Looking to the future

Use the time you have now to prepare your business for the economic recovery.

The ACT shutdown period in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is likely to see the closure of all non-essential services, which will have a huge impact on the Canberra business community. As many businesses are required to close during the shutdown period, we will see many more people working from home or not able to work at all as we wait for the crisis to pass. Don’t let downtime turn into time wasted. Instead, why not put this time to good use by taking stock of your business’s legal documents.

Here is our list of the top 5 productive things you can do for your business during this COVID-19 shutdown period.

  1. Employment contracts and policies

When it comes to employment contracts and policies, the first question to ask is whether they are all up-to-date and effective. The COVID-19 crisis is shining a light on employment contracts right now, and leaving many businesses to wonder what could have been if their documents had been in a better state. Unfortunately this pandemic is unlikely to be the last economic shock that Australian businesses will face over the next few years.

Allow yourself maximum flexibility to deal with your workforce fairly in the future, by putting in place relevant, up-to-date employment contracts and policies, now.

  1. Terms and Conditions of Trade

Are your business terms and conditions of trade up-to-date? When was the last time you read your terms of trade and thought about whether they truly reflect your business style? One-size-fits-all terms of trade are unsuitable in many cases, and don’t reflect the business you do, the customers you deal with, and your particular appetite for risk. Ask yourself:

  • Do my terms of trade allow me flexibility if I am unable to deliver on time (especially due to reasons beyond my control)?
  • How long am I prepared to wait to be paid by my customer?
  • Some of my customers may not make it through the COVID-19 crisis. Have I protected my rights as a creditor?
  1. Being Paid for Your Work

During the COVID-19 crisis, and in the recovery period, cash will be king. By allowing your customers now to take unchecked liberties with your payment terms, you could be risking getting paid at all. You may wish to consider a multi-faceted and proactive approach to business creditors, including:

  • Taking security if an extension of payment terms is agreed, or to protect yourself with key customers
  • Taking action now to resolve disputes that are preventing payment and
  • Taking action now to recover overdue amounts.
  1. Succession Planning

For any business owner, one of the most important considerations is that your involvement with the business might ultimately come to an end. While it is just as important to be concerned with running the business and ensuring its viability today, consideration should be given as to how you can exit the business should you wish to do so, or what would happen in circumstances where a business partner dies or is otherwise unable to continue in their position. Now is the time to put together your business succession plan that will guide you and your business through the changes that might lie ahead. A clearly documented owners agreement allows for business partners to exit the business the right way. An owners agreement is not the same as the company’s constitution, and won’t ordinarily have been prepared as a matter of course by whoever set up your company.  It is a bespoke document that reflects the particular owners in your business – think of it as your business pre-nup agreement.  The last thing you want when an owner is trying to leave the business is to have an expensive and messy fight about the terms on which they can do so.

  1. Privacy Policies

Remember when the privacy laws changed in 2014 and expanded to cover almost all Australian businesses? At the time, you probably sought advice about how the law affected your business, and what documents and processes you were required to put in place. 6 years on, and it is time to revisit the topic. Ask yourself:

  • How do individuals engage with my business now? How has it changed in the last 6 years?
  • Are my privacy policies, procedures and systems up-to-date?
  • Are my staff adequately trained in our privacy procedures?

Now may be an opportune time to provide your staff with basic privacy training. We can assist with virtual group training sessions and written material tailored to your business.