Last month signalled the end of one of Australia’s largest ever Government incentives – the $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme – and now SMEs are awaiting the fallout.
Australia has been fortunate. We have had a strong economic recovery, and with low interest rates, housing prices – commonly pledged as collateral for business loans – are continuing to surge upwards. Depending on who you are, the end of this phase may have been your best-case scenario, and a cause for relief. Your business survived the pandemic (so far) and you have come out with the help you needed.
It is important to note that the majority of businesses will continue but business as usual may never be the same. Some will have changed the way they operate forever.
But others may be in panic mode.
The end of JobKeeper will see most SMEs reassessing their financial position. The removal of this safety net may unfortunately mean that some businesses will be forced to close. During 2020’s Covid pandemic shut-downs, insolvency broadly went into a hiatus, and businesses with no income were able to continue paying employees.
This will now end.
So, what’s next if your business is in trouble without JobKeeper?
Do you need to close?
It’s a smart and brave operator who knows when it’s time to close.
If you continue to be impacted by Covid-19 pandemic, for example, any business reliant on international tourism, you will remain in exceptional circumstances.
For all other businesses in trouble, you will need to face some difficult truths. For the full list read our article on how to know when to close your business.
Do you need cash flow help?
If you’re on the brink, but need another boost to ensure your business viability, there are options.
The Government’s SME loan scheme.This is still open until June this year. It is not as highly publicised but is only on offer to SMEs who received JobKeeper between January 4 th , 2021 and March 28th, 2021. What it means is that the Government will guarantee up to 80% of a loan and enables a credit provider (like a bank) to offer your business a loan (under a specific set of circumstances).
This is an excellent option for businesses who are viable but are struggling to find the cash flow to continue operating or growing.
The JobMaker scheme. This is the descendant of JobKeeper and is designed to empower businesses to hire by offering up to $20,000 incentive for new hires (from certain demographics).
Again, this is excellent if you have business growth but need extra cash flow to support it. If you’re hiring to get the $20,000 but can’t afford your existing staff, you’re avoiding the real problems your business is facing.
If you’re facing insolvency
This is a truly difficult position for any business owner to face.
If you are insolvent, there is a little ray of hope for some SMEs. If your business liability is under $1 million, the Government will allow you to retain control of your business to try to work through and restructure your debts.
Holding on for the future
If you’re just surviving, we have seen some extremely positive business stories come out of last year.
Here are the best strategies we’ve seen help businesses survive or even thrive through the past year’s struggles:
Build a cash buffer:
We have seen business owners with the same issues face very different realities due to one important thing – a cash buffer of 6 months.
This important safety net meant that instead of scraping by, one business was even able to use the day-to-day business break to look for more investment and to expand. An impressive feat.
For others it has simply meant hanging onto key staff through the downtime.
Invest in your business:
Many large corporations and Government have commented that the pandemic has seen years’ worth of change and digital transformation happen in under six months.
SMEs have done the same, discovering new ways of working in a challenging environment. We were fortunate to be able to use this time to improve our business processes. We took the stance that the slow business conditions would only be temporary, and that we should continue to invest back into the business.
We are a huge advocate for continuous change and improvement in businesses of all sizes – but it shouldn’t take a pandemic to make you invest in your business’ future.
Future proof your business:
Now is the time to look back at the past year’s performance and consider if all things went back to normal, would your business still be ok?
In short this means looking at your profit & loss statements. Have you been able to tread water? Think about what’s next for your business goals, your budget and yourself.
The pandemic may be temporary, but it is a stark reminder to prepare your business for the good times and the bad.