COVID-19 The Light at the end of the Tunnel
By Paolo Coniglio, 13.12.2020
COVID-19 a crisis that does not discriminate
In March 2020 the World witnessed the start of probably the largest global pandemic it had experienced in centuries. Starting from China, then following in Italy and then the US, we experienced the devastation of lives and livelihoods which has been unprecedented and completely unexpected, when looking at our knowledge and progress we have made in modern medicine in the past 100 years.
Very quickly we have learned that a virus does not discriminate: it affects rich and poor, white and coloured, gay and straight. But unlike HIV in the 80s, this virus also had a deep affect on peoples livelihood: job security for both employees and owners of small and large businesses.
When we finally realised that COVID-19 was a Global pandemic, no longer confined to China, Australia had just come out of their worst bushfire season in decades. Entire regions in Australia had been utterly devastated by the fires: lives were lost, houses burned down, thousands of animals (some of them already at risk of extinction) perished, businesses ruined, burned to the ground.
What would this pandemic do to this country, following the bushfires? Panic started to surge in people: fearing for their health, their lives and their livelihoods.
COVID-19 How could we not be perceived as a Superfluous Expense to our Clients?
It was late March and our little business was coming out of an unusual peak period, during the Australian summer, usually our quiet time. We were riding the waves going into our busy times: we had projects to start, ongoing work secured and thinking of expanding to new areas.
Then COVID struck, and within 2 days, we received the first phone call from a regular client: “We have decided to terminate our engagement with your firm. We are about to enter one of the most difficult economic periods and we are looking at cutting down all superfluous expenses”.
“Superfluous”, that word stuck with me. How was I going to make my business NOT look Superfluous to my clients? I needed to come up with a strategy and quickly.
We were lucky for certain aspects, unlike many other businesses, our day to day operations did not require any alterations. We were born as a 100% remote business with all our employees working from home. We had always relied on communication tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. This was how we always worked. So we could immediately focus on our Clients, rather than an internal operational restructure.
Developing a COVID-19 Survival Strategy
We started researching at Business sustainability projects, Cash Flow Projection plans and any other ways we could support our clients to be perceived as ‘Essential’, rather than superfluous.
We began with personally phoning all our regular clients: ensuring them that our commitment was to work towards their survival: we would have kept them up to date with any changes, help them with a risk management strategy, but, more importantly, ensuring they received as much financial support as they could from the Government.
While talking personally to all our clients’ directors, it became very clear to us, that our longevity as a business depended exclusively on their survival. We were joined by the hip and we had to work together to come out of this dark place.
As the Government was making daily announcements on their (continuously changing) strategies to support individuals and business whilst trying to contain the virus, we spent long nights researching and re-writing all these changes into easily digestible components for our Clients. We published long and detailed newsletters every 10 days.
We took phone calls at all times: from early mornings to late evenings, we even scheduled meetings from 9 PM to Midnight at times. It was brutal! But we could see that our clients relied on us and valued our contribution. Our fees had become the last on their ‘expense cut list”, we were essentials, not superfluous!
We worked with our clients ensuring they would be able to receive:
- Cash Flow Boosts;
- JobKeeper Subsidies;
- Apprenticeship support;
- State and Industry Grants.
We also helped them with the Fair Work Flexibility provisions, sometimes with the tough situations, including making people redundant. It was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.
COVID-19 The Light at the end of the Tunnel
But in the end, our efforts paid off: all our Clients survived!
Collectively we helped to raise $7,598,864 in subsidies for our Clients! Some of our clients survived exclusively on the Grants we raised for them.
This did not just strengthen our relationship with them but turned our clients into our biggest advocates. Our business grew by one third, all new clients coming from referrals from our existing ones.
Coming to the end of the year where COVID-19 seems to be behind us, looking back we gave our time, energy and dedication. We saw it all coming back, proving there is light at the end of any tunnel!