comes in the form of sponsorship, other times it is support in kind, with donations of goods or services and it may even – in cash-strapped times – be offered as practical, hands-on support, fixing fences or painting club rooms.
The big companies often make a big noise about their community support and we see their names in lights attached to good causes – and it is absolutely right that they are recognised for what they do.
Small business support tends to be given quietly, slipping in under the radar but is just as critical. I recently asked members of a Northland networking group if anyone supported local causes and 90% of the room said yes – and did so with a big smile.
There is an incredible amount of support from small and medium sized businesses that is as important as that given by the big named sponsors and, at The Alternative Board, we’d like to acknowledge and congratulate all the business owners for their efforts – efforts that often span decades and countless contributions.
It makes a difference to the values of our community, the way we give back demonstrates our commitment to those around us. The support we give brings our values to life, makes a difference to society and to our health and wellbeing.
This year, I’ve sponsored Northland Rugby’s Taniwha Supporters Club and have been truly heartened by the response both from the club and from fellow business owners who have shared with me the causes they support – but always forget to mention. It seems that, as is the way with small businesses, they quietly get on with the job, so if your business supports a local cause, club or charity, let me know so I can give you a shout-out and a heart-felt thank you on behalf of everyone you help.
Heading into the last long weekend of summer we were all rattled by the COVID19 cases that popped up in Northland and North Auckland. We’ve not been oblivious to the ravages of the pandemic elsewhere in the world but we have managed to slide through summer in a fairly relaxed ‘must-remember-to-scan-in’ style.
The twin spectres of lockdowns and alert level changes loomed large as the media briefings restarted – and for many businesses, a rising sense of panic edged out the last of the summer vibes. The virus will be with us for a long time yet and it is inevitable we will have to continue adapting to rapid change – so what as business owners can we do to stay cool when the COVID temperature rises?
As with any assessment of risks and issues we have to be able to deal with anything and everything so my main tip would be to make sure you are prepared for an outbreak. Start by taking another long, hard look at your business. You will, in the first weeks after the pandemic was declared, have adapted to operating in a crisis. Maybe you invested in technology, perhaps you reorganised your operation entirely – it was hard to do but you made it.
We’ve had the luxury of some pandemic ‘down time’ but that won’t always be the case, so in preparing for change, stop and think how an outbreak will affect you and those around you.
How are your cash reserves?
Will you need to make that rapid switch to digital again or have you embedded processes that allow you to move seamlessly from one method of operation to another?
Have you got to grips with managing remote teams for when we find ourselves back in ‘working from home’ mode?
What flexibility have you built in for staff members who have children or other caring responsibilities?
How will you keep your customers and staff safe during alert level changes?
What communications processes do you have in place so your stakeholders and communities can stay connected and informed?
How will you counter misinformation?
How will you manage your business if you find yourself – or a staff member – at the centre of an outbreak?
Have you reviewed your sick leave policy to make sure staff are cared for?
You will have asked all of these questions before but during ongoing change we have to ask – and answer – the same questions time and again to make sure we are ready to respond when the occasion demands.
The next tip is to build people’s confidence in your COVID risk management – set an example and let them see you take your responsibilities seriously. That means having your business QR code throughout your premises – one on the front door, one on the front desk, by the bathrooms, in the break room – if there’s a flat surface to be had slap a code on there and get your people using it. For those without phones, set up easy sign in stations that feature a prominent date and time column. It means looking at your health and safety plan and introducing processes that will cover different scenarios and understanding your operational risks from supply to order or service completion.
And my last tip is this – there is no ‘business as usual’. Business is and will be, most unusual for a considerable time to come, so expect changes and stay cool when pandemic problems arise.