JobKeeper end date: Strategies to help your business
The JobKeeper payment scheme has been a lifeline for Australian businesses, helping them to navigate the many challenges posed by COVID-19. But, with the JobKeeper end date scheduled for 28 March 2021, some business owners now face a period of uncertainty.
Not knowing whether you’ll be able to pay bills, retain staff and keep the business operating may be a real worry – and you wouldn’t be alone. According to a Westpac Track Study1, 3 in 10 SMEs feel they are unlikely to be able to continue operating once JobKeeper finishes.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare your business for the future.
Over the past 12 months, JobKeeper dates have chopped and changed, with the scheme having been extended twice. But the JobKeeper end date has now been officially locked in for 28 March 2021. The Government says no more wage subsidy payments – of either $1000 or $650 per fortnight under the current Extension 2 period – will be made to employers beyond this date.
As the JobKeeper end date approaches, you should consider scenario planning. It involves visualising possible future scenarios and what they might mean for your business.
In the context of COVID-19 – and the end of JobKeeper specifically – scenario planning can help you manage uncertainty, allowing you to plan and prepare your business for multiple scenarios. For example, scenario planning for the end of JobKeeper might highlight dwindling cash reserves in your business and prompt you to consider a business pivot, or to find access to additional capital.
Forecasting is the process of making predictions about your financial future based on historical data, which can be used to validate or help you make decisions about your different scenario plans.
For instance, imagine if you had made a cash flow forecast before creating a scenario plan. If the forecast revealed a trend of falling sales, then you would know to prioritise planning for this particular scenario.
A cash flow forecast predicts your flow of funds for the year ahead, usually on a monthly basis. You can create a cash flow forecast in several steps. First, look over your cash inflow and outflow records for the previous 12 months. Then, using this data, create estimates for the 12 months ahead. Your cash inflow for April and beyond will be without JobKeeper payments, giving you an indication of your financial position for when the scheme stops. Finally, remember to compare estimates with the actual cash flows you receive. The difference between your predictions and actual figures will help you to see why your cash flow either exceeded or fell short of your expectations.
And remember, make the most of your forecasts by updating them regularly based on new, or changed records. Data that’s dated or incorrect will form a misleading vision of the future and could impact the success of your strategy.
If your plans or forecasts have indicated a negative financial position for your business, it may be time to consider Government funding schemes. The Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme guarantees 50 per cent of new loans issued by participating lenders to SMEs. To be eligible, your business’s turnover must be no more than $50 million. Terms are available for up to five years from a range of lenders until the scheme ends on 30 June 2021.
Other initiatives, such as the Government’s JobMaker Hiring Credit may also help. The scheme is an incentive for businesses to hire young Australians aged 16-35 who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. You’ll receive weekly payments of $200 for any employees you hire aged 16-29 and $100 for those aged 30-35. To qualify, you will need to satisfy payroll and headcount increase conditions and be up-to-date with single touch payroll reporting. The scheme ends on 6 October 2021.
If the JobKeeper payments have become an invaluable income source for your business, then you may have to cut costs when the program ends. But, before resorting to drastic measures like laying off staff – which can lower morale and overwork your team – there are other steps you can consider.
Firstly, rethink your premises. Moving to a smaller space, maybe in a cheaper part of town, could cut rental costs and reduce overheads. If this is an option to you, you may also consider closing your premises for a while or for good. While this is not suitable for all businesses, many companies around the world have transitioned to permanent work-from-home models, making rent a thing of the past.
Discounts are another great way to save, whether it’s on rent or any other utilities. Keep your eyes peeled for better and cheaper deals; even if a discount isn’t advertised, simply asking for a better rate can sometimes work. The worst you’ll hear back is ‘no’.
The pandemic has made digital channels more important. Ensuring your digital marketing strategy is in order could mean reaching new customers at a critical time.
The first and most crucial part of your strategy needs to focus on generating awareness. Update your website with clear and concise information on what your business offers, and include your Google Business profile so customers know where to find you.
Other ways to stand out include social media and search engine optimisation (SEO). Social media can help you foster meaningful (and lucrative) relationships with customers. SEO, on the other hand, can help you reach qualified audiences seeking out the products or services you offer. Make sure your webpages are easy to navigate, simple to read and inclusive of keywords relevant to your business to boost your ranking on search engines. Tools like Google Keyword Planner can help.
Once potential customers find your business, encourage them to act. Drive them to subscribe to your email list, for example, and make sure the pathway to purchase is a smooth one. Finally, don’t neglect customers after they’ve made a purchase. A simple thank you email can make for a repeat customer and new business through recommendations.
The JobKeeper end date is an important milestone for businesses and one that requires careful planning and consideration. Prudent forecasting, cost-cutting and resilience will give your business the best possible chance.
This information does not take into account your personal circumstances and is general. It is an overview only and should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon. Consider obtaining personalised advice from a professional financial adviser and your accountant before making any financial decisions in relation to the matters discussed in this article, including when considering tax and finance options for your business.
1. The Westpac Track Study was conducted internally by Westpac economists.